Akulivik (Central prong of a kakivak)
Akulivik takes its name from surrounding geography. A peninsula jutting into Hudson Bay between two small bodies of water, the area evokes the shape of a kakivak, a traditional, trident-shaped spear used for fishing. To the south is the mouth of the Illukotat River and to the north is a deep bay which forms a natural port and protects the village against strong winds. Ice around the peninsula tends to break up particularly early in the spring, making the area good for hunting. The soil around Akulivik carries vestiges of the last ice age: its white, sandy texture are the crumbly remains of fossilized seashells.
The area around Akulivik teems with game. The many lakes of the region abound in fish and the Cape Smith Range, or Qimiit in Inuktitut, are the natural habitat of ptarmigan, arctic hare, and foxes. Numerous islands near the village are the summer refuge of various species of birds. Just a few minutes from Akulivik is Smith Island, known as Qikirtajuaq by Inuit and one of their traditional hunting grounds. The steady currents of Hudson Bay make it favourable habitat for marine wildlife and flora. In winter, Akulivimmiut practice a unique method of harvesting mussels in nearby shallow waters. After piercing holes through they ice, they use a hoped net fixed to one end of a long pole to scoop mussels from the sea floor.
Akulivik was incorporated as a community in 1976. However, the history of the area goes back thousands of years. Relatively recently in 1610, the explorer Henry Hudson passed by Qikirtajuaq. Later, in 1750 the island was given the name Smith Island in honour of Sir Thomas Smith, merchant, first Governor of the Company of Adventurers and discoverer of the North-west Passage.
In 1922, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established a post on the site of today’s settlement. The outpost was moved to a more strategic and accessible point on Qikirtajuaq, in 1926. Inuit at that time were still living all along the coast. However, over time some groups began to congregate around the trading post. Between 1922 and 1955, the area where Akulivik is located today was the summer camp of these groups. By 1933, according to HBC records, there were about 140 Inuit living on Qikirtajuaq. In 1952, the post was closed, forcing the now somewhat sedentary groups to move to Puvirnituq, the next closest trading post.
The displaced people, however, never forgot the land where they had grown up. In 1973, one family moved back to the area. The following year, many others followed and, together, they built the village of Akulivik.
Aupaluk (Where the earth is red)
Aupaluk, the smallest Nunavik community, is located on the southern shore of Hopes Advance Bay, an inlet on the western shore of Ungava Bay. It is about 150 km north of Kuujjuaq and 80 km south of Kangirsuk. The village is built on the lowest of a series of natural terraces about 45 m above sea level. The landscape around Aupaluk is rather flat and is ideal for hiking excursions. The village offers a superb view of Ungava Bay. Aupaluk owes its meaning to the reddish colour of ferruginous soil. This soil constitutes the northern reaches of the Labrador Trough which is rich in iron deposits. There was even mining activity in the region in the late 1950s.
Unlike the majority of Nunavik communities, Aupaluk did not develop around trading or mission posts. With its abundance of caribou, fish and marine mammals, it was a traditional camp. In 1975, Inuit from Kangirsuk and some other villages relocated to this area where several generations of hunters before them, their ancestors had sojourned and built temporary camps. For the first time in the Canadian Arctic, Inuit themselves planned and conceived the site of their village. Aupaluk was incorporated as a Northern Village in 1981 and opened its co-operative store in the early 1980s. Life of Aupalummiut remains essentially centred on traditional activities.
Three graves on Beechey Island mark the first wintering camp of the Franklin expedition in 1845. John Torrington, William Braine and Brian Hartnell were perhaps the luckiest members of the doomed expedition, for they died before having to endure the miseries and privations suffered by the rest of the crew. In the mid-1980′s, a team of Canadian university researchers exhumed the frozen and well-preserved bodies from these graves. They found abnormally high concentrations of lead in the bone and tissue samples they extracted, and concluded that the lead had been absorbed from the solder used to seal the cans of food accompanying the expedition – the canning process had then only just been invented.
Beechey Island is a mere dot on the best navigational charts – barely two kilometres across. Yet it is one of the Arctic’s most important historical repositories: in addition to the Franklin graves and the now fallen ship’s mast planted in the ice almost 150 years ago, it is the last resting place of another sailor – this one a member of one of the search parties looking for Franklin – and of the HMS Breadalbane, a three-masted barque which sank half a mile south of the island in 1853. The Breadalbane had brought supplies to Beechey for the Franklin search groups, and as her consort had the Phoenix, the first steam-powered ship to enter the Arctic. Holed by the ice, she sank within 15 minutes, but not before her crew escaped to safety on board the Phoenix. A Canadian team, led by Joe MacInnis, located the Breadalbane in 1983 and dove beneath the ice to set foot on her frozen decks.
Beechey Island is located about 75km/46 miles east of Resolute Bay. An island only at high tide, it is in fact joined to Devon Island by a sandbar when the tide is out.
One of the favoured nesting places for the migratory birds of the eastern Arctic, the cliffs of Bylot provide summer homes and hatching grounds for rare peregrine falcons and ivory gulls, as well as thousands of murres, kittiwakes (at Button Point on the south-eastern coast), and the major part of the world’s snow goose population (June in the south-western lowlands). The island has been designated a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and is part of the proposed North Baffin National Park.
