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Things Inuk woman living in the Arctic just can’t live without

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While Willow Allen may have been thrust into the fast-paced world of fashion from her years at university, the model is still grounded in her Arctic roots.

Allen, who bagged the Fresh Face of the Year Award at the 2022 Canada Arts & Fashion Awards, is an Inuk, a person from the Inuit indigenous group in Canada.

Allen, 25, was born and raised in Inuvik, a town in Canada’s Northwest Territories. She splits her time between Inuvik and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, where she is currently.

Allen and her husband are awaiting the arrival of their son, who is due to be born on January 22, she told Newsweek.

The fashion model said that people are often surprised about “how much we still live our traditional way of life… hunting and fishing, setting traps for food.”

Allen posted a viral Instagram video back in November, in which she revealed some essential items from her life in the Arctic.

Sitting around 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik is located within the Taiga Forest just south of the tree line (the northern limit of tree growth) and Arctic Tundra, according to the website of the town of Inuvik.

Home to around 3,200 residents, Inuvik is the largest Canadian community north of the Arctic Circle. Inuvik is the gateway to the Western Arctic and is the traditional land of the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Metis people.

While Inuvik residents still earn their living by hunting, trapping and fishing on the land, most are employed in government and indigenous offices dedicated to “enhancing the Arctic in transportation, construction, energy and tourism,” the town’s website says.

Who Are the Inuit?

The Inuit are a group of indigenous people in Canada, the majority of whom inhabit the country’s northern regions.

There are reported to be 70,545 Inuit people living in Canada, as of 2021, according to Statistics Canada, the government website.

In the same year, around 69 percent of all Inuit in Canada were found to live in Inuit Nunangat, the homeland, including in the Western Arctic, such as the Northwest Territories and Yukon, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Historically, Inuit people were hunters and gatherers who moved seasonally from one camp to another. “In contemporary northern communities, many types of food such as fruit, vegetables, and milk must be transported long distances, resulting in higher costs, limited availability and food that is not fresh,” adds the encyclopedia.

However, a high portion of Inuit people consume “country food,” which is traditional Inuit food, such as game meats, migratory birds, fish and foraged foods. A 2005 Canadian government survey found that 98 percent of Inuit people who engage in land activities, such as hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping, do so for food.

A view of the Dempster Highway in Canada, which connects the Klondike Highway in Yukon to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Fashion model Willow Allen was born and raised in Inuvik.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

Essentials for Life in the Arctic

Allen told Newsweek that her favorite part about her Arctic upbringing has been “growing up on the land and being raised in my Inuvialuit culture and getting to do all these things with my family.”

Allen says in the aforementioned Instagram clip: “As an Inuk living in the Arctic, here’s some things in my home that just make sense.” These include a wood stove.

The 25-year-old told Newsweek that her family spends time “out on the land at our cabin where we only use wood stove” and “have no running water, so we melt ice and snow.” Without a wood stove, it can cost around “$900 a month to heat your house in the winter,” she said in the video.

Allen also highlighted an ulu, a traditional Inuit tool featuring a knife with a triangular, curved blade, from a drawer of utensils in the latest clip. The fashion model said the Ulu is “used to cut up lots of different meats” and is “also really good for pizza.”

Allen also showcased a book, “a guide to building a log cabin,” adding that her parents built one on their traditional land. This is located about 2½ hours outside the town and can be reached only by skidoo or boat.

Allen’s video also shows various pieces of art from local artists, including some paintings. A message overlaid on the clip reads: “There are so many incredible artists up here. A lot do it as a living.”

The expectant mom told Newsweek that she was first scouted on Instagram and began modeling while attending university in Edmonton, pursuing a degree in social work. She has since signed with seven modeling agencies across various cities and counties in Canada.

“I’ve spent a lot of time outside of the Arctic for school and modeling; for school, I’ve lived in Saskatchewan. I’ve also spent time in Singapore, Alberta, New York and often travel to Montreal and Toronto for modeling,” Allen said. However, the fashion model plans to take a break after giving birth to her son and plans to return “when I feel ready,” she added.

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