Unrestricted (import regulations apply; October 2014)*
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No bank branches. Light banking at Co-op and Northern Stores. ATM at Northern (limited cash supply) Interac and credit cards accepted at most retail locations. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Cell phone service is not currently available.
Netsilingmiut, or “people of the netsilik (seal),” have inhabited the land around the community of Taloyoak (formerly Spence Bay) for as long as anyone remembers, with many being descended from the Thule people who first travelled the area. As in several Nunavut communities, the search for the Northwest Passage was the reason for explorer John Ross’s first recorded contact with local people in 1829. Ross, his ship and crew were trapped by ice for four years. Later, the search for Franklin brought several other expeditions through the area between 1848 and 1860. Explorer Roald Amundsen came to the area on the first recorded successful attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage in 1905-1906. There is also a record of various whaling parties visiting the area during the height of Arctic whaling.
The community of Spence Bay was established in 1948, when the Hudson’s Bay Company and RCMP arrived and established posts. Catholic and Anglican missions followed in the 1950s. Incorporated as a Hamlet in 1976, Spence Bay changed its name to Taloyoak on July 1, 1992. The Inuktitut word talurqjuak means “large stone blind” and was chosen for the Hamlet because of a stone blind that the Inuit of the area traditionally used to corral and harvest caribou.
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 community values highly traditional Inuit knowledge although only a handful of Elders who have lived the old ways of the Netsilingmiut on the land are still alive. Daily life in the community is a mix of modern western and traditional Inuit culture. For example, it is not uncommon to find a family watching cable or satellite TV while eating traditional food, such as seal prepared and shared on a designated space on the floor. Some of Taloyoak’s oral history heritage has been captured by the Inuit Heritage Trust (IHT) with financial support from Canadian Heritage. These stories are presented online at Taloyoak: Stories of Thunder and Stone. This site also gives a historical overview of the community and the Inuit Heritage Trust’s views of its role in preserving Nunavut’s archaeological and oral history. There is a Roman Catholic church in Taloyoak, St. Michel, which was established in 1954 and rebuilt in 2001. Taloyoak also has an Anglican church, the Church of the Good Shepherd.
According to the 2011 Census, although 98% of the population of Taloyoak is of Inuit ancestry and 63% claim Inuit language as their mother tongue, English is the predominant language of use, and 83% use it as the first language at home. About 16% say they use Inuktitut at home as a first language and 55% may use Inuktitut as a second language at home, but less than 2% are unilingual Inuktitut speakers. Children in pre-school and early primary school are taught in Inuktitut to help reduce language loss. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both languages. 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.
Taloyoak’s population is very young. The 2011 Census counted around 130 pre-school and 260 school-age children, making 43% of the population under 18. The median age in town is 20.9 years, and Elders over 65 make up only about 4% of the population. An important aspect of the IHT project was getting students to interview Elders to collect oral histories and broaden their own knowledge of local traditions and stories.
Taloyoak is considered one of the more traditional communities in Nunavut, with activities such as hunting and trapping remaining a prominent part of everyday life. Artists, carvers and artisans are important to the local economy as well, marketing their artwork both in retail outlets and door-to-door. The community is especially well known for its highly-collectible “Spence Bay packing dolls,” which are Arctic animals dressed in duffel amautiit, or packing parkas, carrying their young. Taloyoak carvings often depict subjects of Inuit legend, made from stone, whalebone, caribou antler and walrus ivory. Local tourism focuses on hiking, camping, hunting and fishing activities. These activities are supplemented by waged employment that focuses on providing goods and services to local residents.
As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Taloyoak and cash supplies can often become very limited. 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.
The area around Taloyoak is rich in Arctic wildlife. In the proper season, one can see caribou, lemmings, ground squirrels (siksik), hares, foxes, ravens, seagulls, terns, snow buntings, ptarmigans, gyrfalcons and snowy owls. Large flocks of migrating ducks and geese can also be seen in the spring and fall. Muskoxen are found to the north and south of Taloyoak. There are seals, cod and whitefish in the sea, and nearby lakes contain trout and char. Schools of whales, such as beluga and narwhal, may also come into the area. Wolves, wolverines and polar bears are sometimes seen in this region. Insect life is also abundant. Local people say good insect repellent and insect-proof clothing are essential for the summer months.