The island’s peaks rise 1,200-1,500m/4,000-5,000ft, with the ice cap dome on top reaching to 1,850m/6,000ft above sea level.
Churchill is located on the shore of Hudson Bay in the Canadian province of Manitoba. At a latitude 58°, the area is subject to both weather and tides. The mix of these two forces has resulted in a landscape of tundra and taiga. The history of Churchill since the early exploration days and the construction of Prince Wale’s Fort in the 1700′s is the best documented. However, artifacts show that the area has been frequented by other cultures for over 3,000 years. The first occupants of the Churchill area were pre-Dorset people who lived here in about 1700 BC. They were nomads who hunted caribou and ringed seals. The first Europeans to arrive in Churchill were not looking for a place to live, but for a Northwest Passage to the spice-rich Orient. Jens Munk, a Danish navigator, led an ill-fated expedition which wintered near the mouth of the Churchill River in 1619-20.
The Slave Woman, a Chipewyan Dene or "Northern Indian", helped make peace between the Cree and Chipewyan Indians almost a century later, thus enabling the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish a trading post in the area in 1717 under the direction of Captain James Knight. The Prince of Wale’s Fort was built in the latter part of the 18th century. Western Canada’s demand for a prairie port eventually brought about construction on the Hudson Bay Railroad and the Port of Churchill. The last spike of the railroad was driven in 1929 and the first two ships loaded with grain left port in 1931. Fort Churchill, located five miles east of Churchill was first established in 1942 by the United States Air Force as part of proposed overseas air operations to Europe. After World War II, Canada and the United States jointly sponsored a training and experimental centre. The base was officially closed in August of 1980. New rental housing and a large Town Centre were constructed in the 1970′s as a part of a redevelopment project financed by the Provincial and Federal governments.
Inukjuak (The giant)
Inukjuak is located on the north bank of the Innuksuak River, known for its turquoise water and turbulent rapids. The many archaeological sites scattered along the meandering river evidence thousands of years of inhabitation. The land around Inukjuak is marked by gently rolling hills and open spaces which endow the landscape with a "silent beauty," in the words of local Inuit. From the tundra, one may admire a splendid view of the village, its small port, the Hopewell Islands, and Hudson Bay. In spring, ice between these islands and the mainland is moved by the action of tides and currents to create a spectacular field of immense, upraised blocks of ice.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was given the name of Port Harrison, and the French fur trading company Révillon Frères established a post here. For its part, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) opened its post in 1920. Competition between these companies ended in 1936 when the HBC bought out Révillon Frères. The subsequent HBC fur trade monopoly continued until 1958. The St. Thomas Anglican mission was founded in 1927 and, in the years following, the federal government began delivering basic community services in Inukjuak: a post office and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police attachment were opened in 1935, a nursing station in 1947 and a school in 1951. In 1962, the co-operative store opened and, in 1980, Inukjuak was legally established as a municipality. Throughout this period, most Inuit however continued to prefer their traditional lifestyle on the land and only began settling in the village in the 1950′s. A much more painful period in the history of Inukjuamiut incongruously involves Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord, communities created 2000 km away in the High Arctic. It was in 1953 that Inuit from Inukjuak were involuntarily relocated north by the Government of Canada, essentially in order to act as flagpoles. They represented this country’s efforts to occupy the uninhabited High Arctic and counter the feared expansionist activities of other nations. Families were split up and relocatees were placed in the cruel position where to survive they had to quickly acquire new hunting techniques in the face of much harsher climatic conditions. In 1996, the Canadian government provided monetary compensation to the surviving relocatees and their families, but this settlement fell short of apologizing to the Inuit for the hardships they had endured. Instead, it offered a ‘statement of reconciliation.’ History should remember these people for their important role in establishing Canada’s presence in the High Arctic.
Ivujivik (Place where ice accumulates because of strong currents)
Roughly 2000 km north of Montreal, Ivujivik is Quebec’s northernmost village. Nestled in a small, sandy cove, the village is surrounded by imposing cliffs that plunge into the tormented waters of Digges Sound. This is the place where the strong currents of Hudson Bay and the Hudson Strait clash. During particularly strong tides, hapless animals are even known to have been crushed between violent movements of sea ice. On the Ungava Plateau, which crowns the cliffs around Ivujivik, the only plants that stubbornly cling to the rocky tundra are lichen.
Located 30 km north-east of Ivujivik is Cape Wolstenholme. Its wind-lashed cliffs are the nesting place of one of the world’s largest colonies of thick-billed murre. To the north-west of Ivujivik are Nottingham and Salisbury islands with their impressive walrus populations.
Different peoples, including most recently the nomadic ancestors of the Inuit, have inhabited the coast and islands of this area for about 4000 years, seal, walrus and beluga forming their staple food source. Such marine animals tend to be abundant as these waters are a migratory pass between Hudson Bay and the Hudson Strait. Strong currents that prevent the sea from freezing also allow hunting to be carried out with greater ease year-round. In addition, the myriad of islands offer superb shelter for waterfowl in summer.
