* [pop: approx 1200]
by John MacDonald, with contribuitons from George Qulaut and
Situated on an island adjacent to the flat expanse of the Melville
Peninsula's eastern coastal plain, the settlement of Igloolik has long been off the beaten
track for tourists in the eatstern Arctic.
Today, wether you come to see people,
wildlife or a winderness vastly different from Baffin Island's craggy peaks and fiords,
you will find a region rich in its own treasures and well worth exploring
A visit here takes you not only to the
geographic centre of Nunavut but also to what is widely considered the cultural hub of
Nunavu. Ancient ties to northern and southern Baffin Island, as well as the Kivalliq and
eastern Kitikmeot regions, contribut to the distinct mix of Inuit cultural traditions
practised in Igloolik today. The area has long been blessed with abundant whales, polar
bears, caribou, fish and waterfowl. These resources continue to provide the economic,
spiritual and intellectual basis basis for cultural continuity within Igloolik. People
here take immense pride in nurturing Inuit heritage and traditions while embracing the
inevitable changes brought on by modernization. The challenge in maintaining this balance
is the very essense of Igloolik's vibrancy.
Situated on an island adjacent to the flat expanse of the
Melville Peninsulas eastern coastal plain, the settlement of Igloolik has long been
off the beaten track for tourists in the Eastern Arctic.
The fertile seas around Igloolik have attracted and sustained arctic hunting
peoples for millennia. Information about the areas earliest inhabitants comes mainly
from numerous archeological sites on the island, some dating back more than 4,000 years.
The islands history also lives in timeless Inuit traditions about the legendary Tuniit, believed by archeologists to be the people
of the Dorset culture who inhabited the region for almost 1,500 years.
Many Igloolik families are descended from the famed Qitlarssuaq
migration to Greenland in the mid-1800s. A renowned shaman, Qillaq, said to be
evading a blood feud, led about 40 Inuit (including many from Igloolik) on an epic
eventually reaching northwest Greenland
where they settled amongst the Inuit there. (Qillaq, Qitdlaq
in the Greenland form, became known as Qitdlarssuaq, the great Qitdlaq).
First direct contact with Europeans occurred when British Navy ships
Fury and Hecla, under the command of Captain William E. Parry, wintered
at Igloolik in 1822. Parrys expedition failed it main goal the discovery of a
west passage. However, with the help
of Iligliuk and Ewerat; two Inuit who drew accurate maps of the area for the
expeditions officers, Parry added considerably to European knowledge of the people,
the lands and the seas to the north of Hudson Bay. According to local accounts,
Parrys ships were driven from Igloolik by a vengeful shaman who vowed that the white
men would never return to the area by sea. Indeed it was over 100 years before another
ship was seen in Igloolik waters.
The island was visited briefly in 1867 and 1868 by the American explorer Charles F.
Hall during his futile search for survivors of the lost Franklin Expedition. In 1913,
Alfred Tremblay, a French-Canadian prospector with Captain Joseph Berniers
expedition to Pond Inlet, extended his mineral explorations overland to Igloolik; and in
1921 members of Knud Rasmussens Fifth Thule Expedition visited the island. Published
reports from that expedition provide a detailed picture of traditional Inuit life just
before modernization began.
The first permanent presence of outsiders came with establishment of a Roman
Catholic mission in the 1930s.By the end of the decade the Hudsons Bay Co. had
also set up a post on the island. Over the next 20 years most of the regions Inuit
continued to live in traditional camps in the nearby coastal areas and islands of northern
During this time, two individuals, Ittuksaarjuat and his wife Ataguttaaluk, emerged
as highly respected leaders, caring for their people in times of hardship, sharing
resources and ensuring co-operation among the regions camps. Iglooliks school
is named in memory of Ataguttaaluk.
The present community of Igloolik dates from the late 50s, with the
federal governments increasing administrative interest in the Arctic. By the
mid-60s, a school, nursing station and
RCMP detachment were permanently established, as well as the Anglican mission (1959) and
the Igloolik Co-operative (1963). As with other settlements in the eastern Arctic,
Igloolik grew rapidly as Inuit families from surrounding camps moved into the community to
avail themselves of services offered by government agencies.
Throughout the changes brought about by growth and modernization Igloolik has never
lost sight of its cultural roots, a fact reflected in the day-to-day life of the community
and the activities of a number of local organizations. An active elders group, the
Inullariit Society, teaches land skills and traditional sewing to the communitys
youth and, in co-operation with the Igloolik Research Centre sponsors a major
oral history project aimed at documenting the elders rich traditional knowledge. In
mid-January of every year the Society also organizes a festival to celebrate the return of
the sun after winters dark period. Igloolik is home to two video production
organizations: Igloolik Isuma Productions ( an independent company specializing in Inuit
cultural programming) and a local office of the Nanuvut-wide Inuit Broadcasting
Corporation. A number on Nunavut government departments have established regional offices
in Igloolik, adding significantly to the communitys infrastructure and population.
In season the islands flat, accessible terrain, in may
parts blanketed with flowering tundra plants, makes birdwatching, hiking and camping
especially rewarding. Numerous migratory birds visit the area in late spring and summer,
many of them nest locally including loons, geese, eider ducks, terns, jaegers, plovers,
snow buntings and owls.
From late April until June conditions are usually superb for dogteam trips through
nearby valleys, lakes and bays or out onto the floe edge. Scattered herds of caribou,
basking seals and even walruses can often be seen on these trips.
Breakup of the sea ice around Igloolik Island usually
occurs in late July or early August. During the subsequent open-water season, which lasts
until mid-October, boating excursions into Fury and Hecla Strait are frequently rewarded
with the unforgettable sight of bowhead whales on their summer migration to north Foxe
*Reproduced from the Nunavut Handbook