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Qikiqtani School Operations (QSO)



The official settlement of Qikiqtarjuaq, formerly known as Broughton Island, grew up around a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line site, which was established in the 1950s as part of Canada’s response to the Cold War. Before the arrival of the military, Inuit had a long history of occupation throughout the area at various coastal locations, with major Inuit camps existing at Kivitoo, Padloping Island and the mouth of North Pangnirtung Fiord. Similar to Cumberland Sound to the south, whalers from both Europe and the United States were active in the area in the 1800s. Because of the abundance of whales, a whaling station was constructed at Kivitoo. The Inuit community located at Kivitoo moved to the area around the current location of Qikiqtarjuaq after a tragic accident in which a large number of community members drowned. By the late 1960s, other local camps had moved into town, as the Canadian government built medical facilities and public housing, and offered social assistance to Inuit who would move into the settlement off the land. The community changed its official name from Broughton Island to Qikiqtarjuaq, meaning “big island,” in November 1998.

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.


Qikiqtarjuaq is a small, Inuktitut-speaking community, where modern telecommunications and technology, such as televisions, the Internet and high-performance snowmobiles, coexist with traditional Inuit activities that are important to the local lifestyle. Hunting, fishing and other traditional harvesting activities, such as berry-picking, happen regularly with the cycles of the seasons. Qikiqtarjuaq has two churches, which also form part of the community’s social fabric: St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church (an outpost of St. Luke’s in Pangnirtung), and the Katisivik Full Gospel Church.

The Inuktitut language is very strong in Qikiqtarjuaq: you will hear it on the street and used regularly in daily life. In the 2011 Census, 93% of the population said that Inuktitut was their mother tongue and the language they used first at home. In addition, 13% said they did not speak either English or French, which means that newcomers or visitors may occasionally need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them. Although there are a few French speakers in Qikiqtarjuaq, English is used as a second language by 85% of residents. More than half of the community also uses English as a second language at home. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both Inuktitut and English, 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 on occasion. 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.

Qikiqtarjuaq is not among the youngest communities in Nunavut, although the population is considerably younger than the Canadian average. The 2011 Census counted 50 pre-school and 140 school-age children, making 37% of the population under 18. The median age is 25.5, and 4% of the population is over 65.


With the scaling down of the DEW Line system in North America, one major outside influence on Qikiqtarjuaq’s economy has diminished. Much of the local economy now focuses on providing goods and services to local residents. It does not have the decentralized Government of Nunavut offices that have stimulated the economies of some other communities, such as nearby Pangnirtung. However, the fishing industry is developing a presence in Qikiqtarjuaq, and there is an ongoing seal fishery. One group of local scuba divers will occasionally dive to harvest clams for sale to the community. There is also a satellite office of Parks Canada for Auyuittuq National Park, because Qikiqtarjuaq lies at the other end of Aksayuk Pass from Pangnirtung. Tourism therefore offers good opportunities for local outfitters. Visitors are often interested in snowmobiling, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing in winter and spring, and hiking and wildlife viewing are popular in summer months. Local artists are known especially for carvings in narwhal ivory. Many people engage in subsistence hunting and fishing for seal, walrus, narwhal and Arctic char.

As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Qikiqtarjuaq, 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. There is an ATM at the Northern Store, with a limited cash supply. Interac and credit cards are generally accepted. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed because of bad weather and transportation disruptions.


Located on Davis Strait, and at the northern entry to Auyuittuq National Park, the area around Qikiqtarjuaq is rich with a wide variety of wildlife. The marine environment supports polar bears, several types of seals, and bowhead, narwhal and humpback whales. Land mammals include small game, such as Arctic hare, lemmings, foxes and wolves. Although caribou can be found inland, their numbers are not great. Arctic char can be found at a number of locations outside the community. Bird life in the area includes falcons, ptarmigan, and a wide variety of waterfowl and seabirds, most notably fulmar and murres. Two National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) were designated in the region around Qikiqtarjuaq in 2010. Akpait NWA, approximately 130 km southeast of Qikiqtarjuaq on the northeastern tip of Cumberland Peninsula, is named with the Inuktitut word for murres and includes a significant marine area. Qaqulluit NWA is centred on Qaqulluit Island, which gets its name from the Inuktitut for Northern Fulmar, and also includes a marine area. Qaqulluit NWA is home to Canada’s largest breeding colony of Northern Fulmars, representing an estimated 22% (about 44,000 pairs) of the total Canadian population.

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.