Prohibited (October 2014)*
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No bank branches. Light banking services at the Co-op and Northern stores. Interac and credit cards accepted. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Limited cell phone service available, from some service providers only.
The area surrounding Pangnirtung (Pannirtuuq, “place of the bull caribou”), which is located on Baffin Island on a fiord off Cumberland Sound, has seen human occupation since pre-Dorset times (2000-500 BC). In addition to being accessible by sea, “Pang” is located at the end of Aksayuk Pass, a major pass that links Pangnirtung with Qikiqtarjuaq and has been used as a major cross country travel route. The first European explorer in the area was John Davis, who came searching for the Northwest Passage in 1585. In 1838, William Penny, a Scottish whaler, entered Cumberland Sound and found that the area offered good potential for a whale hunt. In 1840, the first whaling station was established at Kekerten Island, located in Cumberland Sound. American and Scottish whaling parties moved into the area, and local Inuit began to move close to the whaling operations at Kekerten and on Blacklead Island, further down Cumberland Sound, for employment and trade.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established a trading post in Pangnirtung in 1921 and an RCMP detachment followed in 1923. The Anglican Church arrived in 1929 and established St. Luke’s Mission and Hospital, which served much of the eastern Arctic. Many Inuit started moving into the community in the early 1960s after a distemper epidemic decimated the sled dog population. In 1962, the federal government established an administrative office and began constructing housing in the community. Auyuittuq National Park Reserve (now a full park) had its start in the 1970s, with Parks Canada making Pangnirtung the administrative centre for the park. The community’s access to rich marine resources encouraged the development of a fisheries industry in town. In addition, with the development of a tapestry weaving studio and an artists’ studio co-operative, Pangnirtung became a centre for eastern Arctic Inuit art. The Hamlet was formally established in 1973, and in 1999 it became one of the communities to host several decentralized departments of the Government of Nunavut.
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.
Local Inuit have adopted a number of western art techniques and then turned them into powerful expressions of Inuit culture. The Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts houses the Pangnirtung Tapestry Studio, which started as an economic development initiative of the Government of the Northwest Territories in the 1970s, but has since become world-famous for its striking interpretations of Inuit life and legends. It also houses the Pangnirtung Print Shop, which is renowned for its stencil work, but is continually experimenting with new printmaking techniques. Pangnirtung is home to carvers whose work is exhibited around the world, and younger artists have taken up photography, documenting both community life and the spectacular local scenery through their art.
Traditional hunting and fishing for “country food” (wildlife hunted as food) such as caribou, beluga whale and ptarmigan still is an important part of community life, and skilled seamstresses continue to prepare skins from the hunt to make boots and other garments.
Although Pangnirtung’s residents are extremely proud and protective of their Inuit culture and Inuktitut dialect, they have been in contact with European culture for hundreds of years and formed close ties with many of the whalers. Many have a whaler somewhere in their family tree. The Angmarlik Interpretive Centre and the Parks Canada Interpretive Centre, both within the Hamlet, and Kekerten Territorial Park, a three-hour trip away by boat, document local whaling history and its relationship to local Inuit culture.
The Anglican Mission arrived in Pangnirtung in 1929 and has had an important presence in developing the community. St. Luke’s Hospital, built in 1930, was the first hospital on Baffin Island. Eventually the hospital was closed and the building was used to house the Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS), an Anglican seminary established to encourage Inuit to join the ministry. Now most of the Inuit clergy for the Anglican Church in the eastern Arctic are ATTS grads. There are currently two churches, St. Luke’s Anglican and a Pentecostal church (no telephone). A Roman Catholic priest visits the community from time to time, but there is no Catholic church.
As is true of most communities in the Qikiqtani region, the Inuktitut language is strong in Pangnirtung. You will hear it spoken on the street and used regularly in daily life. According to the 2011 Census, 93% of the population declares Inuktitut as its mother tongue, and only 4% English. Nearly three-quarters of Pangnirtung residents speak English, 26% use English as a second language at home, and there is a handful of French speakers. However, 27% of residents speak only Inuktitut, which means that newcomers or visitors occasionally need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them. Inuktitut is the primary language of the home for 88%, and many of the English-speaking families also use Inuktitut regularly in the home. 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 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.
