Prohibited (no alcohol allowed)*
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No bank branches. Light banking services and ATM (limited cash supply) at the Co-op. Interac and credit cards accepted at most retail locations. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Cell phone service is not currently available.
Kugaaruk, formerly known as Pelly Bay (named after John Pelly, a governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company), was a location frequented by the nomadic Netsilingmiut, descendants of the Thule people. They called it Arviligjuak, “place of many bowhead whales,” until the number of whales diminished because of years of whaling. Pelly Bay’s geographic location is subject to ice jams, which discouraged the establishment of whaling stations or trading posts, and so most Inuit continued to follow a traditional lifestyle well into the 1900s. Although Sir John Ross camped nearby in 1829, contact with Europeans was limited. In 1935, the first missionary arrived in the area and a Catholic Mission was established in 1937. As part of the development of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) system, a DEW Line site was constructed in 1955. A community began to develop around the base, and in 1968 the Canadian government began to build housing in the community, leading to the introduction of salaried work. When Nunavut was created in 1999, the community changed its name to Kugaaruk, meaning “little stream,” after the nearby river.
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.
Only a handful of Elders who have lived more than half their lives in the old ways of the Netsilingmiut on the land are still alive. Daily life in the community is a mix of modern western and traditional Inuit culture. For example, it is not uncommon to find a family watching cable or satellite TV, while eating traditional food such as raw char prepared and shared on a designated space on the floor. Kugaardjuk School has posted a website documenting local history and activities. Although the site is a bit dated (2000), there are photographs and descriptions of community and school life. Elders in Kugaaruk have also run kayak-building programs to keep this particular ancient skill alive. The old stone church in Kugaaruk was declared a historic building and restored in 1995, but the community now worships in a new Catholic church. There is no Anglican church.
Despite the fact that most of the population of Kugaaruk is Inuit, unilingual Inuktitut speakers make up only 2% of the community. The rest of the community speaks English, and almost 80% use English as the first language at home. However, 67% do claim Inuktitut as their mother tongue, 20% say it is the first language at home, and 59% say they use Inuktitut in the home as a second language. The preservation of the Inuit language is a concern, and instruction in school is conducted primarily in Inuktitut until Grade 2. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both languages. In addition, 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 correct your usage occasionally. 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.
The population of Kugaaruk is generally very young. The 2011 census counted approximately 110 pre-school and 270 school-age children, making 49% of the population under the age of 18, which is the median age of the community. Only 3% of the population is over 65.
Kugaaruk is a traditional community, where the local wage economy focuses largely on providing goods and services to local residents. Many people also engage in subsistence hunting and fishing. In addition, there are some well-known artists and craftspeople. Emily Illuitok, who died in 2012, is known for her ivory carvings, and her sons, Liederik and Michael, are both artists. Agnes Iqqugaqtuq has created distinctive wall-hangings. Although Kugaaruk does not have the decentralized government offices that form a significant part of the economy of many Nunavut communities, local outfitters do provide services to adventurous tourists who are interested in the area’s landscape and wildlife.
As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Kugaaruk, and cash supplies can often become very limited. An ATM is available at the Co-op, with a limited cash supply. Interac and credit card services are available. 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.
The area around Kugaaruk is rich with wildlife. Local marine mammals include bowhead whales, narwals, beluga, and seals. Arctic char can be found in the rivers. The rocky coastal hills and tundra valleys provide habitat for hares, foxes, ptarmigans, falcons and herds of caribou. Polar bears can be seen both on land and in the ocean.
Temperatures are cold in the winter. The normal range of temperatures is from -25ᵒC to -35ᵒC. If you include the wind chill factor, temperatures can be -60ᵒC or below. Kugaaruk has the coldest recorded wind chill in Canada of -78ᵒC on 13 January 1975. The temperature in July and August usually averages between 5ᵒC and 15ᵒC. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Kugaaruk are posted on the Environment Canada website.
People’s tolerance for cold varies with experience, but warm winter clothing is required for several months of every year. If you are moving to Nunavut, make sure you bring essential winter gear. Although you can sometimes purchase hand-made clothing, such as parkas and mitts, from local seamstresses, their services are not always available, and commercial winter clothing and footwear may be in short supply in the local stores. Check- in with your principal or colleagues for their advice on practical winter gear to purchase and bring with you.
At 68 degrees latitude, Kugaaruk is in the land of polar night and midnight sun. The amount of daylight in the winter diminishes to nothing by early December and it remains dark until the return of brief sunrise in early January. The amount of daylight increases to 24 hours a day by the third week of May, and daylight is continuous for the next three months, until the third week of July.
According to the 2011 Census, Kugaaruk has 155 occupied private dwellings, including 85 single detached houses, 20 semi-detached houses, 45 row houses, and five duplex apartments. Most of these dwellings are either rental units provided by employers or social housing. As housing in Nunavut is in short supply, inquire with your employer about the housing provisions of your employment and its cost. There is a possibility that you may be required to share housing with another colleague. You should also inquire into the appropriate housing insurance to acquire. If you have pets, the need for pet-friendly accommodation should be clearly indicated in any housing applications or documentation. You should also be aware that there is no veterinary service in Kugaaruk.