The first recorded encounter between Europeans and the Inuit of Nunavik took place in 1610 on nearby Digges islands during Henry Hudson’s last and fatal expedition to the Arctic in search of a polar route leading to Asia. Later, in 1697, Captain Pierre LeMoyne D’Iberville and his crew, in search of commercial opportunities in Hudson Bay, met Inuit at Cape Wolstenholme. In 1909, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post on the site of today’s settlement. Thereafter, in 1938, a Catholic mission was also founded, but it was only after 1947 that Inuit gradually began to settle close to these two establishments. When the mission closed in the 1960s, the federal government took over delivery of services in the emerging Inuit village. In 1967, the Inuit of Ivujivik founded a co-operative store.
Along with the inhabitants of Puvirnituq and 49% of Salluit’s population, Ivujivik Inuit refused to sign the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in 1975. Instead, they formed a movement called Inuit Tungavingat Nunamini. Under the JBNQA, other Nunavik Inuit yielded certain land claims and rights making it possible for the provincial government to proceed with its ambitious La Grande hydro-electric project on James Bay.
Kangiqsualujjuaq (Very large bay)
Kangiqsualujjuaq is the easternmost village of Nunavik, located about 160 km north-east of Kuujjuaq. It is situated 25 km from Ungava Bay on the George River, nestled at the end of a cove called Akilasakulluq. Tidal movements reach as far upstream as the village so that, at low tide, water recedes almost entirely from the cove. Kangiqsualujjuaq’s summer life is therefore closely linked to the rhythm of the tides. The village itself stands in the shadow of an imposing granite rock outcropping which rises to the north of the bay. Despite its northerly location, the valley sheltering the village is beautified by a luxuriant vegetation. In the 1960s, the village even operated as a small spruce lumber mill. For hunters, anglers and adventure lovers alike, the surroundings of Kangiqsualujjuaq are full of natural attractions. The calving grounds of the George River herd, the largest ungulate population in the world estimated at several hundreds of thousands of head, is nearby. The George River, as well as other rivers in the area, teems with fish, particularly Arctic char, Atlantic salmon and a variety of trout. At the site of the beautiful Helen’s Falls, 64 km up the George River, many outfitter camps welcome visitors and offer unbelievable fishing adventures.
About 100 km to the east of Kangiqsualujjuaq are the Torngat Mountains. This range stretches for 300 km along the Quebec-Labrador border, between Ungava Bay and the Labrador Sea. Its eternal snow, glacial troughs, cirques, fjords and the majestic Mount D’Iberville, which dominates the range at 1646 m, make it an exceptional destination. The Koroc River, which flows from the Torngat Mountains all the way to Ungava Bay, as well as the Abloviak Fjord conceal countless natural beauties and are entrancing settings for hikers, canoeists and kayakers to explore.
Also known as simply George River, Kangiqsualujjuaq did not really develop as a village before the early 1960s. The Hudson’s Bay Company operated as a post south of today’s village during the periods of 1838-42, 1876-1915, and 1923-32. However, Inuit of the area never settled around the post, preferring to live along the coast in summer and setting their camps about 50 km inland in winter. In 1959, local Inuit established, on their own initiative, the first co-operative in Northern Quebec for the purpose of marketing Arctic char. The construction of the village began in 1962 and, a few years later, all inhabitants of George River lived in prefabricated houses. A school was built in 1963 as well as a co-operative store and government buildings. In 1980, Kangiqsualujjuaq was legally established as a municipality.
Kangiqsujuaq (The large bay)
Kangiqsujuaq occupies an exceptional site. 10 km from the Hudson Strait, on the south-eastern shore of Wakeham Bay. The village is snuggled in the hollow of a splendid valley surrounded by majestic mountains, and a landscape of unspeakable beauty. Of particular note is the method employed by local Inuit to harvest mussels in winter. As the tide ebbs in shallow areas, they pierce holes in the sea ice. With the water having receded, they drop themselves through these holes and are able to crawl under the ice to collect this succulent seafood delicacy.
In 1884, members of the Canadian Hudson’s Bay Expedition, aboard the steamship Neptune, arrived in the area anxious to establish a commercial route to Europe through the Hudson Strait. An ice observation and meteorological station were built at Stupart Bay (known as Aniuvarjuaq by the Inuit). Inuit began to trade frequently with the observers posted at the station: seal skin mitts and boots for tobacco and gunpowder.
Wakeham Bay takes its name from Captain William Wakeham who, in 1897, led an expedition to determine whether the Hudson Strait was safe for navigation. In 1961, the provincial government renamed the settlement Sainte-Anne-de-Maricourt, until with the establishment of a municipality it officially readopted its Inuktitut name, Kangiqsujuaq.
In 1910, the French company Révillon Frères established a post at Kangiqsujuaq. Four years later, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) followed suit. In 1928, the HBC established an experimental fox farm which it operated for 12 years. In 1936, the Révillon Frères trading post was closed, but a Catholic mission was established. Many Oblate priests have lived at the mission, among them, Father Dion since 1964. In 1960, the first school was opened, followed the next year by a nursing station. An Anglican church was established in 1963. Kangiqsujuammiut established their co-operative store in 1970.
Kangiqsujuaq is located north of the Cape Smith Belt, an area rich in mineralization. Since the 1950s, exploitation has been carried out regularly. Through the 1970s and 80s, asbestos was mined at Purtuniq. Today, a copper and nickel mine is operated by the Société minière Raglan du Québec in the area. Roughly 15% of this mine’s workforce is drawn from the Nunavik communities.
