Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Paul Quassa by Peter Irniq, February 2009
Paul Quassa Testimony May 2007, Iglulik, Nunavut
Peter Irniq: Paul Quassa: Welcome!
Paul Quassa: Yes. I am feeling very welcome, Peter.
Peter Irniq: Did you go to school in Chesterfield Inlet?
Paul Quassa: Yes, I went to school as well. Perhaps, I went to school there beginning from 1959 to 1967.
Peter Irniq: How old were you, when you went sent over?
Paul: I was perhaps seven years old when I went over. We had been living in Maniittuq(traditional outpost camp-about 36 kms, north of Iglulik), but they got us over to Iglulik. We went from Iglulik to Chesterfield Inlet. I don’t crisply remember when I was leaving but I do remember when I was in Chesterfield Inlet. The thing is I have some memories when I was there. But the thing is, I do not totally remember when we were leaving from here.
Peter Irniq: When you were living in Maniittuq, did you live a traditional Inuit way of life?
Paul: Yes. Absolutely. I remember often, when we were living in Manittuq, we left, my late grandfather Kappianaq was living with us, including my uncles, my mother’s brothers. At some other times, I used to see my other uncles including, Ijiraq, Agiaq at that place, as we lived there all the time. I also remember a priest from Iglulik would come over to our outpost camp. I remember perhaps, the late Kajukuluk(“Little Brown” – Father Danielo) used to come in and later on Father Fournier, would come over. We had our own little outpost camp. That was the way, things were.
Peter Irniq: You followed the exact Inuit way of life?
Paul: Yes, we lived exactly the Inuit traditional way of life. For example, we lived in Manittuq in the winter time, in the spring time, we would move some where else. And sometimes we would move to traditional outpost camps around such as Inuksugalik(One that has Inuksuit(plural) or Kangilirjualik, those were the places we used to move to. As Inuit, we used to move around when it became spring time or in the winter time. Exactly at Manittuq, I was apparently born in the winter time in an iglu on January 12, I remember this from time and time.
Peter: As traditional Inuit, you obviously followed the seasons of the animals and moved around? For instance, following the fishing season or marine mammals?
Paul: Yes. As well, in the summer time, Inuit used to travel inland. I remember when we were moving inland to hunt caribou, perhaps I was around five years old. They had to take me by the hand, when we were walking. We would travel up to Alarnaarjuk, I am not quite sure exactly where. Yes, we were like that. At times, we would go hungry. I remember living in an iglu like that, matter of fact, we never saw very much Qablunaat, in those days. Perhaps, we are the last generation at this particular age, not to have seen too many Qablunaat. Inuit used to talk about these big Qablunaat, as being very intimidated by them.
Peter Irniq: “Big Hellos?”
Paul: I don’t even remember them as being “big hellos”, only after I had been to school, I started hearing the word described to Qablunaat as being “Big Hellos.”
Peter: Of course, as traditional Inuit, you had light, only with Inuit Oil Lamp?
Paul: Yes, absolutely, with only Inuit Oil Lamp, of course, there was no other way. I remember one time, when I was on my mother’s back in the amauti(Inuit woman’s coat to carry babies), I actually remember being in an iglu, I was on my mother’s back, there was a qulliq(Inuit Oil Lamp) down there, and there was a cooking pot, placed just above it, perhaps boiling meat, this was one of my clearest memories when I was still on my mother’s back. It’s like, I opened my eyes for just a little bit, during part of my life. I am often reminded of this. Yes, they would pound the blubber for oil for Inuit Oil Lamp. There was also a qulliq or qulliit(oil lamps) inside the porch of the iglu, these are the kind of things that I remember well. And things that are no longer used today, preparing “uruniq” – a preparation of intestines of ptarmiga or Arctic grouse of liquidy soft exrretion of ptarmigan from the intestines, which is considered delicacy by Inuit. I remember my late uncle’s Ijituuq, his wife Nattiq, often used to prepare uruniq for eating, during the time, we were living in Maniittuq, during the winter and during the spring as well. Once uruniq was made, it was extremely delicious! This land of ours, did not have too much berries. I remember when Inuit used to make rolled berries to eat, I particularly remember Uqqurmiut(from the other side of Baffin Island). Where we lived, we did not have very much berries however, we did have some cran berries, around Maniittuq. I used to notice these things. However, very infrequently, we did have some wolverines. It seems like, we only had seals, bearded seals and belugas for food at Maniittuq. It was not readily obvious that others were living in other outpost camps, except for those who lived in Naujaaruluit(situated west of Iglulik and is in the area of Mount Sabine). I also remember people Awa and his family used to come into our camp at Maniittuq. James Arvarluk’s parents, used to come as well. They seem to be the only ones, who were living on the land, besides us. As for others, it was never obvious, whether they lived some where else or not, it was not readily thought of at the time. It was probably because, we never saw them.
Peter: Do you remember anything about when you went hungry?
Paul: No really. I do remember when we were living in Maniittuq, especially after, when people were going to trade with the Qablunaat in Iglulik, that I remember, we no longer had food, especially, the men who went to trade in Iglulik, were taking a long time, to come back, for the fact that there was lots of ice in the sea. I remember we were trying to eat the skin/pelt of a seal. That was how, I remember. I was perhaps six years old. Were were sort of going hungry. At other times, we did not always have plenty of food, but we never really went hungry. The other one, I often thought about is, Enuki Kunuk’s family, were at our camp for a short period of time, I remember, we did not have a lot of food, but I was given a part of a seal, that I don’t quite remember from which part, but they gave it to me, and told me to bring it home. I do remember a bit about some of these different things. Perhaps, it was they were the main factors. These are the things that come to your mind. As a child in those days, we were just children. When Elders were telling stories, we were told not to be too close to them. We were told to go over there. After all, they were adults. We were always treated as children, it seems, we were made to avoid, getting to tied up with adult issues. I often remember this.
Peter: Perhaps, when they were going to talk about secrets or embarrassing things, then they used to tell us to go outside?
Paul: Probably yes. That was something that never entered your mind, other than to obey them. We had to obey them. As they were old people, Elders. We never knew their names either, other than through “tur&urarniq” “calling them by calling them such as uncle, mother, brother-in-law”, etc. We always called them for example, “he is my uncle, or he is my cousin”, these are the kind of callings we had for others. We did not always knew their names. I did not know about my uncle’s names or my aunt’s names. I only got to know their names, when I became an age of maturity, a young man.
Peter: The relationships is extremely important part of Inuit culture?
Paul: Yes, it is because it is like that, the calling of each other, such as my uncle, my aunt, my cousin, is very important. Through it, it allows you to understand, how I am related to certain individuals. Through calling of each other, it can be understood immediately of relationships, such as this person is my father’s sister, his child or my mother’s sibling, or her siblings child. The thing is, you could tell relationships through tur&urarniq(calling of each other by “my cousin” “my aunt”, etc.). This is the part that is a huge part of Inuit culture, tradition. It allows you to be aware. Peter Irniq: How did Inuit survive since time immemorial, through helping each other?
Paul Quassa: Yes, of course, they survived that way. As I told a story a little while ago, about Enuki’s family being here and we were hungry and no food, he gave us some food. That was the way or that is the way it is. It is about helping each other and there are stories that we hear, here in Avajja, we often hear about Ittuksaaruat family, he used to go out and provide food for people, who were at a distance from other people. He some how knew about others even though, they did not have any telephones in those days. Even though, they did not have any communication facilities, they were aware of each other’s where abouts. For instance, Inuit had the attitude that “there are people who are hungry over there, let’s get someone to bring food to them.” That was truly entrench within Inuit culture, even though, it was unwritten. It is well known today that our Ancesters, Inuit before, us, were able to bring us here, because, they always helped each other. They apparently helped each other. Even to this day, we are still told by our Elders, that if I am going to travel far away, I am told, I have to have everything needed for the journey. Complete works! That I have a partner to go with. These are the kind of things that are being pushed towards us by the Elders. Only as two people, then, they can help each other.
Peter Irniq: As you are very aware, if you were a coastal Inuit you used seal fat or blubber for example, to keep the light on the qulliq(Inuit Oil Lamp) and if you go on the land to caribou hunt in the early fall time, you use caribou fat for example to make candles. Did you see those as well?
Paul Quassa: Yes, absolutely. I have a bit of this memory when we went on the land in search of caribou. When we had caribou, they used to use caribou fat for oil to light Inuit Oil Lamp. They also made candles out of fat. They would spend some time on the land after hunting for caribou, then they would begin to move back on the coast. My uncle Ijituuq and his family would be left behind along the sea coast, and he used to bring us to the land, where we would start walking from by boat. They were the only ones, who had a boat, and for us, they would just bring us by boat so that we could go out on the land, to search for caribou. That was apparently the way it used to be, as part of the culture. Some Inuit were along the coast, seal hunting and others would be hunting caribou on the land. After we had been on the land, and when we finally returned to the coast, we used to smell quite a lot of strong smell of seal oil fat from others! And for those of us, who had just returned to the coast, we used to have a beautiful smell of caribou scent. Everything that we wore, our clothes, had a pleasant aroma to them from the caribou scent. I think, we had a very good sense of smell in those days, and this was quite noticeable. When we got back to the coast, and to those who had been living on the coast, the smell of seal fat, seemed so strong, and for us, we must have had a strong smell of caribou. It was like that.
Peter Irniq: When you were out on the land walking searching for caribou, depending where the wind was coming from, were you able to smell caribou shit? Paul Quassa: Perhaps yes. As I said, when I first went on the land I was perhaps five or six years old and I was aware of this a bit. I don’t quite remember this part. What I do remember was, when we were on the land, we used to see some Qablunaat, like out of nowhere. They were perhaps prospectors, I am not sure, but they gave me biscuits to eat. That was something I remember well. Biscuit was extremely delicious! I remember Inuit were very resourceful. When my father went out on the land, he apparently forgot to take his pocket knife but brought with him a small file. When he caught a caribou, he noticed that he had no pocket knife to skin the caribou. He some how used the small file and used it in the place of a pocket knife, to skin the entire caribou. And when we caught caribou, we did not take back all the caribou back to the coast. We mainly wanted to take with us caribou skins for clothing but left the meat and cached them. And later on we would go back and retrieve them in the winter time, that was how it used to be. However many caribou we caught, we mainly wanted to take the caribou skins for clothing, so we would have clothing for the winter. I remember this quite a bit, which was how, things were done. It seemed, we did not have a lot to worry about.