Pangnirtung is a growing, young community. The 2011 Census counted 175 pre-school and 420 school-age children, making 42% of the population under 18. The median age of residents is 23, and 5% of the population is over 65. The Angmarlik Interpretive Centre hosts gatherings for Elders in the community.
Pangnirtung is one of the few communities in Nunavut with a truly diversified economy. For several decades, tourism has played an important role in the community’s development. Pangnirtung serves as a gateway to territorial and federal parks, and offers its own spectacular scenery and art-based tourism. Auyuittuq National Park Reserve was created in the 1970s and became a full park after the settlement of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Parks Canada made Pangnirtung the administrative centre for the park, with a satellite office in Qikiqtarjuaq. Parks Canada also built a full interpretive centre for the park in Pangnirtung in 1992. Kekerten Territorial Park preserves and interprets the history of the whaling period in the area, with the Angmarlik Interpretive Centre providing an anchor for the park in the Hamlet. Local outfitters take visitors to both parks, which can be reached by boat in summer and snowmobile in winter. Pangnirtung is also a favoured destination for mountain climbers. The record for the longest rappel in the world was set in Auyuittuq on Mount Thor.
Pangnirtung also houses the decentralized offices of the Government of Nunavut, including the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics, community economic development programs for Economic Development and Transportation, and career, early childhood and school services for the Department of Education. Given the marine history of the community, the development of the Arctic char and turbot industry is a natural extension, and recently the harbour has been expanded to accommodate larger vessels and to enable them to unload fish for the fish plant. Pangnirtung is one of the eastern Arctic’s primary art centres, providing employment for many artists. In addition to the local service economy, many residents also engage in subsistence hunting and fishing as part of the community food supply.
A number of Pangnirtung economic activities can be watched in action on the Hamlet’s video page, from the provision of town services (watch a house having its water tank filled!) to views of the fish processing plant, inside the weave shop, and an online tour of the Angmarlik Visitors’ Centre.
As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Pangnirtung, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern Store and Co-op offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. Interac and credit cards are accepted at most retail outlets. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since the postal service can often be delayed by bad weather and travel disruptions.
Located on the shores of Pangnirtung Fiord, which enters into Cumberland Sound, Pangnirtung has plentiful marine wildlife. The area historically supported a large whaling fleet and multiple whaling camps. Whales of various species, including bowhead, beluga, narwhal, minke and orca, are still prevalent, as are walrus, various seal species, and, of course, polar bears. Fishing plays a large part in the local economy and there are commercial harvests of char, turbot, scallops, and Greenland shrimp. The local topography does not support herds of caribou and local hunters must usually travel across the Sound or inland to find small herds. The high cliffs and deeply incised valleys support a wide variety of bird species, including falcons, ptarmigan, gulls, and migratory song birds. Small game, including lemming, foxes, and wolves are also present. Polar bears very occasionally wander near town, as can be seen in photos taken in December 2012.
Pangnirtung is certainly not the coldest community in Nunavut, but because of the steep cliffs of the surrounding fiords, the weather can occasionally become dramatic. February is the coldest month, with an average daily temperature of -29ᵒC. Summer temperatures are moderate, with an average temperature of 7.8ᵒC in July. The climate is also fairly dry, with an average annual precipitation of 156 cm of snow and 22 cm of rain. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Pangnirtung are posted on the Environment Canada website.
Unlike many other communities, Pangnirtung does not have a steady breeze blowing all the time, and the average wind speed year round is 10 km/h. From time to time, however, winds will sweep through the mountains at extremely high speeds, often reaching more than 90 km/h, with or without snow. Many older homes in Pangnirtung have cables over their roofs to anchor them, and the Hamlet will close down when the wind speed is extremely high, regardless of visibility, because of the potential danger from flying objects.
People’s tolerance for cold varies with experience, but warm winter clothing is required for several months of the 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 low 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 66.2 degrees latitude, Pangnirtung lies just 50 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, marked in Auyuittuq National Park nearby. At the edge of the land of midnight sun and polar night, Pangnirtung loses direct sight of the sun from December through February, as the sun does not rise high enough to be seen over the high mountains surrounding the Hamlet. It does not experience complete dark during this period, as there is a twilight period for a very few hours in the middle of the day. When the sun starts to shine through gaps in the mountains onto the ice of the fiord in February, local residents have been known to hop on a snowmobile and drive out to enjoy a patch of sunshine. Similarly, in the summer a few hours of twilight are all that constitute night from May through July.