Kangirsuk (The bay)
Kangirsuk, meaning ‘the bay’ in Inuktitut, is located on the north shore of the Payne River, 13 km inland from Ungava Bay. The village lies between a rocky cliff to the north and a large, rocky hill to the west. It is situated about 118 km south of Quaqtaq and 230 km north of Kuujjuaq. The numerous lakes and rivers of the area are well-known for their Arctic char and lake trout. The strong tides that occur on the Payne River make it an extraordinary place for mussel harvesting. The richness of wildlife and flora of the surroundings of Kangirsuk is also impressive. On the islands of Kyak Bay and Virgin Lake located to the east and north-east of Kangirsuk, respectively, important colonies of eider ducks nest every year. Inuit women collect the precious down of those birds to make the warm parkas which protect Kangirsumiut from the biting, winter cold.
Kangirsuk, like many Inuit villages of Northern Quebec, developed around trading posts. The French fur company Révillon Frères built a trading post in 1921 and, four years later, the Hudson’s Bay Company followed. Both trading posts were managed at times by Inuit. The federal day school was inaugurated in 1959. Thereafter, Inuit from the region started to settle permanently in the village. In 1961, the federal government introduced health, housing and social services to Kangirsuk and throughout the 1960s the community developed intensively. In 1965, an Anglican mission opened a church in Kangirsuk and the following year the local co-operative store was established. In 1981, Kangirsuk was incorporated as a municipality.
Kerkerten Island is located about 50 kilometres southeast of Pangnirtung just off the north shore of Cumberland Sound. The island was the site of one of two major whaling stations in the eastern Arctic (the other was on Blacklead Island, off the southern shore of the Sound). The Kerkerten site has been partially restored and preserved as Kerkerten Historical Park by the Government of the Northwest Territories. Foundations of three storehouses built in 1857 by Scottish whalers, remains of a whaleboat slip and large cast-iron pots used for rendering whale oil and blubber are a few of the things you will see on a walk through the site.
Kuujjuaq (Great river)
Kuujjuaq, Nunavik’s largest community, is located on the west shore of the Koksoak River, about 50 km upstream from Ungava Bay. Daily life in this community is closely tied to the mighty river. The ebb and flow of its tides are continually altering the landscape and they impose their rhythm on the practice of traditional summer activities. The boreal forest is present around Kuujjuaq. Patches of black spruce and larch stand in marshy valleys. Kuujjuaq also witnesses annual migrations of the George River caribou herd. These animals pass through the region throughout August and September.
Kuujjuaq was known before by another name, that of Fort Chimo. ‘Chimo’ is a mispronunciation of the phrase saimuk, ‘Let’s shake hands!’ Early fur traders were often welcomed with this phrase which they eventually adopted as the name of the trading post.
The first Europeans to have contact with local Inuit were Moravians. On August 25, 1811, after a perilous trip along the coasts of Labrador and Ungava Bay, Brother Benjamin Kohlmeister and Brother George Kmoch arrived at an Inuit camp on the east shore of the Koksoak River, a few kilometres downstream from the present settlement. Their aim was to convert "the Esquimaux to Christianity." According to the journal kept by Brother Kohlmeister, Inuit of the Koksoak River were very interested in having a Moravian mission in the area.
Around 1830, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) started the fur trade business in Nunavik by establishing their first post on the east shore of the Koksoak River, about 5 km downstream from the present-day settlement. The post closed in 1842, then reopened in 1866. At that time, Inuit, Montagnais and Naskapi came to trade at the post.
The construction of a U.S. Air Force base (Crystal 1) in 1942 on the west shore of the Koksoak River, the site of today’s settlement, and the occupation of the site by the American Army between 1941 and 1945 sped up the development of the community. After the end of World War II, the United States turned the base over to the Canadian government. In 1948, a Catholic mission was established, followed by a nursing station, a school and a weather station. When the HBC moved upstream closer to the airstrips in 1958, it was followed by the remaining families that still lived across the river at Fort Chimo. In 1961, a co-operative was created.
With its two airstrips, Kuujjuaq is the transportation hub of the entire region. The village boasts a number of hotels, restaurants, stores, arts and crafts shops and a bank.
Kuujjuarapik (Little great river)
Kuujjuarapik is nestled in golden sand dunes at the mouth of the Great Whale River. Beyond the village, the land is rather flat; a carpet of moss and rock unfold as far as the eye can see. From the crest of the dunes, there is a good view of Hudson Bay and the Manitounuk Islands, which are just a little to the north along the coast. These breath-taking islands are representative of the Hudsonian cuestas that rise along the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. They are characterized by rocky beaches on the side facing the open sea and vertiginous cliffs on the coastal side. The Manitounuk Islands constitute an ideal shelter for birds, seal, whale, and beluga. About 12 km up the Great Whale River, there is an enchanting waterfall, the Amitapanuch Falls.