Peter: As long as everyone was healthy?
Paul: When everyone was healthy, we didn’t worry. I remember at one point when I was a little child, prior to going to a residential school, I am not sure, exactly where we went to but we had set up our tent when it became quite dark, and we woke up to find our floor was full of water. Apparently, we tented at a place where there was a high tide. I often remember about this when I was a child. When I was a little child, I also remember when all of us had gone to sleep, I remember seeing some really big object,which used to come into our tent, and it was often beside me. It was often directly beside me. I frequently remember this and wondered what was happening to me or who was doing it to me. Those were things that were like that when I was a child.
Peter Irniq: Did you know about Angakkuit(Shamans)?
Paul Quassa: No, I don’t think so, no. Only when I became a young teenager, I became more aware or started hearing about them. At a much later time, my late grandfather Kappianaq, used to have things happened to him, only when I became a young teenager. As a child, I was not aware of these things.
When you were going to go to school in Chesterfield Inlet, was your parents made aware of the fact that you were going to be sent to school in Chesterfield inlet? Paul Quassa: Yes, it was probably known. At that time, we were at Maniittuq at most time, but it was in 1966 perhaps, we finally made our move to the settlement here. When we were in Maniittuq, Father Fournier used to come or another priest. It’s is obvious, we were probably told about it prior. I had an older sister named Veronica Amaartunnuaq. They were sent there first, ahead of me. And my later older brother Pierre Quassa, both of them were sent firstly. As for me, perhaps when I was six years old, I had to go out for TB treatment. This was prior to my time, going to school. I was out perhaps for one year in southern Canada. I remember about this on occasion. This was after my older sister and my brother had already been to school, previously. I don’t quite remember exactly what year, I was in southern Canada. I remember about having to be in bed or on the bed all the time, for a long period of time. I sort of remember having to watch TV at that time. I returned home after I had learn to speak quite a bit of English language. I was apparently a little child at that time or during that particular period of time. I also remember being in an airplane, apparently I was going home. I remember it was a dark time and I remember looking out through the window of an airplane and I saw something that was bright. Apparently, I saw a moon. I thought at that time, that is the iglu of my father. We were moving towards it, perhaps understanding the fact that I was going home. I said, “now my father’s iglu is visible.” Perhaps, this was what I said in my mind, that was how I remembered it. What I was probably looking at a moon. I don’t really remember exactly how and which community we traveled through, it was probably through Iqaluit. Probably through Hall Beach, as Hall Beach had been having airplanes, since quite a long time ago. We went from Iqaluit, then I was brought to Qikiqtaarjuk, only to find out, my mother was also out. I heard then, my father was going to come and get me, as he was still living in Maniittuq. When he finally came to Qikiqtaarjuk, he then brought me with him to Maniittuq. My mother was probably out at that time. Only when I was able to speak certain amount of English, I was sent out to school in Chesterfield Inlet.
Peter Irniq: When you were sent to Chesterfield Inlet to go to school, speaking English, was not totally strange to you?
Paul Quassa: Yes. I did not find it totally strange. In fact, I remember when we were perhaps at Kindergarten, and each time our teacher would ask a question, I would put up my hand immediately, as I was probably the only one, who had the ability to understand those questions, from among others. It was perhaps because, I was the most understanding person, I would immediately put my hand up. I remember a particular event when Theresie Qinnguq had an issue with me. This was because, I was the most knowledgeable about the English language. I think about this situation sometimes. Yes, I was knowledgeable about the English language and when I went to school, I had understanding of the English language, so it was not strange to me at all. I also remember when I was apparently going to southern Canada, I was brought over to Hall Beach, by dog team. I remember being at their Health Center. I remember the electricity, same ones that we are using today, it seemed like, it was so bright at that time!
We also had lice. I remember being at that Health Center, and my pillow was pure white. And then, all those lice!! I remember all this very well, all those lice, all around the pillow!! And it was apparently that I was going to leave Hall Beach to be sent to southern Canada.
Peter Irniq: When you went to Chesterfield Inlet, can you describe your arrival?
Paul Quassa: I saw Najait(Sisters) for the first time, there. They had really long dresses. Right away, they put something on our heads, because of the fact that we had lice. They cut our hair, right then, when we used to arrive there. They used to provide us with new clothes, that were all the same. I remember a large domatory, which was going to be the place for us to sleep. All the beds were side by side, in great numbers. It was the first time, I ever saw a very huge building! This was apparently going to be our boarding home. This is how, I remember most about this place. There were also people, who had different dialects. There were also little children, who were only seven years old. Sometimes, you don’t notice and some others times, you notice it. I think, after I had been there for sometime, perhaps third year, I started to become much more aware of it in Chesterfield Inlet.
Peter Irniq: What were strange about this place, perhaps food or other things that were different?
Paul Quassa: As I said earlier, I had already spent sometime in southern Canada, as a result, I didn’t mind their food too much. It was later on that I started to notice more about eating frozen meat, apparently it was a cow beef. It was probably because, the caretakers were aware of the fact that we ate frozen meat, so they used to fed us that meat, which was completely cut square. I also remember eating boiled Arctic char fish heads. It seemed to me to be that these fish heads were for eating by adults only, not for children. Here we were children, they allowed us to eat fish heads! And the other thing that we ate often was porridge. Those are the kind of things that I really noticed, that we were made to be different. It seemed like we were forbidden to eat Inuit food from the community and among the community members. We were, it seemed, only allowed to eat food, that was provided at the boarding home. It was almost scary to try and go and eat at local people’s homes, for example, Chesterfield Inlet had lots of fish and they netted the fish. We used to go and eat with the local people, in hiding. It seems like, we learned to do things by hiding at most times. It seems like, we only got to know the priests, brothers and sisters. It was guaranteed that they were our bosses. That was what it had to be. It was like as soon as you saw a priest or a sister, then you had to say to them, “good morning father” “good morning sister” that was to be followed all the time. It was like, they were the really big Chiefs/Authrities, really Big Bosses. That was how, we were really taught to look at them, that they were very intimidating people. During the later years, when I became more aware, I really started to notice the little children, who were sent there, only at five and six years old. They were still very small! They were still little children! Uakallangaa! Wow! Astonishing! Often, they tried not to cry. When they arrived three, they tried very hard not to cry! They were scared and intimidated! In fact, when they were so scared, they would have an accident by shitting in their pants! Or they peed their pants. It was because, they were still little children. I remember all these very well, after I had been there, for longer period of time. Peter Irniq: Was it also because they could not speak English?
Paul Quassa: Yes, it was also because, they could not speak English. They were not understanding it. And our caretakers were all speaking in French. And they themselves, probably were not fluent in the English language. That was how, they were like. They did not speak one common language at all, they spoke different language. Peter Irniq: What about our teachers, the Sisters and the ordinary Qablunaat teachers. Do you remember how you were to address them?
Paul Quassa: You had to address them with their names. If he was a man, you would say, “Mr. Demuele” or if it were a woman, “Ms Pitzpatrick” that was what I remember. We were taught like that when ordinary Qablunaat started to come in. But, prior to that, they were only Sisters. They were not a real English/European persons. Only at later years, the ordinary Qablunaat started to come, not as Sisters or Brothers. But prior to that, they were only Sisters, so we had to address them as “Sister” and said their name. Or “Father Courtemache.” Or “Brother Parent.” That was how we were to address them, not by anything else.
Peter Irniq: If you did not address them like that, what would have happened to you? Paul Quassa: Yes, failing to do, we would have been scolded/punished immediately, guaranteed! We would have been put to bed immediately. If we happened to disobey or making a mistake, without meaning to, then, we would be punished. We would have something done to us, instantly! They were extremely intimidating and scary people. You had to really struggle to make sure that you did not make any mistakes. It’s like this, little children sometimes make mistakes. This is very obvious. Well, in Chesterfield Inlet, there was no room for mistakes! For anything, about anything. It seemed like that, there was no room to make a mistake. It’s like when you think about it at a later time, it was exactly like that. Those caretakers were extremely intimidating! What ever they wanted you to follow, you had to follow. There was no other way!
Peter Irniq: We used to have movies every Friday night, then if you make a slightest mistake, then you would not be allowed to go to a move on Friday night?
Paul Quassa: Yes. Those were the rules. If you make a mistake, then you were not allowed to go outside with the others, according to the rules of the Sisters in particular. It was exactly like that. Also, we were not to speak Inuktitut too much. Although, it was our only language. Because we were being taught in English, we had to make sure, we followed that. In some small ways, we were taught some Inuktitut by the priests. I remember this. It was by Father Fafard, that we were taught to write in Inuktitut syllabics. When we were being taught about that, we were only taught about the writing system, I remember this much. When we were being taught in English, they made sure that, we did not speak or talk in Inuktitut. I remember, we had to absolutely follow this. Peter Irniq: Tell that story about what you did during the entire day and first thing you had to do, when you first entered the classroom that morning, all the way to quitting time in the afternoon.
