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Rankin Inlet

Rankin Inlet

Kivalliq School Operations (KSO)



The area around present-day Rankin Inlet, situated on the western side of Hudson Bay, was occupied as far back as pre-Dorset times (2000-500 BC), with Inuit moving in and out of the area in concert with the availability of wildlife. In addition to the presence of whales, which later attracted the whaling fleets of the 1800s, the Diane and Meliadine Rivers provided seasonal access to Arctic char migrating in and out of the bay. The Inuktitut name for Rankin, Kangiqsliniq (or Kangiqliniq) means “deep bay or inlet.” The area of what is now Rankin Inlet was the focus of much European activity, starting as early as the 1600s, when the inlet was named after John Rankin of the British Navy. From its base in Churchill, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) travelled into the area to trade with local residents, and many Inuit found employment with British and American whalers until the collapse of the industry in the early 1900s.

The current physical site of the community is a result of the construction of the North Rankin Nickel Mine in 1955, which operated until 1962. The mine provided wage employment and attracted Inuit from throughout the region. After the closure of the mine and the mill, the federal government initiated a series of development projects to provide a range of employment opportunities, from agricultural experiments to arts and craft projects. In the 1970s, the government moved the administrative centre for the area from Churchill to Rankin Inlet, and the role of the community evolved into the regional transportation and supply centre, given the deep port and airstrip. With the formation of Nunavut in 1999, Rankin Inlet became one of the communities to host a number of decentralized territorial government departments and services. Higher mineral prices and the certainty resulting from a settled land claim and government structure, have also reinvigorated the mining industry, which continues to develop in the area.

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.


The Puularvik Kublu Friendship Centre co-ordinates several social, historical and cultural projects for Rankin Inlet and the Kivalliq region that focus on preserving Inuit culture. These include programs for youth and Elders, documenting and passing on traditional Inuit skills, such as camping on the land, iglu building, sewing skin clothing and maintaining dog teams. The centre’s website contains a number of photographs, links and resources.

As the site of a number of government initiated economic development projects in the 1960s and 1970s, Rankin Inlet developed a diverse arts scene, with influences evident from all over the region. It is the only community in Nunavut with Inuit artists producing ceramics. The first ceramics workshop ran from 1963 to 1977, and was revived in the 1990s. The Kangirqliniq Centre for Arts and Learning is an outgrowth of arts and literacy programming presented by the Matchbox Gallery since 1995, and it is now a centre for ceramics, printmaking, carving and other artistic media.

Rankin Inlet has several churches: Notre Dame du Cap Roman Catholic Church, Holy Comforter Anglican Church, and a Glad Tidings congregation.

Like Nunavut’s other regional transportation and administrative centres, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay, there is more language diversity in Rankin Inlet than in the smaller Nunavut communities, with English being the general working language. In the 2011 census, 35% of the population declared their mother tongue to be English, 1% French, 59% Inuktitut, and 4% other languages. However, English is the predominant language at home for 63% of the population. Inuktitut is the first language at home for 32%. Rankin also has a Filipino community that speaks Tagalog at home (2%). English is spoken by 95% of Rankin residents and only 2% are unilingual Inuktitut speakers. The majority of the population is bilingual, so although Inuktitut is not as prevalent as in some other parts of Nunavut, 68% of the population says it uses Inuktitut regularly in the home to some degree. 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 perhaps be corrected in your usage by local residents. 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.

Like the other regional centres, Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet is at the older end of Nunavut’s very young demographic scale. The 2011 census counted 240 pre-school and 585 school-age children, making 36% of the population under 18. The median age of the community is 25.4, but only 3% of the population is over 65.


The community of Rankin Inlet has a diverse economy as a result of the role the community plays as a transportation hub and regional administrative centre. Most travel within the region passes through Rankin Inlet, where travelers arriving by jet can link up with community flights on smaller aircraft. Freight arrives by sealift in the summer months and by plane in the winter. As a regional centre, Rankin Inlet hosts a number of Government of Nunavut and federal government offices, a regional health centre, a corrections facility, and the regional campus of Nunavut Arctic College, including the Nunavut trades training facility. Among other Government of Nunavut offices are the liquor management offices of the Department of Finance, transportation programs for Economic Development and Transportation, and the headquarters for the Nunavut Development Corporation. Regional Inuit organizations, such as the Kivalliq Inuit Association, are based in the community.

The community is also involved in local mine development and in supporting other regional communities with operating and proposed mines. Development of a new gold mine nearby has had a major impact, with opening planned for 2017. Tourism and the arts and crafts industry provide employment to a number of residents through outfitting companies, hotels and restaurants, and commercial craft outlets and galleries. The local service economy is also busy, with a number of independent businesses as well as municipality-supplied services for local residents and the mining industry.

There are branches of the Royal Bank of Canada and CIBC in Rankin Inlet. The Northern Store also offers “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. Interac and credit card services are generally available at most retail outlets. However, people often also establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed by bad weather and travel disruptions.


Rankin Inlet’s location on the west coast of Hudson Bay provides access to both marine and inland wildlife. The local rivers, the Meliadine and Diane, support Arctic char. Seals, whales, walrus and polar bear can be found near the community, and caribou herds are present inland together with small game species, such as lemming, foxes, wolves and small ground squirrels locally known as siksik. The local topography supports a wide variety of bird species, both cliff-dwelling and those that nest in the moist, flat ground. These include ptarmigan, geese, ducks, song birds, phalaropes, plovers, raptors, and many others.

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
  • Fossett, Renee: In order to live untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550-1940. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2001.
  • 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.