AMERICANS (and other foreigners)--At point of purchase you will be paying GST and the Manitoba province tax on your purchase. Do not despair or let it stop you from buying something you really want. you can get this extra 14 percent back. I don't know if Canadians from other provinces can get a refund for the Manitoba sales tax. AMERICANS (And other foreigners) should be sure to explain that you are a non-Canadian visitor who will be returning home with your purchase, and you should ask for the proper tax refund form. The larger shops in Churchill should all have these forms. You will be required to provide original receipts when you return this form. A few months after submitting it back to the proper agency (address included), you will get back a nice check, the fatness of which will depend upon how much you have spent.
IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES, YOU CANNOT BRING CANADIAN IVORY HOME. IF YOU WANT TO BUY AN ESKIMO OR INUIT SCULPTURE THAT HAS IVORY IN IT, OR IS MADE OUT OF IVORY, YOU MUST GO TO ALASKA TO DO SO! Import restrictions also apply to certain other animal products. When in doubt, ask. (interestingly, items decorated with bone from the same animals that supply ivory are allowable. And the ivory products purchased in Alaska are made from the same animals--walrus, narwal, etc. (traditionally hunted by the Inuit in Canada and the Eskimos in Alaska and used for subsistance as well as art. Banning importation under the circumstances, doesn't really make sense. I understand Canadians visiting Alaska have exactly the same problem.)
My favorite item, available in at least three shops, are the Inuit soapstone sculptures, particularly those depicting polar bears. They come in all sizes. Some are quite static. Others are so dynamic they seem to move. "Soapstone" is a generic term. The actual rocks used for carving vary depending on artist's location. Some artists finish their pieces to a very high polish or color gray stone black. Others carve the texture of fur onto the surface and leave the stone unpolished and uncolored. The variety of styles in itself is fascinating. The most wonderfully, brutally primitive and powerful pieces I saw were displayed in Northern Images and came from the tiny settlement Gjoa Haven, sitting close to the Arctic Ocean in (I believe) the Keewatin region of the Northwest territories.
The Eskimo Museum
ESKIMO MUSEUM: The museum's nice little gift shop offers the best prices in town on contemporary Inuit soapstone sculptures. It also offers other native handicrafts, foods such as smoked Arctic char and tiny jars of tundra berry jams (cloudberry, dewberry, lignonberry,bilberry, etc.), books on Inuit culture, books on local and general Arctic wildlife, garments ranging from hats handmade by Inuit craftspeople up in Pangnirtung to teeshirts and sweatshirts. The museum that justifies this gift shop's existence displays artifacts dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 BC) through Dorset, Thule and modern Inuit times. Open year round in summer Monday 1:00n p.m.-5:00 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 a.m.-noon, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and in winter, Monday and Sat. 1:00-4:40 p.m. and Tues-Fri 10:30-noon, 1:00-4:30pm.
BEWARE CREDIT CARD USERS! THE ESKIMO MUSEUM GIFT SHOP TAKES ONLY VISA!
TRADER'S OUTPOST: This shop adjoins Trader's Table on Kelsey Avenue, along the main shopping strip. Churchill isn't a big town. You won't miss it. This is the largest of the souvenier shops. It is the rustic building with all the flags flying from its roof.
Trader's Outpost has a fantastic collection of aboriginal hand-made crafts--soapstone sculpture, caribou fur tufting, wall hangings, jewelry moccasins and muk-luks, coats and other outer wear, as well as items illegal to import into the United States such as narwhal horns, ivory carvings
and jewelry, and certain fur products. It also offers, paintings and prints done by talented local residents, non-Inuit bear sculptures out of some white stone, made in British Columbia, limited food items, nice little odds and ends made elsewhere in Canada, as well as wonderfully schlocky things like "polar bear piss" labels for $0.50 each, and other lower-cost, sometimes tasteless, items of the sort you'd give to neighborhood children (of all ages) as gag gifts. They also sell some unusual things not found at the other shops. They take MasterCard as well as Visa, and some other credit cards, too.
NORTHERN IMAGES: Is located on Kelsey Avenue a few buildings south of, and across the street from, Trader's Outpost. It is one of a chain of several co-op stores owned by aboriginal artists found in Canada. All market the original art and crafts of Canadian native peoples. (Other Northern Images shops are found in Winnipeg, Inuvik, Pangnirtung, and probably some other places I can't remember, in addition to Churchill.) Northern Images has some of the finest and most interesting Inuit sculptures, prints, hand-made traditional clothing, other handicrafts, books, tools, and sometimes fine surprises.
They do not have as huge a selection as Traders Outpost, but visitors can find very tempting, high quality handicrafts here. Because this is a coop run by and for the artisans, the people running Northern Images tend to be much more involved with the actual arts and crafts. They often know interesting details about the carver, printmaker or fabric artist who has done a particular piece. My favorite shaman sculpture (of a man transforming into a polar bear) came from Northern Images in Churchill.
I was rather shocked when I walked in, July of 1996, and the woman managing the place recognized me from my visit a few years earlier. (She even remembered what I had bought.) I know Northern Images takes Visa. I am 99 percent sure it takes MasterCard. I don't know if it takes American Express and Discover.
This shop is located a short hike south of the others mentioned above, a few yards south of Gypsy's (the chocolate decadence and roast beef and gravy sandwich place). Much of the merchandise on display there seems geared more toward local trade. WHen I was there in July 96, they sold some very nice pewter necklaces depicting local animals, for about $20/each. You may find some other interesting stuff there, if you look.
This place, more or less directly across Kelsey Avenue from Traders Outpost, sells some very nice silk-screen canvas totes, eskimo-style coats, quilts and assorted tee-shirts and sweat-shirts, all decorated in local or northern wildlife themes.
I have heard that Polar Motel operates a small giftshop in its lobby. I never got around to checking it out, but it's there. For all I know, they sell real treasures.
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