Paul Quassa: Yes. We would probably go to bed about 9 p.m. Then, when we they woke us in the morning, they would let me go to the Church at 7 a.m., if I wanted to go to Church. We had to pray every morning. Perhaps, it is still the same today. So, if I wanted to go to Church, I had to put my clothes on my pillow, the night before. If I did not wanted to go to Church, then the clothes had to be at the other end of the bed, near my feet. That rule was fixed like that. If I wanted to go to Church, then I had to get up before 7 a.m., be ready for 7 a.m. Church Service. At 8 a.m., perhaps, we had our breakfast. We were altogether, both boys and girls. They were placed, boys on one side and the girls on the other side. When it was time to go to school in the morning around 9 a.m., we would go to school. At the school, the first thing we did was I think, to say the Lord’s Prayer. And I think, we sang, Oh Canada. And then, they made us sing about the Queen. There was no other way to do this and we became aware of it, muchly. And then God Save the Queen. Then, we had teachers, who were all Grey Nuns. They taught us how to learn to read English. This was very strongly taught when you come to think of it today. They taught how to read and learn to speak English. I remember most about Fun with Dick and Jane. All the topics that are taught in any school, we were taught about them, such as Social Studies, Arithmetic, but looking back now, there was nothing at all, about Inuit inside the classroom. We learned all about Canada, but nothing about the Arctic. Canada. Canada. And we learned a lot more about countries outside of Canada. We seemed to be educated more about those. There was hardly anything about us Inuit, and about the Arctic. There was hardly anything about that. We were in the school until about 4 in the afternoon. It was a full day. We had to go to school every day, as long as we were not sick. When we were sick, then we did not go to school, other than that, we had to go to school every day, every day. When we were in school, we also had recesses, outside. We would play baseball. Baseball was our main activity, although, we had football as well. Those were our recreational activities. This was either in the winter time, or fall time or in the spring time. We had to follow all this, every day, every day. This was done, during the school week. We got to know it very well.
Peter Irniq: If you are caught speaking Inuktitut inside the classroom, what would have happened to you, or did anything happened to you? Paul Quassa: Yes. When we were instructed only to speak English, but when they caught us talking Inuktitut, then guaranteed, you were told to open your hand, like this, and you would be hit with a yardstick on the palm of your hand. It had to be just like that. Peter Irniq: Does that have a use?
Paul Quassa: Maybe, in part. It was a way to decipline(sp), it was perhaps a lesson, we learned in part. Perhaps, they were working on something that they will be sorry about later. They seemed to have done thing in a big way, for what seemed like a minor situation. I thought to myself, maybe they were doing things, that they were going to be sorry about later on. The thing is, that seemed to have become part of our every day culture. For example, we were not to speak Inuktitut. As we had so much rules like that, as small children, we started to look at it as part of every day life. That was how I was looking at it, particularly for myself. Was this way of life, a culture? That was how, we started to think. Peter Irniq: When you first got to Chesterfield Inlet at that time, did it look as though, there were a lot of Qablunaat?
Paul Quassa: Yes, it appeared like that. There was already a Police, Department of Transport, the Communications people, they were situated over there, on the other side of where we were, that was a land for Qablunaat, that were numerous in numbers. There were were lots of White People, and also including the priests, all of them were Qablunaat, and Sisters were all Qablunaat. There appeared to be lots of Qablunaat. But as for me, it didn’t have that much effect, as I had already been to the land of Qablunaat, previously. As a result, I was not that started. All these little children, who came from their communities, probably saw it that way for obvious reasons.
Peter Irniq: Do you understand why, we the Roman Catholic only, were sent to that Residential School to be educated? Paul Quassa: I do not totally understand but when there was only an RC Mission and the Hudson’s Bay Company here in Iglulik, and when there was no school, they started to send the RC people to school. As Qablunaat, there must have been some thinking by “Qablunaat, that these Inuit were scattered all over the place, with different dialects, as Canadians, they need to be assimilated into our culture and language. Perhaps, that was the thinking. I did not totally understand it but when I became an adult, I started to feel that way. Looking at the whole world, that was what was being done, to cultures that were different from the Europeans. I think, since they don’t have the same kind of culture like “ours”, then we need to make sure, that they get a culture like ours, maybe that was the thinking. We need to make sure, that they are assimilated to our culture. They can be Inuit using their own language only, since that is the case, they won’t be part of us.” I think, it is like that. The Roman Catholic Missionaries and Anglican Missionaries were first ones to arrive to Inuit Homelands. Then, they were being utilized by the Canadian Government. Apparently, they were contracted by the Government to do what they did, I became aware of this, as I got to be adult. That is how, I seem to understand al of this. Peter Irniq: Many who attended that Residential School in Chesterfield Inlet, often talk about today about having sexually abused. They talk about having been abused both mentally and physically. How much knowledge do you have about this? Are you aware of this abused took place inside the hostel or inside the school? Paul Quassa: Since having spent some time there, I remember there were several Brothers, who were not full-fledged priests, there was a mechanic, and Brother Parent. There were four ordinary Brothers. They were dressed like the priests but they were not priests. They were just darn brothers. I was perhaps 10 years old when I used to notice Brother Parent doing it. I remember that particular situation, as we were not thinking about making mistakes or sins. Some of us thought, it was just part of life or part of culture. Perhaps, all of us thought that, especially since we were all little children. Perhaps we were 10 and 11 years old, when Brother Parent, who was the Chief Cook, had a baker downstairs. We would watch him through the window sometimes, when he was downstairs. I don’t remember exactly how it started, but I remember him very well, when he used to give candies. This was apparently when he wanted to do something. He did this with us little boys, he apparently did this, only with the little boys, as himself was a man. I also remember this rule that boys and girls were not to mix. Even if you had a sister, you were forbidden to see them. Although, they were just directly above us. And when we were only the boys, he would then give candies, then he would start to do things, that were terribly wrong. To tell someone, was just unthought of! What he made us aware was something very embarrassing. As children, we did not think, that was a wrong thing to do. It was like this, that we were being taught in a very big way about faith, by the priests. The Brothers were helpers to the priests and through faith, they assisted the priests in a very big way, about faith. When we were children, there were imitation of vestments, exactly like the ones, that the priests were using, so we would pretend to be priests. We would put them on and pretended to be priests. We were taught about the faith in a very big way, and then on the other hand, this person was doing things in a wrong way. And educating us about it. For example, he would take his penis out for us to see. As small children, we did not think, it was a wrong thing to do. Just like I said before, maybe this was just part of the culture. This was how, we thought of it. As children, we were too small to think. As a child, you do not think of things that are wrong. But, they also taught us in a very big way, about the wrong, and what the wrong was. Like the sin! They taught about a sin, in a very big way. When we were in school, the priests used to come to class and teach us about believing in faith. They used to come and talk about the stories in the Bible. And then, their colleague, that Brother was doing things opposite. How it was, I don’t know. Peter Irniq: Then preached one thing and doing quite the opposite?
Paul Quassa: Yes, yes. I noticed that particularly, that they went to Church regularly. They made themselves look like all saints, each time, they are praying. And they sometimes had them care for us, particularly both Brother Parent and Igajikuluk(little cook) Brother Boclaire, and when we were only little kids, ages maybe, 10, 11, 8 years, we were made to see things that were extremely terrible. And they made it part of our way of life. They used that candy to have a lot of power over us. The thing is, candy at that time, was not readily available for us. Candy was extremely delicious! When they knew, we liked it very much, then we can do whatever the Brother wanted to have. The thing is, am I committing something that was really wrong, we just didn’t think of it that way. The reason was, the fact that, they were our big teachers. They were scary. They were adults. As a child, you saw them as adults, and whatever they wanted us to do, we had to follow them. That was the way we were thinking as children. Peter Irniq: Also, whatever they were wearing, their clothes were designed as Authority?
Paul Quassa: Yes, whatever they wore, it made them more intimidating. And the thing was as I said earlier, the school itself was made because of faith or by the religious organization. The hospital for example, and the hostel was made, probably because they were contracted to build it, by the Canadian Government. They must have been told about the fact that, you will be becoming educator, I don’t know. The building was obvious because of faith or religious organization, but it also allowed it’s members to do sinful things. That was how, it was. Peter Irniq: Those who were abused like that, they are in great deal of pain to this day, eh?
Paul Quassa: Yes, of course. It’s a continuing pain, even though, you don’t notice it. Even though you don’t notice but perhaps it’s like, maybe that is why, I am drinking too much alcohol. I don’t know, it is perhaps because of those. This one I have particularly notice, now that I have been married for 27 years, even though, she is my wife, I am always looking further out. I never seem to find, what I am looking for. When people are married, they seem to have ways like, I don’t know, how is it, what is it, if they are in great pain, I cannot say, anything is possible to fix, while we are still on this earth. The other thing is, we can forgive them. Like, whatever we’ve done in life, you can go beyond it. Perhaps, this is what I am trying to think, personally. They are already past, let me stop thinking about them. But at the same time, it will always be connected to you, through somewhere. They are always connected, through somewhere, no wonder! You always think about them, forever. You never forget about them. It is not right to be angry about them forever, it’s just not right thing to do. We cannot be forever angry, we cannot be like that. We were given this life, and be given a reason to live. Perhaps, I have to go through a terrible life and then go into a very good positive life, it will always be like that. Life is like this, up and down, it’s been life that since long time ago. People who used to do these things, we have been allowed to go life that was not right at all, while attending that educational facility to be taught. It’s too bad but it has now been done and finished. I am looking at it like that.
Looking at the education and training that I got over there, it was very, very good. It seemed like it was the strongest! At least, that training that we got over there. We were taught how to speak English, in a very big way. We were taught about what the rest of the world was all about, in a very big way. We were taught very good about arithmetic and writing. We were taught in a very big way, about learning to speak English. I try to look at the education and training that we got in a bigger way, to this day. It is a good thing that I went to school in Chesterfield Inlet, because the education system there was very strong. The education system that we have today is not as strong as it used to be. But when we were still a Northwest Territories, the education was that when you get to grade 8, or my daughter has attained grade 8, and when I look at their papers, it was like, they were still in grade 3. It is like, when you look at the system at that time and the system of education today, it is much weaker in terms of learning to speak English. So, the system we got later on, was much weaker. So, I keep trying to keep looking at it from that point of view, even though, I am sometimes reminded of the wrongs that were done. I try to look at that as lesser than what I got in terms of education, especially with the education and training that I got from Chesterfield Inlet. I try to cut it there.
