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Igloolik

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Igloolik

Region: 
Qikiqtani School Operations (QSO)

Community

About
History: 

Historically rich in wildlife, the area in and around Igloolik is scattered with many archaeological sites that indicate the land there has been in use for over 4000 years. Iglulik means “place of igloos” in Inuktitut. William Parry recorded the first European contact with the local Inuit, called Iglulingmiut, in 1822, when he overwintered there during his bid to find the Northwest Passage. Charles Francis Hall travelled through the area in 1867 and 1868 during his expedition to find evidence or remains of the ill-fated Franklin expedition. A prospector, Alfred Tremblay, followed in 1913, and Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. The Roman Catholic Church arrived in what is now Igloolik to establish a mission in 1930, with the Hudson’s Bay Company establishing a post in the community shortly afterward. As with many communities in Nunavut, the late 1950s and early 1960s brought the increasing involvement of the Canadian government with the construction of a nursing station, a day school, and an RCMP post. The Anglican Church established a mission in 1959. Igloolik was an early adopter of the Co-op movement with the establishment of the Igloolik Co-op in 1963. In the 1970s, the federal government constructed three Arctic research centres in Inuvik, Igloolik and Iqaluit. These facilities became major bases for arctic research and community engagement. Igloolik has continued to grow and is one of the communities with decentralized offices of the Government of Nunavut, with major territorial departmental presence.

The Government of Nunavut (GN) Employee Orientation website offers an excellent collection of material on the general history of Nunavut, together with an overview of Inuit culture and history and an explanation of how Inuit cultural principles are being incorporated into government operations and services. We recommend exploring this site once it is available again after their restructuring, for now you can try the general GN site for information.

Culture: 

Iglulingmiut (residents of Igloolik) deeply value traditional culture. Igloolik is the home of Isuma Productions, a company noted for its films depicting traditional Inuit lifestyles. The best-known is Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner, but Isuma has produced many films that deal with various aspects of traditional Inuit life and the effect of contact with Europeans, such as in the film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. Many of the films can be viewed online. Igloolik is also home to Artcirq, the only Inuit circus troupe in the world. Events such as the annual Return of the Sun Festival offer opportunities for the community to celebrate local culture with igloo-building contests, dog-team races, and traditional games. Iglulingmiut have also retained a taste for traditional “country food” (wildlife hunted or fished as food). The community is famous for its igunaq, or fermented walrus meat, is a local delicacy. Religion has also played a significant role in community life. There are two churches in Igloolik, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and St. Matthias Anglican Mission. The Catholic parish was established in the 1930s, and a much-photographed stone church was built in the 1960s. St. Stephen’s had to be torn down in 2006 for safety reasons and has been replaced by a newer sanctuary.

As in many Qikiqtani region communities, eastern Arctic Inuktitut is the chief language of Iglulingmiut. In the 2011 Census, 93% of the population described Inuktitut as their mother tongue, 84% said it was the first language of the home, and another 8% use it as a second language in the home. As well, 13% indicated they did not speak either English or French. English is commonly used by 85% of the population, and around 75% uses English at home as a first or second language. There is also a small group of French speakers. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both languages, but you should not expect general Inuktitut conversations to be translated automatically just because an English speaker is present. Inuktitut dialects vary widely across Nunavut, so if you have been speaking Inuktitut in another community, be prepared to learn dialectal differences and to have local residents occasionally correct your usage. The Inuit language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French are all official languages of Nunavut, so you have the right to request government services in the official language of your choice.

Igloolik has a very young population. The 2011 Census counted 225 pre-school and 425 school-age children, making 45% of the population under 18. The median age of the community is 21.1 and only 2% of the population is over 65. There is considerable effort to preserve the knowledge of Igloolik’s few Elders. Through an active Elders group, the Inullariit Society, the Elders teach valuable land skills and traditional sewing techniques to the community. The Igloolik Research Centre has also spearheaded the Igloolik Oral History Database, a project aimed at preserving the Elders’ traditional knowledge.

Economy: 

Igloolik is one of the communities benefiting from the economic stimulus of decentralized Government of Nunavut offices. It is the location of community development positions for the Department of Culture and Heritage, and wildlife management for the Department of Environment. In addition to government employment and the local service wage economy, many residents hunt and fish to provide for their families. Igloolik also has a significant cultural industry, with Isuma Productions and Artcirq based here. Providing traditional items of clothing, tools and household items for films is also a part of this industry. Tourism offers seasonal employment for guides, outfitters, and cultural performers.

There are no bank branches in Igloolik and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern and Co-op Stores offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. An ATM with a limited cash supply is available at the Northern Store. Interac and credit card services are available at most retail stores. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed when bad weather disrupts transportation.

Wildlife: 

Located adjacent to Hall Beach and sharing the same geographic area, Igloolik also has the same abundant coastal wildlife, including walrus, seals, beluga whales, and polar bears. The relatively flat topography supports a large bird population during the summer season, specifically ground nesting species such as ducks, geese, loons, plovers, snow buntings and snowy owls. Small game is present throughout the area. People fish locally for Arctic char and lake trout, and collect bird eggs in the spring.

Further Reading: 
  • Bennett, John and Susan Rowley, eds. Uqalurait: an oral history of Nunavut. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
  • Dorais, Louis-Jacques: The language of the Inuit: syntax, semantics and society in the Arctic. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.
  • Georgia: An Arctic diary. Edmonton: Hurtig, 1971.
  • Issenman, Betty Kobayashi. Sinews of Survival: the living legacy of Inuit clothing. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997.
  • MacDonald, John. The Arctic sky: Inuit astronomy, star lore and legend. Iqaluit & Toronto: Nunavut Research Institute and Royal Ontario Museum, 1998.
  • McGhee, Robert. The last imaginary place: a human history of the Arctic world. Toronto: Key Porter Books, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2004.
  • Morrison, David and Georges-Hébert Germain. Inuit: glimpses of an Arctic past. Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1995.
  • Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. The Inuit way: a guide to Inuit culture, rev. ed. Ottawa: Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006. http://www.uqar.ca/files/boreas/inuitway_e.pdf
  • Rasmussen, Knud. Intellectual culture of the Iglulik Eskimos (Fifth Thule Expedition, v. 7) and Material culture of the Iglulik Eskimos (Fifth Thule Expedition, v. 6 no. 1). New York: AMS Press, 1976
  • Rowley, Graham W.: Cold comfort: my love affair with the Arctic. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.