Kuujjuarapik is Nunavik’s southernmost village. It is also unique as it is a bicultural community of Inuit and Cree. The Cree community is called Whapmagoostui (where there are whales, in the Cree language). This village is also officially designated Poste-de-la-Baleine, making it one of the few places in Canada with three official names. Ancestors of the Inuit, as well as Cree, have occupied the area for roughly 2800 years. In the 18th century, hunters traveled throughout the region setting up camps on Richmond Gulf, Little Whale River and Great Whale River. The Hudson’s Bay Company opened a trading post called Great Whale River in 1820 on the site of today’s Kuujjuarapik. The main activities at the post were processing whale products of the commercial whale hunt in 1882 and a Catholic mission in 1890. Although the federal government set up a weather station in Great Whale River in 1895, it only starting providing some medical assistance and policing services through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the first half of the 20th century. The village itself started to develop in the late 1930s. During World War II, the United States built in Kuujjuarapik a military base and airport, which they turned over to the Canadian government in 1948. This base was also the control station of the Mid-Canada Line, a line of military radar stations constructed in 1955 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson Bay along the 55th parallel. The population of Kuujjuarapik decreased significantly however in 1985 when many families, fearing the negative impacts of the Great Whale River hydro-electric project, decided to relocate to Umiujaq, another Inuit community about 160 km north of Kuujjuarapik.
Lake Harbour is called Kimmirut, "place of the heel", in Inukitut because of a huge limestone rock outcrop found in the inlet immediately east of the community. This rock resembles a large human heel. The rock also accentuates another impressive feature of Lake Harbour – the 15 metre tides.
Zachariach Gilliam aboard the Prince Rupert and Robert Newland aboard the Wivenhoe were the first to cruise through the Hudson Strait in 1670 under the charter of the new Hudson’s Bay Company. There was regular commercial Hudson’s Bay Company traffic through the Hudson Strait from that time on. Company supply vessels traded sporadically with Inuit they encountered on these voyages. Much of this trade occurred near the Middle Savage Islands, off the coast to the south and east of present day Lake Harbour.
From 1860 until 1915, American and Scottish whaling vessels also travelled regularly through the Strait en route to and from the whaling grounds in Hudson Bay. They too travelled close to the Baffin coasts and traded with the Inuit.
During this same period, the Dundee firm of Robert Kinnes operated a mica mine at Lake Harbour. Several Canadian scientists came to explore and survey the coast. In 1909, the Anglican church established a mission at Lake Harbour by Reverend Archibald Lang Fleming. The Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post at Lake Harbour in 1911 and in 1927 the RCMP established a detachment there. In 1949, a government school and nursing station were built. A boat building industry was established in Lake Harbour in 1953, but was closed in 1960.
Lake Harbour has one of the best climates in the region and a flourishing art community. The local carvings are of high quality. Whales, walruses, and bears are common themes.
One of the richest wildlife areas in the Arctic, Lancaster Sound and the shores of the islands which form its coastlines are the summer home to a myriad of Arctic species: the thick-billed murre, bearded and harp seals, walrus, beluga whales and narwhal, etc. Part of the attraction is the presence of a polynya, an area of water that does not freeze in winter, where the food supply is particularly abundant. This cornucopia occurs because the sun is able to penetrate into the water, thereby permitting some of the minuscule life forms in sea, such as the phytoplankton, to multiply. These are visible as greenish clouds, and they give rise in turn to the zooplankton, the tiny marine animals which come to the surface to eat – and be eaten by seals, cod and seabirds. Minute crustaceans called copepods are about the size of a grain of rice and serve as the primary diet for bowhead whales, which eat about 3 percent of their body weight, or as much as a ton of the plankton, in a day. If you notice a ‘feed slick’, a greasy-looking concentration of plankton floating on the water, watch for whales!
For a visitor, polynyas are marvels in terms of wildlife opportunities. And for those who live off the land, they are effectively well-stocked kitchens. Researchers have in fact discovered a clear connection between polynyas and early Inuit settlements, whose sites were obviously chosen for the availability of game nearby. Every ledge, buttress and cranny in the cliffs along the shores of Lancaster Sound is filled in the summer months with a family of nesting birds. The bulk of these are kittiwakes and murres, which arrive each year in May to claim their few square inches of rock. The eggs are laid in June, and by the end of July the murre chicks have hatched. They still have the month of August to learn to fly, then it’s off again for points south.
In early historical times, Lancaster Sound was the northern limit of Inuit settlements. The first Europeans to come to the area were Robert Bylot and William Baffin, who found the entrance to Lancaster Sound in 1616. But it wasn’t until 1818 that John Ross and WE Parry actually entered the Sound. Parry returned the following year, travelling westward through the Sound and wintering off Melville Island.
Pangnirtung, 50 km south of the Arctic Circle, is situated on the broad reaches of an old beach below the mountains of Pangnirtung Fjord, on the northern side of Cumberland Sound. The site was chosen by the traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1921. According to local legend, a man called Atagooyook named the area Pangnirtung, "the place of many bull caribou," in his youth. Today there are few caribou, but instead it’s the second largest community in the Baffin Region.
Long before the white man arrived, Cumberland Sound was home for Inuit and their predecessors; both Dorset and Thule culture sites are found here. In fact, the sound has probably supported a large population since earliest times of human habitation. The first European known to have come here was John Davis in 1585, searching for a passage to the far east. In 1840 the Scottish whaler William Penney and his guide Eenoolooapik "rediscovered" the entrance to Cumberland Sound, which very quickly became a popular spot for bowhead whaling. In just a few years the effect of the whalers on the Inuit took its toll: their numbers decreased from 1000 to 350.
