Late on a gray November afternoon Marvin Atqittuq, a newly elected patrol commander in the Arctic community of Gjoa Haven, stood on the frozen sea outside town and called his troops in for a meeting. A frigid wind flicked snow in from the south, and it was about 20 below zero, cold but not that cold for the Arctic. The company of some 20 Inuit men and a few women gathered around with rifles slung over their shoulders, dressed in hand-sewn jackets of caribou hide or pants made of polar bear fur or wearing the usual store-bought stuff, which was far less warm but namuktuk, good enough for now.
Atqittuq pulled on a pair of sealskin gloves and outlined the plan for the day. The group was part of the Canadian Rangers, a reserve component of Canada's armed forces, and Atqittuq would now lead them on his first mission as their commander: a weeklong patrol by snowmobile down the treeless coast of King William Island. There would be GPS training, military-style target practice, search-and-rescue scenarios, and plenty of hunting and ice fishing.