Water and sewage services, provided by the Hamlet, are supplied by trucked service. This means you will have a water tank and a sewage tank in the home, which are filled up and pumped out respectively on a regular schedule. Contact the Hamlet for details. People on trucked service do need to be conscious of their level of water consumption, as supplementary fees may be charged if you require a special fill-up or pump-out. The Hamlet also provides a garbage pick-up service. Most homes are heated with oil furnaces and the Co-op is the local heating fuel provider. Electrical power is supplied by Qulliq Energy’s local power plant. All telecommunications arrive in Nunavut via satellite. Telephone service is available only through NorthwesTel. There is currently no cellphone service available. Internet service is available from the local service provider (Qiniq), with limited bandwidth capacity, or direct-to-home satellite (Xplornet), which requires special arrangements for satellite dish installation. Cable TV is provided by the Co-op and direct-to-home satellite TV by Bell Canada TV.
Kugaaruk has only one store for local shopping and perishables, the Koomiut Co-operative. Basic fresh staples, such as milk, bread, and some fresh produce, along with canned and dry goods, are normally stocked throughout the year, although shortages can occur if supply planes are delayed because of the weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. “Country food” (wildlife hunted or fished for food), such as caribou, fish or seal, is not usually sold in these stores, but if you are interested you can sample these delicious and nutritious foods at community feasts and may occasionally be able to obtain them from local hunters. Local arts and crafts are available for purchase from the Koomiut Co-operative. See the contact list for phone numbers.
Food and supplies in Nunavut are generally expensive because of the added cost of shipping items north, despite the cost-of-living allowances paid by many employers, such as the Government of Nunavut’s Northern Allowance. Perishable items arrive by air freight, sea shipping lanes are open for only a brief period every year, and there are no highway links. Weather conditions also affect the arrival of planes, occasionally causing temporary shortages. If you have special dietary requirements (e.g., gluten-free, allergy-related, organic), you may wish to look into stocking up on particular supplies or identify sources that will ship north. You can find information about obtaining the food subsidies available for direct or personal orders under the Government of Canada’s Nutrition North program on its website. In addition, many businesses will ship items in unsubsidized food mail. Free shipping from Internet-based suppliers often becomes an important consideration. Local residents can suggest favourite methods and suppliers for food and supplies not available in the community, including “country food” from other Nunavut communities.
Bulk supplies, large or heavy items (e.g., vehicles, furniture) and building supplies are usually brought in by annual sealift during the short shipping season, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. The Coast Guard provides the only sealift service to Kugaaruk. Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Northern Transportation Company Limited will provide a merchant marshalling service as far as Nanisivik for transfer to the Coast Guard and delivery to Kugaaruk. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Kugaaruk is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as a Nursing Station) staffed by nurse practitioners. Basic medical care is provided, such as regular checkups, treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Kugaaruk has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist and dentist visits. Regional services are provided through the Health Centre in Cambridge Bay, with support from hospitals in Yellowknife and Edmonton. Those requiring specialist treatment are frequently sent to Cambridge Bay or “south,” depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint.
New residents of Nunavut are not immediately covered by Nunavut health care. You must be a resident of Nunavut for three months, with a minimum one-year work contract, before you are eligible. You can download and complete the online Nunavut health card application and mail the form, together with the required documentation, to the Department of Health once you have been resident for three months. Applications are also available at the Health Centre. It is very important that you have a Nunavut health card, because although your previous provincial or territorial health card may still cover your health expenses, it may not cover expenses such as medevacs (emergency chartered plane out of your community). If you intend to have family members or friends that are not residents of Nunavut visiting you, it is highly advised that they purchase medical insurance for the duration of their visit to cover expenses not typically covered by their province and territory. Under your employer’s health care benefits package you may also receive benefits for expenses, such as prescription drugs, dental services and eyeglasses. Check with your assigned Benefits Officer for details.
A pharmacy is located in Cambridge Bay, and although the Health Centre may supply some emergency prescriptions, the supplies on hand are limited. If you have a medical condition that requires prescriptions on an ongoing basis, you should make arrangements with a pharmacy to have your prescriptions sent to you. Be prepared to give plenty of time for your order to arrive. Delivery times may vary, depending on the dispatch method and weather conditions.
Kugaaruk has a dental clinic, which may be staffed by a dental therapist. A dentist visits Kugaaruk on a rotational schedule. Demand to see the dentist is usually very high. An optical team also visits on a rotational schedule, checking eyes and dispensing eyeglasses. Check with the Health Centre for the availability of these services.
You can check online for more information about Nunavut’s health system.
Kugaaruk is accessible year-round by air, with most routes passing through Yellowknife, NT, and Cambridge Bay, NU. Travellers from outside the Kitikmeot region must fly from Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet or southern Canada to Yellowknife, then fly north. Canadian North and First Air offer flights to Kugaaruk. Flights are not offered every day of the week. For current flight scheduling information, see the contact list for airline websites and phone numbers. Because the airline market in Nunavut is small and specialized, costs are very high. Even if your employer covers your initial relocation costs, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
Within town, the Co-op runs a taxi service. Please call the number in the contact list for details. Most people get around by all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile, but some have private vehicles, which are brought in by annual sealift. However, garage services for private vehicles are limited.
The Pierre Henri Centre houses the Hamlet offices, the local post office, and the community gym. Local outfitters offer sea kayaking, bird watching, hiking, fishing and hunting tours. Fishing and hunting are favourite local pursuits. Hunting and fishing regulations vary, depending on whether residents are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office for any necessary licenses or wildlife tags.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Kugaaruk is a Prohibited community. This means that no alcohol is allowed except for sacramental purposes, and importation or possession can make you subject to prosecution. Alcohol may be transported through Prohibited communities, but must not be consumed or disposed of in these communities. The Government of Nunavut’s Department of Finance is responsible for overseeing alcohol control and distribution in Nunavut, and you can consult its website for more information about the system.