Peter Irniq: For those who have been abused at that school, it seems like, it has become a lifetime healing? Paul Quassa: Yes. I think, you have to change your life drastically, and try to do away with what happened. Perhaps, this is one way to get rid of most of it. Perhaps, it is all of us Inuit, we have through our brain, ability to remember everything. We will never totally forget it forever, it is for sure. Things that I remember very well over there, today some are going through courts now. I don’t really know today if the caretakers at the time, including priests and sisters, if they knew. If they knew, if they would done something, I do not know. Perhaps, they used to notice things, maybe they just decided not to tell. As adults, they must have know, what they saw if any, was not the right thing to do, as adults. But the thing, it seems like, no one ever knew. No one talked about it. As children, we did not know, how to tell whether this was bad thing or not. Reason for that was, whether it was a sin or not, we just did not know anything about it. Today, as adults, we now know that we were allowed to go through something, that was not right, by them. It is apparent that they would be brought to court. You think about it this way today. To live that way as an Inuk, as long as we have that ability “never to forget”, we will probably never forget what happened. But, we cannot be allowed to break up our life, as long as we live with it forever. It is perhaps because of that, each time I think of Chesterfield Inlet, I am reminded of sexual abuse, as being practiced in Chesterfield Inlet. We were made to be hurt very much, and I think, we were taught about being scared in a very big way, in Chesterfield Inlet.
In later years, I became very envious of children, who were never allowed to go to a residential school. I was envious of those, who were always with their parents. I was very envious of those people, much later on. For instance, the things that I could have learn more from my mother and father. I have lost a lot in light of that, what I’ve lost is too numerous to count. Had I been allowed to stay home with my mother and father, all the things, I could have learn, are not there. Nothing. Whenever I got home, at an older teenager, I knew less than the younger ones about hunting. When they knew more about hunting than I did, I had to re-learn a lot about my Inuit culture, even though, I had become a much older teenager. I had to re-learn about my hunting and building an iglu. I had to be re-educated about those, at a much later date. Those who always stayed home, ones that never had to go away, were holding on to a much better life, than I did. I noticed that at the time, very much.
Peter Irniq: What influence you most about what you have learned in Chesterfield Inlet? Something that is most useful?
Paul Quassa: Speaking English, first of all. We were taught very well about speaking English, fluently. This is where, I learned a great deal, about learning to speak English.
Peter Irniq: For those of us who went to school, what are the biggest losses for us?
Paul Quassa: Perhaps, partly losing our ability to be skillful parents, such as being mothers and fathers. When we were over there, we did not have mothers and fathers. We only had caretakers, such as Sisters, Brothers and priests. As a result, we have lost certain amount of being able to be mothers and fathers. We also lost a great deal of our culture, for instance, having lost the ability to respect our Elders. We were taught everything all about Qablunaaq/European ways, over there. We were never educated about Inuit culture, only when we became adults, we start to learn about our own culture, even though considered, a bit late. For me, in particular. Also, losing Inuit language. When I speak Inuktitut, sometimes, I started to speak Inuktitut, thinking in and speaking English. Ability to speak the true language of the Inuit, we have lost it in part, it’s obvious. As for me, I am aware of it. I sometimes ask my wife, even though she is younger than I am, or people who are younger than me, I sometimes ask them about certain words, “what does this mean?” Here I am speaking in Inuktitut. Or, how would I say this? This is what I think, that we’ve lost, for the reason, that we were forbidden to speak Inuktitut, we were told to speak only in English. So, this is what we’ve lost in terms of our culture and our language. It’s like, we were taken away from here, and put in here, and then, our life was being planned in a way, that was very foreign to our culture or Inuit life. As a result of this, we have lost a lot of much of our own Inuit culture. As we have the ability to re-learn more even as adults, perhaps, we have gone back to that attitude for those of us, who were sent to Residential School. Perhaps because, we were taught to lose our language and our culture, when we were trying to get our Nunavut back, we used every strength and muscle, to get back our culture and language, duing the 1970’s. I think, it allowed us to regain our strength, even though, everything about it was not all good.
Peter Irniq: For those of us who went to school there, we talk about having been sexually abused, and we turn to alcohol. Is it true that because, we tried to forget what happened to us, that we started to use too much alcohol to forget? Paul Quassa: It is obvious. Even though, when we did not notice what happened, we started to use thing like that. We went overboard. Even though, we did not think about it, it was apparently because of that experience. The Elders teachings were always very strong. For example, we were told not to mistreat little puppies. When they get older, they have the ability to pay you back. Or anything else, we were not told not to burst spiders. We were taught never to make the animals, sad. As they could get back to is. Remember the teachings of our Elders, that we can be paid back for our actions. And when you think of us, who were sexually abused in Chesterfield Inlet, now that we are adults, we are the way, we are today. And we know it today as something that is not right or what happened to us, was wrong. Now that we are adult, we are the way, we are today. Or when you come to think of it, those who used to do these things to us, such as Brother Parent, apparently committed suicide. Today, you see priests, have now been charged. Even though, they are preaching faith in a very big way, they are now charged for committed wrongs. When you follow the traditional teachings of the Inuit, if you do something wrong to someone, you will eventually be revenged. Today, it is exactly the way it is, to this day. Those of us who went to school in Chesterfield Inlet, I think, all of us are like that. As I said earlier, we have to try hard to forget, it’s in the past. But, it will come back, often. It has a very huge impact on our lives, but we can work to better our own lives. Everything on earth can be fixed. Peter Irniq: You are the one, who has obtain Nunavut for us and today, you are now the Mayor, having been taught to lose your culture and your language, and everything else that was done to you personally, how can you go beyond all that? Can you share your stories with your fellow-Inuit?
Paul Quassa: I truly believe that I was born with a purpose in life. Even though, I am going to go through various highways in life, but I will follow my knowledge and what I have to do in life. And the experience that I had in Chesterfield Inlet, having been sexually abused, as we were sexually abused there, trying to forget that part. Always trying to see ahead. It seems that I can use this as my strength, trying to look to the future, all the time. I have a purpose. For me as a person, I have nearly died several times in my life time, but I am allowed to remain alive to this day. I still have some purpose and things to do, it is not yet finished, what I have to do. This is a strength, because I still have things to do and I am alive as a result. Even though, I will go through various stages of life, but I will always return to the purpose of my life, to things that I have to do. Unless I die, then I will not be able to finish what I have to do. I truly believe in this. For what I said earlier, as Inuit, they tried very hard to make us lose our culture and our language, from within us. They tried very hard to make us forget our Inuit being. Perhaps we use it as our strength, that we are not supposed to lose our culture and language. This is particularly for our language, our culture and our spiritual beliefs. The fact that we are not supposed to lose our culture and language, it seems, it is really tied on and held on to us. When we were going to school, they tried very hard to change us, to something different, than who we are. Perhaps, as a result, we have that great strength. Perhaps, we are sticking up for our Inuit being now. AS adults, we hear that Inuit were always intimidated by the Qablunaat. Whether they were Police, priests, Anglican Ministers, or something else, whether they were teachers, as long as they were Qablunaat, they were very intimidating people. We often hear Inuit talking about this having been really scared of the White People. I think, many of us are thinking about sticking up for our fellow-Inuit, today. Wow, that was too much, perhaps this is the reason why, we are always thinking about how Inuit can better their own lives, something that we are always fighting for. Especially now. It’s not only us, I think, our fellow-Inuit who are now Elders, or the same generation as us, or younger ones, are thinking like this, and they are many. We feel this very much. As I said earlier, we have a mechanism where, we have the ability to remember, as a result, we are not going to forget those things. For example, Inuit whose dogs were killed off, wow, too much! We were still very young at the time. They killed off their dogs. It’s too much! I think, as a result, we have become strong. They are very unpleasant issues but they end up helping us, in the end, in our lives. Perhaps, it is because of this, then you often think about being a leader, sometimes, sticking up for your Inuit rights, for we cannot be bullied. It is because our Ancesters brought us, that we are alive today. They had a lot of courage to bring us here, this is what I am reminded often of their abilities.
Peter Irniq: Bishop of the Hudson’s Bay Roman Catholci Diocese, came here to Iglulik on February 16, 1997 and delivered an Apology to us and later on the Members of the House of Commons, made a symbolic gesture to the survivors of Residential Schools, by standing up in the House of Commons. If you were to see the Pope, what would you say to him about having been sexually abused at that Residential School? Paul Quassa: He has to apologise himself. I would also ask him to apologise to me and to anyone else, to all those he sees. Although, he was not there but he needs to apologise. If they are going to preach about faith/religion, then they should do anything else but that. I would tell him that when I was born, I was a follower of Roman Catholic Church, as my parents both followed the Catholic Church. But now, I no longer follow the Roman Catholic Church. It is for this reason that when I was going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, I saw what was wrong with it, at the same time, they tried to teach me about faith and religion and at the same time, there was a sexual abuse. It seems, they were doing those two things at the same time. They also made us pray very big time. They also taught us about faith and religion in a very big way. Even though, it is like that, and as long as there are something wrong with it, I no longer believe in it. It was like when I was living in Rankin Inlet, I continued to go to the Roman Catholic church to pray as I was a Roman Catholic. And my wife, being an Anglican, she went to the Anglican Church. So, when I was continuing to go there and when the priest was saying his sermon, it seemed like, I was very angry inside me. And the thing was, I did not know what I was angry about. Even though, the priest was preaching, I just left and never went back to Roman Catholic Church. It was perhaps my anger became obvious over there and then, I started going to the Anglican Church, instead. I then started to follow the Anglican Faith. This was while, I was still living in Rankin Inlet. Perhaps, it was from there, that my anger became visible. Aside from that, I had not had any kind of feeling like that. It’s all right to go with either of the two religious groups. The thing was, my following of the Roman Catholic Church, seemed to of snapped from there. I think, my experience from Chesterfield Inlet, had an impact from there, then. I would say to the Pope, perhaps, your followers would have been in great numbers, had they not done what they’ve done. Believing in faith and sins are two very different things! They are absolute opposite of each other, it seems. On one hand, they were teaching something terrible, and then, do what they did to us, with that, it seemed not right at all. I would probably want to tell him about this, if I should be able to see him.
Like I said before, you can pass all things while on this earth, and I truly believe in this. One could go through very difficult times or through hardships, but again, it can come to pass. This is the traditional teaching of the Inuit, as long as you believe in it, it can come to pass, eventually. Guaranteed. I have gone through very difficult times in my life time and many times but, then I talked to an Elder about it, this will come to pass, while we are still alive on this earth. I tend to look at it that way, and pursue my life accordingly.
Peter Irniq: If the Prime Minister of Canada would apologise to all the Survivors of Residential Schools, what would you think about it?