For the rest of the century the Inuit population centred around two whaling stations, one at Kekerten Island and the other at Blacklead Island. After the establishment of the first Anglican mission at Blacklead, knowledge of Christianity spread throughout the Baffin region and along with it the syllabic script that was used to teach the Inuit how to read and write.
The opening of the Hudson’s Bay Company post at Pangnirtung spelled doom for Blacklead Island. In 1926, with commercial bowhead whaling dead, the Blacklead mission relocated to Pangnirtung.
In 1956 the federal teacher arrived in Pangnirtung, and six years later a government administrative office was opened. During that same time, an epidemic of distemper began which killed most of the dogs at the hunting camps in Cumberland Sound. Until then, most Inuit had continued to live in their traditional camps, coming to Pangnirtung only to trade. The dog disease changed all that. A few years later, a federal housing program put many new houses in Pangnirtung, and Inuit largely abandoned camp life.
Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik)
Mean temperatures in July/August: High 7.9°C/46.3°F, low 1.2°C/34.2°F.
Lowest temperature recorded: 53.9°C/-65°F.
Highest temperature recorded: 20°C/68°F.
Average precipitation: 170.4mm/6.7in (two thirds snow).
People have lived in the vicinity of Pond Inlet for centuries, as the many Thule and Dorset archaeological sites attest. The first Europeans to come here, around 1817, were whalers, attracted to the area by its populations of bowhead whales. John Ross named the inlet after John Pond, Britain’s Astronomer Royal in 1818, when he landed on Bylot Island during his journey to Lancaster Sound.
The Pond Inlet region became an important whaling ground for the Scottish and American fleets over the next few years. By 1822, an English expedition recorded seeing the carcasses of hundreds of flensed whales as they cruised at the edge of the floe. In 1854 a whaler named John Grey travelled west from Pond Inlet and discovered Eclipse Sound, naming it for his ship. The first shore whaling station was established by James Mutch (Jamee Mutchee to the Inuit) in 1903, although by this time the whaling era in the Eastern Arctic was drawing to a close. In 1911, Mutch’s Albert Whaling Company killed 200 walrus, 100 foxes and 20 bears – but no whales. In 1912, only one ship left Dundee, Scotland, for the Baffin whaling ground, and it returned empty-handed.
Whaling had greatly influenced the Pond Inlet Inuit’s lives: they traded with the whalers, hunted the animals that fed off the whale carcasses and salvaged wood from any wrecks that occurred. In the 1870′s, whalers told a shaman and Inuit leader, Qitdlak, of the existence of another Inuit group on the far side of Baffin Bay, prompting the last Inuit migration to Greenland. The ties between these two groups still exist, and cultural exchanges take place nearly every spring.
In 1912 three expeditions arrived in Pond Inlet to search for gold. None found it, but each returned to establish a trading post, buying and selling the products of the Inuit hunt.
The Hudson’s Bay Company opened a trading post in 1921, later purchasing the interests of the Arctic Gold Exploration Syndicate and thereby obtaining a virtual monopoly over trade in the Lancaster Sound area. In 1922, the Mounties (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) arrived in Pond Inlet, and engaged two Inuit in their detachment, one of whom, Kayak, received the Order of Canada for his dedicated service.
The Anglican and Catholic churches joined the southern incursions into Pond Inlet in 1929, and in 1960, the Federal Government gathered the Inuit from their camps surrounding the town into a housing project, complete with school and nursing station.
The setting for Pond Inlet is one of the most attractive in the Arctic. Behind the settlement, which climbs a broad hill, is a range of glacier bedecked mountains bearing an icecap that is over 1500m/4,000ft above sea level. The are is part of the highland rim of the Canadian Shield which includes east Baffin, Devon and Ellesmere Islands.
About half the Pond Inlet Inuit are under the age of 15, for whom two schools operate through grade 11. Those of working age tend to employ themselves making crafts or carving, or by taking wage jobs when these become available. Hunting and trapping is actively pursued. About a quarter of the population is officially unemployed.
As we sail out of Pond Inlet and into Baffin Bay we pass the remains of Qaersut, a whaling station which reached its peak in the 1820′s.
Puvirnituq (Place where there is a smell of rotten meat)
Located 4 km from Povungnituk Bay, on the north shore of the major river by the same name, this Inuit village is surrounded by an expansive plateau. It is a mixture of countless lakes and rivers, rich wildlife and precious arctic plants and flowers. Puvirnituq also witnesses every year the migration of the Leaf River caribou herd. For several days every fall, thousands of caribou, their hooves pounding the frozen tundra, arrive and plunge across the Povungnituk River in a spectacular display.
Two explanations are commonly given for the particular name of this village. The first recounts that many years ago when migrating caribou attempted to cross the river many were swept downstream and drowned. Their carcasses, it seems, were washed up on shore where they began to rot, producing a putrid odour. The other explanation of the site’s name tells how everyone living in the area were once the victims of a deadly epidemic. In the end, there was no one left to bury the dead bodies. When the corpses began to decompose, the air was filled with an awful stench. The whole area, however, is known by a more pleasant name. Amaamatisivik means the place where women breast-feed their babies to keep them from crying and disturbing the herds of migrating caribou.
