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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February 2005, 15:57 GMT
Apak: North Baffin Island
Learning to hunt is an important right of passage for Inuit boys

Apak, a 12-year-old Inuit boy, lives in Pond Inlet on North Baffin Island on the edge of the Arctic circle.

He is heading out into the stunning wilderness of Baffin Island with his family to test his hunting skills for the first time.

It is an escape from the modern world of television and supermarkets, and a chance to sample the traditional Inuit way of life.

Living in tents, playing traditional games and eating what they catch, the elders pass on their knowledge to the young.

Matthias and Sam, Apak's father and uncle are renowned hunters, and for young Apak the pressure is on to make a successful catch, be it narwhal, caribou or bearded seal.

Traditionally, the coastal Inuit men will take their sons on a hunt as soon as they appear strong enough to undertake an arduous journey; usually 11 or 12 years old.

They are also keen to acclimatise their sons to the harsh Arctic weather conditions at an early age.

Many northern communities are making a big effort to keep ancient hunting skills alive and to this end they establish "outcamps" away from the main community where traditional skills are handed down and practiced by the young men and women.

Many years ago, before the hunt got underway, a shaman was often called on to open the lines of communication between humans and animals.

The Inuit of the coastal regions believed that Sedna, Goddess of the Sea, controlled the hunt. When people failed to observe taboos, Sedna was displeased and saw to it that the hunt was unsuccessful.

In order to rectify the situation, the shaman would visit Sedna at the bottom of the sea and attempt to appease her by brushing her tangled hair.

Inuit culture is extremely rich in this kind of story-telling and belief, but temptations of the modern world are increasingly luring the young away from tradition.

Coming of Age was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday, 22nd February, 2005 at 2100 GMT on BBC Two.

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