Paul Quassa: If that would happen, it would be felt much more, as the Residential Schools were established by the Canadian Government. If they were not initiated by the Canadian Government, perhaps, this would not have been done. Perhaps yes, but I don’t know. But it was because of this initiative by the Canadian Government, the education system also came to Inuit Homelands. It was operated by the Canadian Government. It was because the business of educating Inuit was given to the Roman Catholic Church, and then allowed the Inuit to be educated all over. It was the Canadian Government, who started this in the beginning. Since it was initiated by them, and if the Prime Minister were to apologize on behalf all Canadians, it would have quite a lot of impact and felt by the Survivors. If he has something to say and say it, it would be felt more in a bigger way. It’s all right that these Bishops have apologized but they received their directions from the Canadian Government, at that time. If this one, who is at the very top, apologizes, he would be the strongest in doing so, and he would be felt enormously by the Survivors. Peter Irniq: If he apologizes while the Survivors are still alive, it would be wonderful thing to do?
Paul Quassa: Yes, they are getting smaller in numbers. And there are First Nations as well, who were also abused. And there are many Inuit, who were abused. And if he could deliver his apology soon, then it would be a big help to us. As I said earlier, we have to eventually forget what happened, and perhaps, this would help us to forget the past. Peter Irniq: When you were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, many wanted to be this and that. What did you wanted to be when you were going to school there? Paul Quassa: Many of us in Chesterfield Inlet, who went to school there, I think, wanted to become priests! In fact my late older brother wanted to become a priest. In fact, many of us wanted to become priests. For obvious reasons, we did not know too much about other careers, so we wanted to become priests. As I said earlier, when we were there, we were provided with clothes that resembled priests vestments, the clothes that were probably made by the Grey Nuns for us, we would put them on, we would pretend to be priests, perhaps the girls were the same, and wanted to become Sisters. For obvious reasons, we never did become priests! However, I think, there were a lot of us, who wanted to become priests. Peter Irniq: You must imagine who all was there in Chesterfield Inlet. Do you know any of your fellow-students, who became a priest or a Sister? Paul Quassa: I am not at all aware of anyone, who became a priest or from the girls side, who became a sister. There is none, what-so-ever. I think, they left the place for good, right after, we finished our education over there. As for me, when I left it, I forgot about it immediately. It’s like this, perhaps, I wanted for forget it, period. Maybe it was because, I wanted to forget it for good, as soon as I went to another place to go to school, I left it behind. I forgot it. I think, all of us was like that. Like, maybe, we did not wanted to think about it all.
But, it has helped us with education. It has helped us with speaking English, in a very big way, it gave us strength, it was a very big help in so many ways, but the pain, hurt, trauma, they’ve caused, for example, when we used to be severely scolded, spanked, or thrown, or when we were hit or punched, those had a huge impact on us. I guess, I wanted to forget all those, as soon as I left it, I made sure, I forgot about it immediately. I never wanted to remember it again. I noticed that particularly, as soon as I left it. But the thing is, we will never really forget it.
We can have all kinds of apologies, but we will never forget it. But as I stated earlier, the negative part cannot be allowed to win over us. We cannot be weaken by it. As a result, we can be standing upright today in many numbers, those of us, who went to school there. Those who went to school there in Chesterfield Inlet, they are Mayors, they are holding public offices, they are committee members, they are part of our strength. They are part of the good things and in some bad things. We use it as our strength to this day, whether good or bad.
Peter Irniq: When we were there, there was a great deal of emphasis to forget our culture, and language, how is it possible that you are still speaking in Inuktitut today, as well as others? Paul Quassa: I think, it’s like this, that our ancester’s culture is very strong. Because it was always very strong since time immemorial, we are allowed to survive. The culture and language of the Inuit is very strong, without a doubt! I can know a lot about English, but the language is the Inuit is fixed more and more complete with Inuit culture. For example, if I say in English, “cousin”, that’s the only one, “cousin”. For us Inuit cousin is, “arnaqatiga”( a relationship from two sister’s children), “angutiqatiga”(relationship from two brother’s children), “illura(second cousin), those are some of them, they are not only “cousins”. This shows, Inuit language, is very, very strong. Through here, we did not lose it, and we want to keep it forever. For the reason that, even though, we Inuit are very small in numbers among the world population, we seem to be the strongest or our life seems one of the strongest as a race of people. I don’t know why, and I don’t purely understand it. Even though, we are very small in numbers, we had agreement as the very first group as indigenous people, we changed the map of Canada. That is our strength! Even though we are very small in population, as Inuit, we have changed entire Canada. Uakallangaa(Wow)! I am often amazed at this and I think, this is how strong the Inuit are. We were made to forget our culture, and language, with al their strength, and through many hardships, and yet, we have not lost it at all! I think, this has become our strength. I feel, it is like that. Peter Irniq: What would you like to say to our future generations? What kind of message would you like to tell them?
Paul Quassa: Yes, our ancesters who lived in the Arctic, have brought us here to this day, without practically no resources. They have allowed us to live. Those of us descendants of our ancesters were put through a lot of hardships, by trying to let us forget our language and our culture, it is not lost! To this day, we are still using our language, it is because, this is our strength. Our strength as Inuit, our ability to survive, that is something that I would want to tell about. Whenever I get to go to a school, I always want to talk about this. As Inuit, we have been tried by the society to drop our language and culture, through various means, look, we are still standing up right! We still go through many hardships in our communities, and taught all kinds of things, and yet, we are still apparent. We still use a harpoon that was used since 1,000 years past. Look at the other culture, things they can no longer use today, they just put them into museums. Look at the things that we used to use, some of them are in the museums now but we still use many of our traditional tools, to this day. This is how strong the Inuit culture is. Things that were made since time immemorial, are still being used today. Qajaq(Kayak) are now used all over the world. They don’t seem to get lost, things that Inuit used to use, even qulliit(Inuit Oil Lamps), they are still be used to this day. All kinds of things, including the sewing of clothes, including caribou skins, that were made using techniques since time immemorial, seal skins are still being used. I think, through here, we have that as strength as Inuit. With this ability, we are different among others, as a race of people. Peter Irniq: I don’t have too much to say now and don’t have a lot of questions any more, what else would you like to say? Paul Quassa: Yes, when we were going to school there, we were made to do all kinds of things, including trapping for foxes. We were taught these kinds of numerous activities. We were taught how to work on fish nets. We were made to do things that can be useful for Inuit life.
I remember about eating different foods there, and when we were back home, it seemed like, we had the urge to go back to that place. This was when it was time to go back to school, was getting closer. I don’t know why. Remembering what we used to eat. It was like this for some of us, when it was time to go back home, we had this great urge to go back home, and then, when it was time to go back there, then we had the urge to return there. I don’t know how and why.
But, I do want to remember our parents, who were allowed to be put through many hardships. When we were very small children, even though, we may not notice this, but now that we have little children, five, six, seven years old, and then, they used to be taken away at that very small age, that was too much. Unbelievable! As a parent at that time, it must have been extremely difficult. As an adult, we were made aware of how, they were told, about sending their children to go to school. Looking back, for obvious reason, you want to stand up or stick up for your parents, even though, we were not aware of it. For our parents, who were made to face very hardships, are still alive. And some have passed on, but even though, they were made to go through many hardships, it is unbelievable that they were able to put all this in the past. It’s like that, through life, you can go through much hardship but eventually, you can go past it. This is the traditional teaching of the Inuit, that it’s something I feel greatly. Our parents also need to be apologized to, not only us, who went to school in Chesterfield Inlet. So, it’s not only us, but our parents definitely need to be apologized to, and they have to be remembered, as they were put through very trying times. I think, they need to be included in the apology.
Peter Irniq: The money that we got from the Canadian Government, does it have a useful purpose?
Paul Quassa: It can have a useful purpose because of transportation that we have for hunting. It can help to buy things, that we cannot currently afford. We can use it to buy boats, snowmobiles, but they do have an end. But I think, the apology has more useful purpose for our lives. It’s probably something that we can feel in a much bigger way. That money also has an end. Snowmobiles can break. Boats can break. That’s what they are. About that money, it wonderful that we got money but it does have and will end. But the word, is what seems to be something that is being waited for, as it will not have an end. But these, monies, which are part of an apology, will have an end. But his(PM’s) word will not have an end.
Peter Irniq: When you were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, do you remember something that was most unpleasant and what was it that was most pleasant? Paul Quassa: Perhaps, the fact that we were not allowed to see our sisters, even though, we wanted to see them, that was not pleasant. Even though, they are our true blood relatives, we were not made to see them, we could not see them. We were not even allowed to look at them directly. Like that! It is through this, it was not a happy situation, at all. It broke the meaning of relationships. It was like, we were separated from our parents and that situation, particularly destroyed the meaning of relationships. It broke the caring of relationships, such as cousins, having an aunt, it totally destroyed it. I think, the business of going to that educational institution, totally destroyed the meaning of relationships.
But when we were there, we were there, as young teenagers as well, when they were starting to smoke cigarettes. When they were smoking cigarettes! I remember one thing that was funny, that we used to, that we used to steal cigarettes at that time in Chesterfield Inlet. Well, little Lazarie and I, Louis Tapardjuk, it was us, and when we were in school and one of them had a cigarette, and while were in school, and during the recess period, we went behind the school, we decided to light the cigarette. And then, we were casually smoking away…then came a big Sister! We got caught while smoking a cigarette! We got severe punishment for it and we were not allowed to go outside to play, for entire week. Yes, life was like that. We used to steal when we were in Chesterfield Inlet.
I also remember Jean Batiste. He was younger than we were. We sometimes served as Alter Boys at the Church. That was after we had been stealing. There was always matches in that little room at the Church, where we served as Alter Boys. We then told him to take some matches. He took the matches, then we were stealing matches, we got him to light the matches, and that was what we used to do to the younger ones. We would not be caught at most time. Perhaps, they smelled us, as cigarette smell has a very strong aroma! Those were some of the silly things that we did….
Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk
isuma [at] isuma [dot] ca
Year of Production: 2008
1h 47m 4s
Healing, interviews, Isuma, Residential Schools, stories, storytelling, testimonies, testimony, Truth and Reconciliation
Click on 'Read More' for English Translation ofTestimony by Peter Irniq, May 2008
English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 12, 2008, Iglulik, Nunavut
Peter Irniq: We had a terrible Hudson’s Bay Trader back in 1956, like many of these people, were terrible. That summer in 1956, the Dew Line ships came and when left later on, they left a whole lot of material. Some things like pellets beach along the shore line, so one day, my father and Celestino and his father, walked over to where these pellets were beached, with the idea of taking them back to our tent. When we got there, the two adults, Celestino’s father and my father tie up the pellets with a seal skin rope, and Celestino’s father, started to pull the pellets back to his tent. Right at this point, this Bay Manager came along with his Jeep. With his was his girlfriend, even though, he was married. Well, me I took a beached light bulb, that was no longer going to be used, as I wanted it as my toy. Just when the Bay Manager was coming up, my father said to Amarualik, who was pulling the pellets, back to his tent. “He’s coming to get you!” meaning, the Bay Manager. He dropped his load and ran like heck to his tent, running away from the Bay Manager. My father waited for the Bay Manager to stop. When he stopped, he ordered my father not to touch the pellets. “Don’t touch those pellets, they will be used again.” My father responded in Inuktitut that translated into something like this: “You are a big lyer!” Then, he pointed to the woman inside the jeep and said to the Bay Manager, “she will be used again, stop being with her!”
That night Amarualik came over to visit and while drinking tea, they had a great big laugh about what happened that day. All they wanted to do was to use the pellets for qamutiik(sleigh) cross bars. The thing was, nothing was going to happen to the two men or the two of us boys. They were also not going to re-use the burned out light bulbs.
Zach Kunuk: Perhaps, you could tell a story about where you were born.
Peter Irniq: Yes, I was born in Naujaarjuat(A place of plentiful seagulls fledgelings) Lyon Inlet. My parents are known around here in the Amittuq, particularly by Elders. My father’s name was Angutitaq and my mother’s name was Katak. My sister’s name was Iguttaq. My older brother’s name was Ipuittuq Ivaluqut. Prior to my birth, they used to live around here. They lived here, perhaps from around 1940 to about 1946. At that particular period of time, they traveled by dog team from Gjoa Haven’s Utkuhiksalik(Back River) to Naujaat’s Ukkusiksalik(Repulse Bay’s Wager Bay). They lived there for a time, then they traveled this way through Naujaat-Repulse Bay, Sanirajak(Hall Beach) and then to Iglulik. They traveled all the way here, by dog team only. They used to talk a lot about people from this Region. When I became an adult, I got to meet the people they met and I used to say to myself, “oh those are the people, that my parents used to talk about”.
Over there, we never lived really in the community of Naujaat – the Settlement, as we were true Inuit, living off the land traditionally. We were true Inuit, with truly living the Inuit traditional ways. For example, for those watching us, we lived much like the ones that Isuma Produced sometime ago, Nunavut Series. The ones you guys made. At these scenes in the spring time, that is exactly how we used to live. We used to look for eggs, when there were eggs. And also, we hunt young mature seals, called Nattiat in the spring time as well. We went fishing, when it was time to fish. My father fished with kakivaak(fish leisters), that is how, he used to catch fish. He used to do this on the rivers and on the lake ice. He used iqaluujaq(fish inviter without a hook). As you pull the iqaluujaq up and down, just like jigging for fish, the fish would come, and my father would spear the fish down below, with his kakivaak. He used to catch a lot of fish, along with my brother-in-law at that time.
I grew up in a place called Nattiligaarjuk(a lake that has seals) Committee Bay. We used to fish there and we also used to fish at saputit(fish dam) built across the rivers to trap the fish, from going up stream. We fished just like in the films that you made. I used to participate in fishing, when I was just a little boy. When I started to learn how to fish at saputit, it was always hard to get some kakivaak material, such as muskox horns. That is what the kakivaak were made of. So, instead of using the precious kakivaak that the adults were using, my father used to make me kakivaak out of old fox traps. He fashioned them just like the real thing. We had no muskox around Naujaat either, so it was hard to get the real stuff to make the kakivaak. There is still not much muskox, perhaps you see one in the long run.
Up there, when we would fish at saputit in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be lots and lots of fish(Arctic Char). We would be spearing all the fish. I was a young boy at that time around 1952 or 53. When I was fishing inside the saputit, the water used to go up to my chest, so I was pretty small, fishing with my father and my brother in law. When my father and my brother-in-law were wading in the saputit, the water was just up to their knees. I guess, I was pretty small then. When I would spear a fish, I would pull the wooden handle of the leisters, towards my mother, who was on the dry land, then she would pull the fish on to the dry land. That was how I used to catch fish.
I remember when we were fishing one evening. It was so much fun and it was so wonderful! I remember being hit by a big fish, right behind my knee or at the back of my knee. That hurt really, really bad. When the fishing was finished that evening, my mother and I decided to look at my leg, I had a really big bruse(sp). Ouch!! It was painful! The reason for this was that the fish were swimming very fast all over, inside the saputit.
I also remember another story. It was a beautiful day and when we looked at the saputit from our tent, the fish were almost jumping up above the water. There were so much fish! I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. As a rule, my mother woke me up very early, so that we could all go fishing. When everyone else had left to the saputit to fish, I stayed behind. I was thinking that I didn’t wanted to leave the nice warm bed inside the tent, after all, I was a young child. I was going to go along with everyone but I decided not to go, as I really wanted to stay in bed. The bed was too cozy to leave!
After the fishing was done, everyone had came back to the tent. My mother was extremely angry with me. She was trying to teach me how to fish at saputit, and teach me how to fish. She then, spanked me quite a few times on my bum. That hurt very much. Every since then, I learned my lesson and tried to be obedient as I did not wanted to be spanked again. We Inuit, when we were spanked once, we would learn a great deal of lesson. Spanking was one of the ways of disciplining someone, it allowed us Inuit to be listenful, that was how it used to be.
The other thing was when the days would now begin to get dark in the evenings, and you could see the stars in the darken sky, and it was now obvious that the fish had stopped swimming upsteam. Now then, the little ducklings were swimming, with their mothers the sea water. My father would have an age-old knowledge, that they are now swimming in the sea, it was time to move inland to search for caribou. At this point, the caribou fur or hair was just right for making clothes, and there is now lots of tunnuq(fat) on the caribou. We would then practice our traditional methods of hunting caribou through “tagjarniq”, “nunarpangniq” in your Amitturmiut dialect, “moving inland”. We would do this on foot and walked many miles in search of caribou for survival of our family, dogs and for our clothing and winter supply of food. As a child, this walking on the land was very boring. Adults would be carrying heavy loads on their backs of our belongingss, such as tents, beddings, etc. The husky dogs on the other hand, would be carrying our other supplies as well on their backs, such as tents, kettles, food we had to survive on. When I would get tired, “kaka” me, by putting me on his back, and carry me, along with all the load that he was carrying on his back. When I was no longer tired, I would again start running back and forth, in front of family.
Up where we used to live in Nattiligaarjuk(Committee Bay), we lived all of the seasons. At one point, when we were inland, walking on this big sandy area, that extended many miles. Well, as I was walking and running ahead of the others, I noticed a little black spot ahead of me on this sandy surface. I ran towards it and when I got to it, it was one side of muskox horn. It was so old that it had lichen on it. It means, it was there for quite a while. I grabbed it and then here I ran back as fast as I could towards my father, mothers and other members of my family, to show off my find. I gave it to my father. My father was ever so thankful for me, for finding such a treasure, now, he could make a kakivak out of it. At his spare time, when the days were not good for hunting, he would patiently make a kakivak(fish liester) out of it.
During this particular period, which was in the fall time, my mother would sew all our caribou clothing, preparing them for winter use. On the other hand, men did cache the meat and fat for the winter supply. I truly love to eat the tunnuq(fat) and marrow. It’s amazing, how much I love to eat the caribou fat and marrow. I used to truly enjoy eating the patiq(the marrow). One time, my mother made me eat lots of patiq. I ate so much of it that, I got sick and had enough of it. Again, she was teaching me a lesson, not to eat too much of it. Since that experience, I don’t like to eat as much patiq as I used to, but still I like them, including the tunnuq. I also enjoy eating “kiksautit” and “iluit”, the caribou guts. These are the most delicious parts of the caribou. I also used to enjoy eating the eyes and ears of the caribou. These were the kinds of things I used to crave for, when I was a little boy. These were the delicacies for the little boys, like myself, when I was a little boy. To this day, whenever I go out caribou hunting on the land, I still eat the ears and eyes of the caribou. To me, that taste of a good delicacy is still there. My thought sometimes instantly returns to Inuit culture and traditions. This is how, I grew up in and around Naujaat.
In the winter time, I remember my father and others used to hunt seals very traditionally through the “agluit” “seal breathing holes”. They used very traditional hunting methods in those days, using only a downed hair of a bird, as an indicator when the seal would be coming to breathe through it’s seal hole. They also used a small thin piece of metal, which was lowered to the seal hole, to know when the seal would be breathing and then, it was time to harpoon it. They could not see the seal breathing, as all the seal holes were covered with snow during this period of time, which was normally in the month of March, when the days were getting longer. As a young man, I learned the techniques and I hunted using these thousands of year old methods. That was part of my life. In 1961, when my father decided against me going back to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, this period of my time was a really awesome period for learning about my own culture. Hunting with “qiviutaq”s birds downs and savgutaujaqs(thin metal) indicator of when the seal was coming up to breathe, these are one of the many things, I learned from my father about my culture. I learned a great deal from my parents, sometimes learning about Inuit myths and legends, listening to them telling stories about these was one of the most pleasant past times.
