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Naujaat

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Naujaat

Region: 
Kivalliq School Operations (KSO)

Community

About
History: 

Inuit have lived in the vicinity of Naujaat since the Thule people. The Inuktitut name, Naujaat, means “the nesting place of sea gulls,” referring to a nearby seagull nesting cliff. Like other Inuit groups in historic times, Inuit travelled widely throughout the region. There is evidence of travel between Naujaat (formally known as Repulse Bay until July 2, 2015) and the Amitturmiut (Igloolik-Hall Beach) area on the Melville Peninsula. The first recorded contact with Europeans was in 1742, when Christopher Middleton surveyed Hudson Bay in the process of looking for the Northwest Passage. There is some debate about whether the name Repulse can be attributed to Middleton or to a British ship of the same name. During the whaling period of the 1800s, both American and European whalers used Naujaat as a base and employed Inuit to help with the hunt of predominantly bowhead whales. Many whaling parties chose to spend the winter in the area on the Harbour Islands, which enabled them to begin their season before the full break-up of Hudson Bay. These islands provided a protected harbour, thereby reducing the chance of ice damage to the hulls of vessels.

During the latter part of the 19th century, the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) sent representatives into the area, including the explorer John Rae, who found traces of the lost Franklin expedition and returned these to Britain. The HBC opened a post in 1916, followed by Revillon Frères in 1923, who had been establishing competing posts at various locations. The Catholic Church established a mission in 1932. A school and public housing followed in the 1960s, giving rise to today’s community.

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: 

Life in Naujaat reflects that of most small Inuit communities today, where modern telecommunications and technology, such as televisions, the Internet and high-performance snowmobiles, coexist with traditional hunting and fishing. Residents maintain traditional skills, such as sewing clothing in both modern and traditional materials, keeping dog teams, and using the outdoors as a walk-out freezer for a good part of the year.

There are three churches in Naujaat: St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church, and a Glad Tidings church.

Inuktitut is the predominant language in Naujaat. In the 2011 Census, 94% of the population regarded Inuktitut as their mother tongue, 86% use it as their first language at home, and 6% use it as a second language. About 10% of the population does not speak either English or French, which means that on occasion newcomers or visitors need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them, particularly when communicating with Inuit Elders. Although there are a few people who are able to speak French in Naujaat, English is the most commonly used second language after Inuktitut and it is spoken by 89% of the residents. English is also used as a second language in the home by 55%. 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.

In a territory bursting with young people, Naujaat is one of the youngest communities. The 2011 Census counted 175 pre-school and 295 school-age children, making 50% of the population under age 18. The median age of the community is 18.2, and only 2% of the population is over 65.

Economy: 

Given that it is a small community where half the population is still school-age, much of the economy of Naujaat is focused on providing goods and services to the local population. Some mining exploration takes place in the region, which provides an outside stimulus. Tourism is also an important source of seasonal employment. Naujaat is an entry point for Ukkusiksalik National Park and the surrounding Wager Bay, which is about 145 km from the community. The trip takes 15 minutes by plane, or it can be reached by boat, snowmobile or dogsled, depending on the season. Whale-watching tours and other wildlife viewing expeditions are also provided by local outfitters and guides, especially during the open water months.

As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Naujaat, 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 for a service fee, etc. The Northern Store houses an ATM, and the Co-op allows cash withdrawals through Interac, cash supply permitting. 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: 

Naujaat, “the nesting place of sea gulls,” hosts a wide variety of birds during the summer season, including snow buntings, loons, eider ducks, snowy owls, jaegers, terns, tundra swans, and raptors, such as peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, and rough legged hawks, among others. Whales are abundant in the area, including narwhal, beluga, bowhead and orca (killer) whales. Other marine species include ringed, bearded and harp seals, polar bears and walrus. Land animals include caribou, Arctic hares, wolves, arctic fox and small game.

Further Reading: 
  • Bennett, John & Susan Rowley, eds. Uqalurait: an oral history of Nunavut. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
  • Copland, A. Dudley. Coplalook: Chief Trader, Hudson’s Bay Company, 1923-39. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1989.
  • 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. http://www.uqar.ca/files/boreas/inuitway_e.pdf
  • Rowley, Graham W. Cold comfort: my love affair with the Arctic. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.