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Canada's 137km Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway is a vital new lifeline across unremittingly spartan tundra, but also a window on an almost-forgotten way of indigenous life.

One million antlers were set against the northern sky. Or so it looked from the vantage point of the revving snowmobile as it lurched across the tundra basin. Around 3,000 wild reindeer had bunched together on the horizon, their branched horns seamlessly melding with an endless swathe of skeletal willow and black spruce. We were 60km south of the Arctic Ocean in the remote northern reaches of Canada’s Northwest Territories, and left to Mother Nature it was a spectacle unaffected by man for millennia.