In 1921, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established an outpost at Puvirnituq. Inuit who came to trade their furs in these early years occupied various camps scattered throughout the region. In 1951, the HBC opened a general store in Puvirnituq and closed its posts at Qikirtajuaq (Cape Smith near Akulivik) and Kangirsuruaq. Inuit living in those areas had no other choice but to relocate in the following years to Puvirnituq.
In 1956, a catholic mission was founded in Puvirnituq. Two years later, Father André Steinman inspired residents to form the Carvers Association of Povungnituk, which became the Co-operative Association of Povungnituk. Today a symbol of the community’s solidarity and independence, it is one of the most dynamic co-operatives which make up the Federation of Co-operatives of Northern Quebec.
Along with inhabitants of Ivujivik and 49% of Salluit’s population, Puvirnituq Inuit refused to sign the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in 1975. Instead, they formed a movement called Inuit Tungavingat Nunamini. Under the JBNQA, other Nunavik Inuit yielded certain land claims and rights making it possible for the provincial government to proceed with its ambitious La Grande hydro-electric project on James Bay.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Puvirnituq is the hub of the Hudson coast. The village’s airport is also the gateway to more remote communities, Puvirnituq and Kuujjuaq, Nunavik’s administrative centres, are also connected directly by plane two times a week.
The village of Quaqtaq is located on the eastern shore of Diana Bay, called Tuvaaluk (the large ice field) in Inuktitut, on a peninsula which protrudes into the Hudson Strait where it meets Ungava Bay. Mountains stand on the peninsula to the north and to the south-east as short, rocky hills. The region around Diana Bay is rich with land and sea mammals, as well as fish and seafood, including mussels, scallops and clams.
Up until the early 1930s, the peninsula was known as Nuvukutaaq (the long point). However, according to stories still told, a man who once came to the area to hunt beluga found live parasites in his faeces. His hunting companions began to call the place Quaqtaq (tapeworm), and the use of this new name spread rapidly.
Evidence found nearby shows that different people have occupied the area for about 3500 years. People of the Thule culture, the ancestors of today’s Inuit, arrived around 1400 or 1500 AD.
An independent trader built the first trading post in 1927 at Iggiajaaq, a few kilometres south-west of Quaqtaq. It operated for 11 years. At that time, the site of present-day Quaqtaq was one of the Tuvaaluk Inuit’s winter campsites as it was near the limit of landfast ice. Sea mammals were abundant at this place during the cold season. In 1931, the French fur trading company Révillon Frères opened a second store at Iggiajaaq, which the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) assumed control of in 1936. A Baffin Trading Company (BTC) post was established in 1939 in the same area and the following year the HBC closed its post at Iggiajaaq. The BTC post also closed 10 years later at which time the Inuit who normally wintered at Iggiajaaq moved to Quaqtaq. In 1947, a Catholic mission was established at Quaqtaq.
Public services were not delivered in the area as early as in other communities. Quaqtaq was considered too small. Only after a measles epidemic tore through the area in 1952, killing 11 adults, which is to say 10% of Quaqtaq’s population, did the federal government begin delivering some basic care.
A nursing station was built in 1963. In the 1960s, the Quebec government opened a store and a post office equipped with a radio-telephone. In 1947, the store became a co-operative and, in 1978, Quaqtaq was legally established as a Northern village.
Akpatok Island, which rises like a fortress out of the waters of Ungava Bay to the east of Quaqtaq, has long been known as the finest area in the region for walrus and polar bear hunting. Moreover, the vertiginous, rocky cliffs that guard the island are the nesting area of a large summer colony of thick-billed murre.
Salluit (The thin ones)
Salluit stands at the far end of the narrow Sugluk Inlet, 10 km inland from the Hudson Strait, hidden between high, rugged mountains rising close to 500 m. Salluit being the middle point between Nunavik’s 14 communities, it is a strategic location for meetings attended by people of the Hudson and Ungava coasts.
Though the village’s name suggests that it has not always been the case, the area is rich in wildlife and arctic plants. The coastal seabed teems with mussels and clams. Sallumiut enjoy a variety of dishes, which include arctic char, caribou, bannock, berries, roots and herbs. The very harsh climate endured by Sallumiut is indelibly engraved in their way of life, endowing them with an incredible sense of survival. An explanation for the name of this village recounts that, long ago, some Inuit were told wildlife abounded in the region. Yet when they arrived, they found almost nothing to eat and, as a result, suffered near starvation.
In 1958, archaeology work was carried out on Qikirtaq Island, at the entrance of the Sugluk Inlet. The evidence collected showed that people of the Dorset period occupied the area from approximately 800 BC to 1000 AD. The three sites excavated were name Keataina, Tyara and Toonoo. The Sugluk Masquette, a miniscule mask 2 cm in size carved out of ivory, was excavated from the Tyara site and dates back to about 400 BC.
In 1925, an independent trader opened at trading post on the site of present-day Salluit. Competition was fierce however and the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) quickly established its own post on the far shore of Sugluk inlet. The following year, the HBC moved to Deception Bay but, in 1930, it built a combined store and dwelling at present-day Salluit. In 1932, it closed its post at Deception Bay. The golden years of fur trading came to an end around 1936 when the price of pelts plummeted.
