[pop: under 500]
by Robert Jaffray
Houses usually face the water instead of the street
so residents can keep an eye on the comings and goings of hunters and fishermen. Children
play "Inuit baseball," where the runner runs the opposite direction from
southern style baseball and can be tagged out by a thrown ball. Young girls attend to baby
siblings by carrying them in an amauti, a hooded woman's parka.
Most Kimmirut residents are carvers, and you can
often watch them make their living with grinder and file outside their homes. But economic
realities also require them to work in the wage economy for one of the local retail
stores, the hamlet, or territorial government. In addition, virtually everyone
participates in the traditional economy of hunting and fishing, a vital link between the
old and new.
There is a long history of human presence in the
area around Kimmirut
( pronounced "Kim-mi-root" ). Archeological remains indicate people have
occupied the region for some 4,000 years; evidence of Thule, Dorset and Pre-Dorset
cultures is scattered throughout the area.
First contact with Europeans came in the 17th
century when Hudson's Bay Co. supply ships travelling through the Hudson Strait began
trading with the Inuit. Contact intensified in 1860 with the arrival of American and
Scottish whalers. When Robert Kinnes of the Scottish-owned Tay Whaler Fishing Company
established a mica mine nearby, it drew Inuit to the area. In 1900 the Anglican Church
established its second mission on Baffin Island, building a mission house across the bay
from today's community. Hoping to capitalize on the abundant white fox population and the
growing dependence of Inuit on non-traditional goods, the Hudson's Bay Co. erected Baffin
Island's first trading post here in 1911. An RCMP post was established on the east side of
Glasgow Inlet in 1927.
Until a U.S. army base arrived in Frobisher Bay in
1945, Kimmirut (known until recently as Lake Harbour) was the administrative centre for
South Baffin. RCMP officers from the Lake Harbour post patrolled as far north as
Pangnirtung, west beyond Cape Dorset, and all the camps around the Hudson's Bay Co. post
of Frobisher Bay. After the jet runway was built at Frobisher Bay (now called Iqaluit -
the capital of Nunavut) , focus began to shift away from Lake Harbour and towards
Nunavut's future capital, Iqaluit.
The community continued to grow, however. A federal
school was established in the 1950's, and a government-administered nursing station soon
Kimmirut: Its Land and Wildlife
Kimmirut is situated beside the ocean at the
northern extremity of Glasgow Inlet, part of a larger body of water known as North Bay.
About 60 metres across the water lies the landmark for which the community is named - a kimmirut
(heel), a rocky outcrop that resembles a human heel.
Visitors to Kimmirut will get a crash course in
tidal action if they are here for more than a few hours. Tides, which are sometimes
greater than 11 metres, are strikingly apparent as the water level rises and falls along
the sheers rock face of the heel. In winter, very low tides sometimes pull the ice down
far enough to reveal a dazzling ice wall more than 10 metres high.
The bulk of the town stretches along the narrow
strip of land that runs north/south along the ocean. Recent housing additions dot
surrounding hills. Most of the community's commercial ventures are in the older section of
town. Here you'll find the hamlet administration, school, retail stores and visitor
services. A few home-run businesses are located 'uptown,' as are the airport and municipal
It is not uncommon to walk within minutes of the
community and see caribou lope across your path. Equally common are tiny lemmings that
dart from rock to rock.
Seagulls frequent the area; ravens talk to you from their perches overhead. On a calm
summer day, a seal may pop its inquisitive head out of the water or a beluga whale may
find its way into a nearby bay. On rare occasions, polar bears have come into the
Throughout the community and surrounding hillsides
you'll find abundant and varied flora. Dwarf fireweed, white heather and arctic poppies
add a delightful touch of color throughout the summer. You may even see dandelions in some
areas, their growth fostered by a climate warmer than any other on Baffin Island.
*Reproduced from the Nunavut Handbook