I used to ask my father to tell Inuit legends. Sometimes, he would tell a story about Kiviu, Inuit legend, who journeyed through many places. He would tell a story about Sakaliktuarjuk, a poor hunter who fooled every one in the village, that he was actually a good hunter. He would tell a story about Akturraarnaat, an evil mother, whose son was blind. My mother would tell a story about a sister and brother, who became thunder and lightening. These are the things I grew up with, as a young child. I learned about traditional pisiit(songs). My mother, father, my sister and my brother-in-law were very good sings, so I used to listen to them singing, traditional songs. I grew up to become an adult, knowing some knowledge about traditional songs of the Inuit and know how to sing some songs, to this day. I also have some knowledge about shamans. I used to watch my brother-in-law, practicing his healing of the sick. He was a shaman. My brother-in-law used his powers to heal the sick, using his angakkuuni(being shaman) techniques. My father, on the other hand, used to say, that he was not a shaman. Later on, I learned, people used to talk about him, that he was also an angakkuq. He was an extremely good hunter. He used to say, “out there” there must be something that we could see in terms of animals such as caribou. He would repeat this often, to the point where, it was repeated too often. He then, used to tell a story about spirits of angakkuit(shamans).
He used to tell stories about some Inuit who had birds for spirits. Some other people had other spirits, such as wolves, and Nanurluk(a polar bear spirit). Others used to have human beings as spirits. Sometimes, they used their parents, normally deceased as their spirits, such as mothers or fathers or other relatives. My father used to tell us a story about having a ptarmigan for spirit, and how unpleasant this was, when flying. He said, this is because, they not only fly very fast but flew all over the place. It seemed like, you can hit a hill or something. He said, he used to hear this from other people. He said, other hand, having an ukpigjuaq(an owl) for a spirit, they are very easy to fly with. He said, they would fly high up in the sky and can look both ways. And they could see everything and anything down on the ground. I used to think later on that maybe he was talking about himself. Maybe, he used to fly, but we just didn’t see him fly. This was probably how, he used to know where these animals are, that are “out there”. When he finally goes over to the land, that he was talking about repeated, sure enough, there was caribou. He was like that. I grew up learning by observing all the things about Inuit cultre.
In the summer time, as children, we used to go down to the beach when the tide was low, looking for Kanajuit(sea scorpions or scanvenger fish with large mouth). Sometimes, we used the go down, when pieces of broken ice were on the beach. We could start to hear the “qallupilluit”, they would be knocking again the ice or the ground. Qallupilluit are spirits, and cannot really be seen by any human being, unless you have extra ordinary powers, such as shaman. My father said, they had feathers like ducks. When we were children, like my friend, the late Simon Aglak, we used to like to go down and look for kanajuit. We used to live on the east side of Naujaat, at Kuugaarjuk, quite a bit of distance from Naujaat. When the tide was low, Simon and I used to look for kanajuit. We used Inuit Traditional Knowledge, looking for these kanajuit. Sometimes, when we would be walking close to the ice, qallupilluq(single) would begin pounding against the ice. When that happens, my mother would yell and say, “you might be gotten by a qallupilluq, come up to the land here”. When you were going to sleep at nights, as long as there was ice around, you could hear the qallupilluit pounding against the ice.
When we were looking for kanajuit, my mother also used to say, when you are out there, and if you see a “nipisa”(a round-shaped black fish with sticky pad protruding from throat with which it clings on to things, or sticks to your hand, like a scotch tape). My mother would say, the only way to take it off is with an ulu(a half-moon) woman’s knife. One time, when Simon Aglak and I were looking for kanajuit, I lifted the rock to see if there were Kanajuit, and all of a sudden, I saw this fish, I grabbed a hold of it, and it got stuck on the palm of my hand. My mother carefully, took it off with her ulu. That was how, I grew up as a child, with my parents in Naujaat.
Ever since I can remember, I used to hear about other Inuit from Uqsuqtuuq(Gjoa Haven) Region, Qairnirmiut(the people of Baker Lake area), Talurruaq, my father used to live within those regions. I used to hear about our fellow-Inuit in those areas. I grew up as a true Inuk, living in an iglu in the winter time. While living in an iglu, it can be old at times, especially when there was no oil on the qulliq(Inuit oil lamp). When you live on the sea coast, you used seal fat to light your qulliq. But when you are on the land, or inland, you would have a small oil lamp, that you carried with you. Since there was no seals on the land, my mother would use tunnuq(caribou fat) to light the small qulliq. She used to light the qulliq when she was going to sew our clothes in the evenings. We also used to chew the caribou fat to make candles. We used them for lights in the evenings. This is how I grew up in the Aivilik Region of Nunavut. When I was growing up, I grew up with much happiness and with wonderful things happenings. That was my cycle of life.
Zack Kunuk: What is it your Inuktitut name?
Peter Irniq: Taqtu Irniq, those are my Inuktitut names. My mother used to tell a story of her dream, when they lived in Maluk&ittat/Naujaarjuat or Lyon Inlet. She said, she dream’t about this Irniq. That Irniq had relatives in Naujaat as well here in Amittuq. He lived in that area around 1940 or 47. In her dream, my mother said, this Irniq wanted to be named in me. She said, her dream was almost life-like or as though she was awake. We were not related at all. This is why, I was named after that Irniq. Taqtu on the other hand, belonged to a lady relative of ours in Naujaat. When I was born, she named me after that special lady named Taqtu. When I was born and getting older, I remember calling her, “Taqtuuqatiga” “my fellow Taqtu”. This was part of Inuit culture that we practiced. To this day, whenever I talk about her, I refer to her as “Taqtuuqatiga”. This is very important aspect of Inuit culture. I only have two Inuit names. On the other hand, when I was born in 1947 and baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, I was named Pierre. Inuit called the priest Kajualuk(because his big beared was brown) so Inuit called him Kajualuk, translated to “Big Brown”. When I was going to a residential school, I became to be called as Peter, by the Qablunaat(White people).
Zack Kunuk: When you still a true Inummarik, I guess, you would never pronounce the names of the older people? You would have calling titles for them, “tur&urautiit?”
Peter Irniq: Yes, particularly, the old, old people, people who were much older than us. They were the fellow-Elders of my parents, my father. We were taught from never to call them by name. Even, if we did not have calling titles for them, we were told not to call them by their names. We respected their Elderships and their ages. It was like honoring them. As children, we were told not to call the older people, those who were older than us, by names. Some we had calling titles for them, and even when they were not related to us for example, we would call them, “my avvakuluk” “my dear little same name”. “My uncle over there”. We had different calling titles for them. “My same-age or equal-age person”. When people were named after certain individuals, we naturally had calling for each other. We were taught to respect and honor. When an Elder came into our tent, and I was sitting down, I was to stand up immediately and allow the Elder to sit down. I was told, do this, without being told.
Zack Kunuk: When was it that you were sent off to school?
Peter Irniq: Some Naujaarmiut(people from Naujaat) were sent off to school around 1953, 54 and 55. In those days, they were being sent to school in Igluligaarjuk(Chesterfield Inlet). As for me, I knew I was never going to school. I knew this because, I grew up as a true Inummarik, and knew that I would live an adult life as a true Inuk, a hunter, fisher, and trapper. Ones that are older than I am, they started going to school around 1954-55-57 to Chesterfield Inlet. It was around that time. For me, going to school was something that I was not prepared for as we never lived in a community with other people. My father used to say that living in a community, all you get is welfare from the Qablunaat. He didn’t want to be like that. He always wanted to be close to animals for food and clothing. We lived in Naujaat, I think, only two times, once in 1956 and another time in 1957. At that time, my fellow-youth, were being sent off to a residential school. As for me personally, we living in Tinujjivik(a favorite fishing spot of the Inuit in the spring time, when the fish were swimming down stream). We living there in the summer time and it was in the month of August. It was a time of year when the days were really beautiful, sunny and hot. Tinujjivik is not visible from Naujaat, but if you live in Naujaat, you could see in the distance, the outpost of Tinujjivik. It is around 13 miles west of Naujaat. Tinujjivik is a place for fishing. In the spring time, people would build saputit and when the tide is low, the Arctic Char would be trapped inside the saputit, and that was how we used to fish at Tinujjivik. We would move there in the spring time and moved a short distance to the east, where there are more seals in the area.
Well, that summer of 1958, we could see a boat coming, with an engine. We could see it very clearly, as it was a very beautiful day. As our custom goes, my mother started to make tea by burning heathers, as this was a summer time. We only used heather and other moss to boil tea in those days. It was such a wonderful feeling that we are having some visitors, so she decided to make tea to welcome the visitors. Then they beached the boat. As they beached, we walked down to the beach to greet the visitors, and all of us, walked down behind my father. But that father, a priest, the late Father Dedier, came off the boat, first. He came off the boat, and said to my father, “Peter Irniq is going to school in Igluligaarjuk so we came to pick him up”. He didn’t even greet my father by shaking hands! I have never seen my father panicked but at that point, he was panicky. So he ordered me by saying, “they came to get you, go put on some nicer clothes”. My mother and I quickly went back to our tent and she made me put on niururiak, a seal skin boots, with the fur outside. I got all dressed up in my best, and off we went to Naujaat. The visitors didn’t have tea. As Inuit, they would have stopped to have tea, if they were regular visitors, then leave after they had tea. I don’t have any idea why this happened the way it did. I wondered, if the priest had told them earlier that, before anything happens, we should leave immediately. I don’t know. When we were traveling towards Naujaat, my goodness, it was lonely. It was the loneliest time of my life! It was too awesome!
Zack Kunuk: You then, left your parents?
Peter Irniq: “Yes!”
It comes back instantly! My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my little brother, who died in later years, my niece, I watched them, as we are traveling farther and farther away from them. They were all standing by the shore, seeing me off, until I was no longer visible by eye. Wow! Perhaps, it’s that particular incident, when I was suddenly taken away, it’s been long time ago, since 1958, to me, it comes back quite suddenly, to the time I was a child. That very part, it is very difficult to become adult with. You stayed a child forever! Even though, I am a old person now, but sometimes, you have to returned to it, or re-visit it, instantly. And so, we were on our way to Naujaat.
Zack Kunuk: How old were you at that time?