Winters are very cold in Taloyoak, with average daily temperatures in the -30ᵒC to -35ᵒC range. However, summers can be pleasant, between 5ᵒC and 20ᵒC, with an average temperature in July of 8ᵒC. It can be breezy, with an average wind speed of 17 km/h. This means wind chills in winter can reach -70ᵒC. Taloyoak is not as dry as many of the more northerly polar desert communities, with annual precipitation averaging 102 cm of snow and 7 cm of rain. Spring ice breakup usually occurs in mid-June.
People’s tolerance for cold varies with experience, but warm winter clothing is required for several months of every 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.
On the southwestern coast of Boothia Peninsula, at 69ᵒ32’ North, Taloyoak is the most northerly community of mainland Canada. Several other Nunavut communities are located farther north, but on islands. The sun is below the horizon, creating polar night, from the end of November to around January 10, and above the horizon, creating midnight sun, from mid-May to the third week of July.
Current weather conditions and forecasts for Taloyoak are posted on the Environment Canada website.
According to the 2011 Census, Taloyoak has 205 private dwellings, including 120 single detached houses, 30 semi-detached houses, and 55 row houses. Most dwellings are employer-provided rental housing, 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 ask about 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 Taloyoak.
Water and sewage services, provided by the Hamlet, are supplied by trucked service. This means you will have water and sewage tanks 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, particularly on weekends and during blizzards, 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. There is currently no cellphone service available. Internet service is available from the local service provider (Qiniq), 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 Paleajook Co-Op or the Northern Store. 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 due to weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. “Country food” (wildlife hunted or fished for food), such as caribou, fish 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, clothing and jewellery can be purchased at the Co-op or directly from local artists and artisans. The well-known Spence Bay packing dolls are produced and sold at Taluq Designs. 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. As well, many businesses will ship items in unsubsidized food mail. Free shipping from Internet-based suppliers often becomes an important consideration. Local residents can suggest their favourite suppliers and delivery methods for food and supplies not available in the community.
Bulk supplies, large or heavy items (e.g., vehicles, furniture) and building supplies are usually brought in by the annual sealift barge service during the short shipping season, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. Companies providing this service in Taloyoak are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Northern Transportation Company Limited. See the contact list at the end of this document for phone numbers and websites.
Taloyoak 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, treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Taloyoak has regular visits from community physicians in addition to specialist and dentist visits. Regional services are provided through the Health Centre in Cambridge Bay, with support from hospitals in Yellowknife and Edmonton. Those requiring specialist treatment are frequently sent to Cambridge Bay 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 resident 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.
A pharmacy is located in Cambridge Bay. 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 plenty of time for your order to arrive, depending on the method by which it was sent.
A dentist visits Taloyoak 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 on Nunavut’s health system.
Taloyoak is accessed by air year-round, with most routes passing through Yellowknife, NT, and Cambridge Bay, NU. Travellers from outside the Kitikmeot region must fly from Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet or southern Canada to Yellowknife, then fly north. Canadian North and First Air offer flights to Taloyoak. For current flight scheduling information, see the contact list for airline websites and phone numbers. 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.
There is currently no taxi service in Taloyoak (unless one was started recently), so before arriving you should arrange transportation from the airport with local contacts. Most people get around by all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile, though an increasing number have private vehicles, which are brought in either by air or by annual sealift. However, garage services for private vehicles are limited. Stores and the school are in close proximity, so walking is easy.
The E.W. Lyall Recreation Complex is named after the late Ernie Lyall, one of Taloyoak’s first residents. The complex includes an arena for hockey, a community hall for bingo, dances and community events, and a canteen that sells snacks and beverages. For information on upcoming activities at the complex, contact the Hamlet. The complex is located on the main road from the airport, at the west end of the community. The Moses Teelktaq Pool, operated by the Hamlet of Taloyoak’s recreation department, is open during the summer months only, June to August. The pool is located next to the school in the centre of town. Contact the Hamlet for more information. See the contact list for details.
Hiking, camping, hunting and fishing are popular local activities. 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 participate in these activities.
The Hamlet runs community activities run by the include feasts, Christmas games, evening sports, bingo and dances. Fishing derbies are held each spring and fall.
Under the current Nunavut Liquor Act, Taloyoak is classified as an Unrestricted community, which means that the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol are allowed in compliance with the alcohol laws of Nunavut. Alcohol can be purchased in licensed premises or brought in through a liquor permit system for personal home use. There are currently no licensed premises in Taloyoak. Ask at the Hamlet office about import permits. 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.