Although a Catholic mission was established in 1930, it operated for only some twenty years. In 1955, an Anglican mission was established and, two years later, a federal day school was opened. As more public services were being delivered, Inuit settled around the small village. The first residential houses were built in 1959. Sallumuit joined together in 1968 to open a co-operative store. Salluit legally became a municipality in 1979.
Along with the inhabitants of Ivujivik and Puvirnituq, 49% of Sallumiut refused to sign the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in 1975. Instead they formed a movement called Inuit Tungavinga Nunamini. Under the JBNQA, other Nunavik Inuit yielded certain land claims and rights making it possible for the provincial government to proceed with its ambitious La Grande hydro-electric project on James Bay.
Tasiujaq (Which resembles a lake)
Tasiujaq was built on the shores of Leaf Lake at the head of Deep Harbour. It lies a few kilometres north of the tree line. Here, the shrub tundra finally gives way to the arctic tundra. Tasiujaq, which means ‘resembling a lake,’ actually refers to the whole of Leaf Basin: Leaf Lake, Leaf Passage and Leaf Bay. Leaf Basin is renowned for its high tides which regularly exceed 15 m.
The region is very rich in marine mammals (seal and beluga), fish (Arctic char, Atlantic salmon, trout), ducks (particularly eider ducks) and many seabirds. As well, close to 1000 musk-ox roam the surrounding area. Gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons are commonly found nesting on the islands of Leaf Basin and surrounding cliffs.
The French fur company Révillon Frères and the Hudson’s Bay Company each opened trading posts in 1905 and 1907, respectively, on a site located east of today’s settlement. This settlement was along a traditional dogsled route used by Inuit to travel between Kuujjuaq and Kangirsuk. However, both posts had been closed by 1935 without any village ever having developed around them.
In the 1950′s, when the federal government opened a school in Kuujjuaq and started delivering social services, many Inuit congregated around the emerging village. The wildlife resources of Kuujjuaq however were scarce and many Inuit were forced to rely on government allowances. In 1963, the Northern Quebec directorate of the provincial government, hoping to remedy in part this problem, decided to create a new village on the south shore of Leaf Lake where wildlife resources were plentiful.
In 1966 with the project about to start, the Inuit families which would relocate were divided as to where their future village should be built. A choice had to be made between a site known as Qaamanialuk Paanga and the site of the old trading posts. Qaamanialuk Paanga was finally selected because it was easily accessible by boats used for summer hunting and fishing; nearby Finger River provided the necessary drinking water; and there was room to construct a landing strip. Subsequently, the new village was given the name Tasiujaq. The main reason the old trading post site was not selected as the site for the new village was its foreshore (tide land) was dotted with large boulders, and access by boat in summer would have been difficult. In 1971, once the community was organized, a co-operative store was established independently by residents. It continues to be the only Nunavik co-operative not associated with the Federation of Co-operatives or Northern Quebec.
Umiujaq (Which resembles a boat)
It is at the foot of a hill resembling an overturned umiaq (traditional Inuit walrus-skin boat) that Umiujaq was established. The landscape around the village is splendid and varied. Exploration is particularly enjoyable by foot as the mountainous surroundings are well drained with only a few lakes.
Richmond Gulf (Tasiujaq), located 15 km from the village, is an immense inland bay. It is joined with Hudson Bay by a rocky glacier-polished gulch, named the "Goulet," which resembles a cannon. Due to the strong current, the passage does not freeze even in winter. The western shores of the Gulf are bordered by beaches and remarkable cliffs. The many rivers flowing into the Gulf make its water brackish but a healthy habitat for brook trout and whitefish, seal and beluga. This sheltered maritime environment also nurtures scattered black spruce and larch, defying the surrounding tundra. On the south shore, there can still be seen the remnants of an abandoned Hudson’s Bay Company trading post.
From the cliffs of Richmond Gulf, there is a spectacular view to the west of Hudson Bay and the nearby Nastapoka Islands. Many species of birds, such as common loons, eider ducks and peregrine falcons, find summer shelter and nest here. Like the Manitounuk Islands near Kuujjuarapik, Nastapoka are, in geographical terms, cuestas. The abrupt, rocky cliffs plunge into the Nastapoka Sound, where the water can reach 110 m deep. Only 30 km to the north of Umiujaq is the Nastapoka River, which possesses a scenic 30 m high falls. The river estuary is an extraordinary place for anglers and hikers alike.
Located about 160 km north of Kuujjuarapik, Umiujaq was established in 1986. In light of the La Grande hydro-electric project and the proposed Great Whale hydro-electric project, Inuit negotiated a clause into the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement that provided for the relocation of Inuit from Kuujjuarapik to the Richmond Gulf. In 1982, by way of referendum, they opted to create a new community where they could preserve their traditional lifestyle in an area where fish and game were not threatened. After numerous archaeological, ecological and land planning studies, construction of the little village of Umiujaq began in the summer of 1985 and ended in December 1986. During the construction period, Inuit from Kuujjuarapik, who had decided to relocate to Umiujaq, lived in tents in the area of their future community.