Peter Irniq: Eleven. Yes, I was 11 years old, when I was taken away. So, we were traveling towards Naujaat. I watched my parents, as they were no longer visible by eye sight. They were still standing on the beach. They were also watching until we were no longer visible in the horizon. When we finally got to Naujaat, I was made to go to Angutinguaq family. My father and Angutinguaq were cousins. So I was to stay with this family, according to the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church. They were the adoptive parents of Jack Anawak. We had been here for some days, I guess my parents would watch from where they were, to see if the plane had come and coming to land in the water in Naujaat. Even though, Naujaat was some distance away, they could see airplanes from where they were. Since, they did not see any planes landing in Naujaat, a few days later, my father and my brother-in-law, came over by canoe with an outboard motor. When they arrived, it was so wonderful! Since they arrived, I became relaxed, knowing that I now have a foundation here in Naujaat.
At that point, Angutinguaq, who I called Haluuruluk. Since they were in the south in 1925, spokes some English, I was to call him, my Haluuruluk(my darn Hello). Now that my father and my brother-in-law here, I had a foundation and practically no more worries and stress. At that point, Father Dedier had said, the plane would be here to pick us up, after three or four days, to bring us to Igluligaarjuk. He said, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. Now that we are free to do whatever we wanted to do, and there was lots of broken ice in Naujaat at this point. My Haluuruluk had a boat called Uvajuk, it was very tippy so it was called that name. Using Uvajuk, we would go down to the sea, in between the ice, to see if there might have been bearded seals or walruses. We were doing this, while we were waiting for a plane. Once we were out there, they got me to steer the boat, while my father, Haluuruluk and my brother-in-law were on the look out for the animals, maybe polar bears. We waited may be about four days, a single engine plane came to pick us up. And so, we board the plane, and we were now on our way to Igluligaarjuk. It was my first time in an airplane. I remember my father having a discussion with another Inuksuk, when I was much younger child. This man was on an airplane previously. My father had asked him, when the plane was taking off, do you watch the ground? We used to get very few planes in Naujaat in those days. So, this man was telling about an airplane ride he had. He said, when they were taking off, and he was looking down on the ground, he could see that as they were going so fast, he could see stripes of blue, green or red or yellow. Remembering that story, I was looking down on the water as we were taking off. As you know it was my first time on an airplane. I kept on a lookout for green, red or yellow stripes. There was nothing. It was actually a slow airplane. Perhaps, he was exaduating(sp), to make the story more interesting. And when we were going back home, we were taking off from the snow, it certainly was not like that, there were no beautiful stripes. There were about 10 or 12 of us, who were brought from Naujaat to Igluligaarjuk. We traveled to Chesterfield Inlet for about two-and-a-half hours.
Zach: With a single engine airplane?
Peter Irniq: Yes, with a single engine airplane. This airplane belonged to the RCMP, the one they used to bring us over. On the side of the airplane was a yellow stripe, with a dark blue paint. The tail of the plane had a yellow paint as well.
Zach Kunuk: When you are getting close to Igluligaarjuk and the time you were landing to Chesterfield Inlet, can you tell us about that?
Peter Irniq: I remember this very well! I don’t forget things at all, so I remember it very well. I am an Inuk. I grew up as a real Inuk, at that time. My mother and father, always used to tell me to be looking or observing…always. If you see something, then you will be able to tell me. Look for animals. I used to look around for anything, at that time. When we left Naujaat, it was a beautiful day. We arrived to Igluligaarjuk, it was even more beautiful. Hot! There were some clouds. There were beautiful clouds, with the sun shining. When we got closer, the sea water didn’t seem to be as beautiful. But the land, was beautiful, much like Naujaat environment. The stone formations were beautifully bright! I could see all those each time I look down below me, from an airplane. They very much resembled, Naujaat rock formations. Naujaat has those. When we were getting closer to landing, the land and sea were both beautifully pleasant. That time, we landed at Tasiraaluk(a small big pond). Tasiraaluk belonged to Iguligaarjuk, it was situation just around the houses. We landed there at Tasiraaluk, a fairly big pond. The airplanes landed so it was quite a large pond. The Roman Catholic Church used it for water supply. We beached on a beautiful rocky beach with the plane. When we beached, we all got off. I saw some Inuit there but then, I saw the Sisters, the Grey Nuns, for the first time in my life. They wore long dresses, and their hoods had little “furs”, but with lots of little holes, just like window screens. Some of the nuns were extremely beautiful! When I first started seeing Qablunaat, they were always beautiful. To see the Grey Nuns, they were even more beautiful than the Qablunaat, that I had seen previously, which weren’t many. I started to see the Qablunaat there, some belonged to the Department of Transport and others were priests. I used to think, I wonder if White People had ugly people. They all seemed to beautiful and handsome. The Grey Nuns that I noticed so much being different than most people, were to be our care takers, supervisors. They came to meet us. So, I was standing there, as I didn’t know where to go, nor have any place to go. My fellow Naujaarmiut were there, Paul Maniittuq, John Ninngak Mike Kusugaq, and Katherine and the late Francios Nanuraq. There was also Nick Amautinnuaq and Jose Kusugaq, who we knew only as Amaujaq in Naujaat. When our names were changed by the Government of the Northwest Territories, he became Jose Kusugaq. He was along with us. There was also Agatha from Naujaat. There were others, Maria, Theresie, now Theresie Tungilik. She has his father’s name today. Those are the ones who came here to Igluligaarjuk. There was this little Qablunaaq, he was slightly bigger than I am. As I was 11 years old, I was not that tall. I maybe, was about this height. As he was standing next to me, and kept looking at me and then asked me: “What is your name?” with a French accent. I understood what he said, as the year before in 1957, we were taught some English by the Roman Catholic priest, perhaps for a week or so. We were taught in English about things that were inside the Roman Catholic Mission in Naujaat. “Box” “Seal” “House” so we learned a little bit in English, then. “Fish” I used to tell my father about what we had learned. He used to recognize the words that I told him about. The four of them, including my Haluuruluk Angutinguaq, Tapatai and Savikataaq were in the land of the Qablunaat in 1925. They were in Newfoundland, Halifax and in Montreal. When they returned, they learned some English and were able to speak some English. So what I was learning, he would recognize them once I tell him about them. We were taught by Iksirajuakuluulaurtuq(Formerly Father Franzen), and Father Dedier. So, when he asked, “what is your name”, I understood him. As I answered him, I was extremely timid and said, Peter. Also, I was feeling very strange to see the Inuit of Igluligaarjuk. Everything was too awesome for me!
From there, we were led by a Sister to the hostel. I walked along with my good friend Paul Maniittuq. Both of us walked in behind a Sister, as we were told to follow her. We were apparently going to the big house, the Turquetil Hall. It was a huge building, green in color. I turned to one side and noticed another big building. These buildings looked really big. I also noticed the Church Rectory, it was beautifully built. When I looked to the west, there was a Statue of Virgin Mary, surround by rocks, it was beautiful. From there, we saw another large building, two-storey, this was a hospital as well as being a home for the Nuns. This one was not to be our home, at that point. The one, we were going to was a two-storey hostel, it was to be our home for entire winter or during all the time, that we were going to be in Igluligaarjuk. We called it Iglurjuaraaluk – a real big hosue. When we got there, we were told to take our clothes off. We were to have a bath. We were deliced. We got our haircuts. We got our haircuts with those old fashioned manual hair cutters. I had a very short hair. In fact, all of us young boys had very short hair at that point. I also noticed that day that the young girls also got a hair cut, by cutting their hair, right across their forehead. They looked so different. It was the firs time I ever saw a bath tub, as we didn’t have bath tubs in Naujaat. It was the first time I ever saw and worn shoes. I put a short sleeve shirt for the first time. That was the first time, I ever put on a foreign clothing like that. Wow, it was so awesome! There were lots of boys and girls, Iglulingmiut, Qamanittuarmiut(Baker Lake) kids, Arviarmiut(Arviat kids), there were many of them. That day was something to remember, that very day in Igluligaarjuk.
Then when the night time came, we were told to go into our large, huge bedroom. There were many beds. I was given my bed, complete with sleepers or pjamas. I didn’t know a darn thing about these items, as we did not use them in Naujaat. As an Inuk, I slept completely naked, at home. Just before, we went to bed, we were told “to kneel down” and pray. I guess, this was the beginning of praying. We prayed a lot. That evening was just the beginning of our praying. When we woke up the next morning, we prayed firs thing, then just before our breakfast, when we got to the school, we prayed first thing, we used to go to school at 9 in the morning. Right after we said the Lord’s Prayer, “our father who art in heaven…” then we sang, what is apparently a “Oh Canada” song, Canadian National Athem. I didn’t know what I was singing about but just trying to follow along and copied everybody. I was completely unaware of what these songs mean’t.
We had our teacher, who was a Grey Nun. After that first morning of schooling, we had to pray again, just before we left for lunch. When we got into the dining room of our hostel, we prayed. Just before we left for school, we prayed again. When we got to the afternoon school, we prayed again and then sang, God Save the Queen. We stayed in school during the afternoon for about two-and-a-half hours. Then when the English classes were finished, a Roman Catholic priest came over to teach us catechasm. This activity was also very noticeable to myself, especially, during the early stages of staying there. I was happy with this exercise, as we were able to speak our own Inuktitut language. Whereas at the school, we were told to speak only English. We were completely forbidden to speak our own Inuktitut language.
At that time, Father Farard used to teach us catechasm. I had some idea about the Bible and the prayer, mostly I’ve learned this from my mother. This was prior to going to Igluligaarjuk. Prayer books were used quite a lot in those days, I even have one at home, one of the first prayer books of the Church. The top page has a drawing of a church, couple of iglus and Inuit. I have the old prayer book. When that priest was teaching us about the bible, I was the most knowledgeable one about it. I knew so much that I won a prize from Father Fafard. This was shortly after, we’ve been there for a short time. For my Prayer Book knowledge, he gave me a green apple for a prize. I didn’t know it was an apple. When you go outside, you can eat it, he said. So, when we got outside, I decided to take a bite out of this apple: Oh, what a horrible taste!! I found the apple so horrible tasting, so I gave it to Marius Qajuuttaq, who was walking with me up to the Turquetil Hall. I told him, I just hated the taste of it so I said, you can have it. A year ago, he has already been to that school, so he like it and found it very delicious! As for me, I ate a lot of Inuit food, such as dried meat, so I totally found dried fish very delicious. So, I gave that apple to Marius. I wonder, if he sometimes thinks about it today.