As Nain turns 250, residents mull over the past and look to the future

·3 min read
The Nain Moravian Church was established in 1771, the same year the settlement of Nain was established. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
The Nain Moravian Church was established in 1771, the same year the settlement of Nain was established. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

As the settlement of Nain celebrates its 250th anniversary, people in the community are looking back to how life has changed and how it will impact the future.

Nain was settled by the Moravians on Aug. 13, 1771. The community originally served as a trading base for trappers, hunters and fishermen on Labrador's north coast.

The settlement is considered to be among the oldest permanent Inuit settlements in Canada and was officially incorporated as a town in 1970.

Sam Dicker, who has lived in Nain his entire life, says he's seen many changes in the last 67 years.

Submitted by Joan Dicker
Submitted by Joan Dicker

He's witnessed the introduction of television and a shift from primarily living off the land to buying food from grocery stores. One change, he said, particularly sticks out — the transition from dog teams to snowmobiles in the winter.

"You'd use dogs for everything, for hauling wood, to get your sealing and hunting," Dicker said this week.

"You never broke down. The dogs would always take you home."

He's also seen relationships between young people and elders change — and not always for the better.

Dicker wishes more of the region's young people would be willing to spend time with seniors, helping them through the days as they did in the past.

"I had to fetch water, chop wood…. We'd go help them out every day. You don't see that nowadays," he said.

Love feast

Nain marked its historic milestone this weekend with a parade, a breakfast and live music.

The local Moravian Church held a "love feast," a tradition that church member and chapel servant Gordon Obed said typically consists of tea and raisin buns.

Obed has been a chapel servant since 1995, but his connection to the church runs much further back.

His grandparents, aunt and uncle were chapel servants before him. His mother was a member of the choir and his father was the brass bandmaster.

"Growing up, the brass band used to practice in my house late hours in the night, keeping me up," he said.

On special occasions like Christmas or New Year's Day, the band would play outside in all conditions — even blizzards.

Like many churches, attendance has declined in recent years, but the church is still important to Obed. Services at the Moravian Church are conducted entirely in Inuktitut.

Weekend emotional at times

At the closing ceremonies on Sunday, MHA Lela Evans presented the Newfoundland and Labrador Award for Bravery to Shawn Solomon, who in 2017 jumped from the community dock into the water to save a child.

Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Solomon said he's scared of both heights and salt water, but didn't think twice about jumping into the freezing water after the child.

Harry Dicker, the economic development officer for Nain Inuit Community Government, said the weekend was emotional at times, especially given recent deaths that have rocked the community.

"It was time for the community to actually do something positive because ... with the pandemic and with the tragedies in Nain recently, it was good to actually hear live music again, be a part of a big event, a big positive event."

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