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Pond Inlet

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Pond Inlet

Region: 
Qikiqtani School Operations (QSO)

Community

About
History: 

Located at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, Pond Inlet was given its English name by explorer John Ross in 1818, who originally called it Pond’s Bay after John Pond, the British Astronomer Royal of the day. Archaeological evidence shows occupation of the area from Dorset times, with Inuit travelling throughout the region to harvest wildlife according the seasons. In Inuktitut, the location is known as Mittimatalik, although there is some local debate about the meaning of the name. Given the joining of Lancaster Sound and Baffin Bay, and the presence of permanently open water areas in the winter time (polynyas), the area around Pond Inlet was a major whaling centre up to the early 1900s, when up to 70 ships a year hunted whales there. The richness of wildlife in the area also supported the establishment of trading posts by Captain James Mutch (1903) and Robert Kinnes, who was bought out by Captain Joseph Bernier (1910) after his service with the Canadian government and his voyage through the Northwest Passage. Bernier sold his interests to trader Henry Toke Munn in 1918, who ran the post until 1921, the same year that the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established a post at the location of the current community. The RCMP established a post adjacent to the HBC in 1922, which was followed by the Anglican and Catholic Church missions in 1929. Inuit started to move off the land in the 1960s when the federal government constructed a school and hostel for students in 196 and started to provide housing. Air service also began in the 1960s, first on airstrips built on the sea ice, and then using an airstrip on the land. The 1970s saw growing interest in the area with the exploration for oil and gas and associated research, much of it through the Arctic Research Establishment. Pond Inlet attained Hamlet status on April 1, 1975. The community continues to grow, partly as a result of hosting decentralized government offices in 1999 for the new territory of Nunavut, and partly because of mineral exploration and the recent approval of the nearby Baffinland Iron Mine Corporation mine.

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: 

As a place with a long history of Inuit occupation and European contact, and ongoing economic development, Pond Inlet’s community life mixes traditional Inuit culture with new developments in technology and global culture. People maintain dog teams and engage in traditional hunting and fishing while using the Internet and cable TV and meeting scientists and tourists from all over the world. The Natinnak Visitors Centre in Pond Inlet houses interpretive displays describing the culture and history of the area’s Inuit and the community. Natinnak also houses gatherings of the community’s Elders, and is the site of the Pond Inlet Archives, which has an active program of collecting historic photographs and conducting oral history research to identify those in the photographs. The Pond Inlet Library and Archives Society supports both the Archives and the development of an extensive collection of historical publications about the Arctic, housed in the Rebecca P. Idlout Public Library space.

As in most Qikiqtani region communities, Inuktitut is the predominant language in Pond Inlet. In the 2011 Census, 91% of the population claimed Inuktitut as its mother tongue, and 89% uses it as their first language at home, with 2% using it as a second language. Although there are a few French speakers in Pond, English is the most commonly used second language for 81% of the population. About 25% of Pond Inlet residents speak English as a first or second language at home. A significant part of the population (18%), does not speak either English or French, which means that newcomers or visitors may sometimes need to find an English speaker who is willing to translate for them. 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 perhaps have local residents 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.

There are two churches in Pond Inlet, St. Timothy’s Anglican Church and Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. Pond Inlet was for many years the home of Father Guy-Mary-Rousselière o.m.i., a priest of the Oblates who was also a noted anthropologist and archaeologist. “Father Mary” died in a house fire in 1994, but many of his papers documenting Inuit culture and archaeology are housed in the Pond Inlet Archives.

Pond Inlet, like most Nunavut communities, has a young population. In the 2011 Census, there were 220 pre-school and 420 school-age children, making 41% of the community under 18. The median age is 22.5, and only 3% of the population is over 65.

Economy: 

Pond Inlet has a relatively diversified economy, which includes federal and territorial office positions, the local service economy, the culture and tourism industry, and the stimulus of being a transportation and hiring hub for nearby iron ore mining development. Decentralized offices for the Government of Nunavut include a number of positions with Community and Government Services, the Department of Education’s Qikiqtani School Operations office, overseeing the region’s schools, and community economic development for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation. The Mary River iron ore development project has also had an impact on the local economy, with Pond Inlet serving as a transportation link and some residents employed in the mine development.

Pond Inlet is also the gateway for Sirmilik National Park, and is frequently visited in open-water months by high Arctic cruise ships. Local outfitters provide transportation and guiding services for visitors to the Park and to the Bylot Island bird sanctuary nearby. Arctic science researchers often use Pond Inlet as a base or jumping-off spot. The local arts and crafts scene includes noted carvers. The local service economy provides wage employment for many. However, traditional subsistence hunting and fishing are also important to the local economy as many families depend on these activities to supplement their diets, given the extremely high cost of food in the high Arctic.

There are no bank branches in Pond Inlet and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Co-op and Northern Store offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. An ATM is available at the Northern Store, with a limited cash supply. 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: 

The richness of wildlife around Pond Inlet has long made it a destination of choice for activities associated with wildlife, including hunting and whaling, or in more recent times, wildlife observation. The community is located at the entry to Lancaster Sound and its geography supports differing wildlife throughout the year. Polynyas (permanently open water in the winter) and moving ice that offers large cracks support plentiful marine life, including narwhals, seals, whales, walrus, Arctic char, and polar bears. Caribou can be found inland as well as small game, such as wolves, foxes, and lemming. Bird species abound and Bylot Island, located directly across from the community, hosts a Migratory Bird Sanctuary and National Park. The area not only supports cliff-dwelling marine birds, such as murres, kittiwakes, gyrfalcons, and gulls, but also large communities of snow geese, and smaller song birds that have migrated with the sun.

Further Reading: 
  • Bennett, John & 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.
  • Eber, Dorothy Harley. When the whalers were up North. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989
  • 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
  • Rowley, Graham W.: Cold comfort: my love affair with the Arctic. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.
  • Wachowich, Nancy. Saqiyuq: stories from the lives of three Inuit women. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999.