According to the 2011 Census, Pangnirtung has 385 occupied private dwellings, including 210 single detached houses, 30 semi-detached houses, 40 row houses, five apartment buildings under five storeys, and 15 duplex apartments. The majority of dwellings consist of rental housing, primarily provided by employers, or public housing. As housing in Nunavut is in short supply, ask 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 Pangnirtung.
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. Limited cellphone service is available, from some service providers only. If you are a cellphone user, check to see if your current provider includes Nunavut in its coverage. Internet service is available from the local service provider (Qiniq, NorthwesTel dial-up), 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.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store, Northern Convenience Store and Pangnirtung Inuit 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 by bad weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. You can also check at the fish plant if you want to buy char or turbot, although the fish plant is more set up to sell to large-scale vendors than to the general public. Other “country food,” such as caribou, ptarmigan 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 Co-op and Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts. 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 tell you about their favourite suppliers for food and supplies not available in the community and their methods of obtaining them, 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. Companies providing service in Pangnirtung are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list at the end of this document for phone numbers and websites.
Pangnirtung 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, the treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Pangnirtung has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist and dentist visits. Regional services are provided through the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, with support from hospitals in Ottawa. Those requiring specialist treatment are frequently sent to Iqaluit 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 at least a one-year work contract, before you are eligible. You can download and complete the online Nunavut health card application, and mail the application along with the required documentation to the Department of Health after your three-month residency. 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.
Pharmacies are located in Iqaluit. Although the Health Centre may supply some emergency prescriptions, the supplies on hand are limited. If you have a medical condition requiring ongoing prescriptions, you should make arrangements with a pharmacy to have your prescriptions sent to you; be prepared to allow ample time for your order to arrive because it could be delayed by weather conditions.
Pangnirtung has a dental clinic, which may be staffed by a dental therapist. A dentist visits Pangnirtung 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.
Pangnirtung currently has a daily scheduled airline service routed through Iqaluit with First Air and Canadian North. Service from Iqaluit can change seasonally, so check with the airlines for up-to-date scheduling. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites. 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.
The Auyuittuq Lodge hotel provides a shuttle bus service from the airport to the hotel. There may also be a taxi service, but you should ask your local contacts or the Hamlet whether one is currently operating. Many people get around on snowmobiles in the winter and all-terrain vehicles in the summer, but private vehicles brought up on the annual sealift are becoming increasingly common. However, garage services for private vehicles are limited, and may depend on the assistance of informally-trained local residents.
At Pangnirtung’s Aksayuk Arena ice activities, such as hockey and public skating, are scheduled through the winter, and sports and games in the summer, such as volleyball, touch football and indoor soccer. The Hamlet website occasionally posts schedules in its community news and reports on events.
Outdoor activities are very popular. Besides the usual hiking, camping, and berry-picking in the summer, and sliding and snowmobiling in winter, local residents and visitors enjoy more adventurous pursuits, such as snowboarding, snow sailing and mountaineering, thanks to the exciting terrain around the Hamlet. In July there is excellent on-shore fishing for char. Hunting and fishing regulations differ for residents who are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office for any necessary licenses or wildlife tags if you intend to hunt or fish.
Visits to Auyuittuq National Park, at the end of Pangnirtung Fiord, and Kekerten Territorial Park, 50 k south of Pangnirtung (three hours by boat), are a common pursuit, but these require the help of either local outfitters or access to a boat or snowmobile. Hiring an experienced outfitter/guide is essential for newcomers to the area because of potentially dangerous ocean conditions and significant tides. Camping facilities are available at Pisuktinu Territorial Park campground on the outskirts of the Hamlet.
Pangnirtung is one of 11 Nunavut communities with a public library. Qimiruvik Public Library is located in the Angmarlik Visitors’ Centre. Contact the library for current hours and programs.
The Hamlet normally organizes Christmas festivities between Christmas and New Year, and often a community Halloween Party, complete with Elders telling local ghost stories.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Pangnirtung has Prohibited status. This means that no alcohol is allowed except for sacramental purposes, and importation or possession can result in 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 also consult its website for more information about the system.