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    The Art of Inuit Storytelling
    Zacharias Kunuk (b. 1957, Kapuivik near Igloolik) won the Camera d’or at Cannes 2001 for Isuma’s first feature, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner.

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Paul Quassa Testimony

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

Filmmaker Contact:


isuma [at] isuma [dot] ca

Year of Production: 2008

Country: Canada

Region: Nunavut

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More from this channel: Testimony I Residential Schools

    • 1h 56m 16s

      Peter Irniq Testimony

      uploaded by: Zacharias Kunuk

      canal: Truth and Reconciliation

      Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Testimony 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.

      Zack: Would you like some break?

      Peter Irniq: Yes, let’s

      Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

      Filmmaker Contact:


      Year of Production: 2008

      Country: Canada

      Region: Nunavut

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      uploaded date: 03-11-2011

    • 1h 11m 6s

      Joe Ataguttaaluk Testimony

      uploaded by: Zacharias Kunuk

      canal: Testimony I Residential Schools

      Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Joe Ataguttaaluk Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2009

      Interview with Joe Ataguttaluk

      Iglulik, Nunavut

      May 2008

      Joe Atagutaaluk:  I remember this one incident, when we were at a lake, this guy was running along and wanted to drink water with us from the lake.  He came in between us, and fell right through the ice.  He had a flashlight, and the flashlight fell to the bottom.  This guy, he started to swim away from us but we yelled him to turn around and swim towards us.  You could see the flight light in the bottom for a while, that was funny.

      Peter Irniq:  Was it getting dark?

      Joe Atagutaaluk:  He thought, we had made holes on the ice and drinking water but we were just along the edge.  It was a bit far to that lake as well.  We had our skates too, so the two guys were skating as fast as they could, and the guy was really running in between. 

      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember when Rene Otak broke his collar bone?

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Rene, yes.

      Peter Irniq:  He broke his collar bone, when we were playing foot ball.

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  We used to do all kinds of things..

      Peter Irniq:  We had some happy times in Chesterfield Inlet. 

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, absolutely!  There were some happy least to me.  There were quite a few happy moments. 

      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember all the happy times and what were you happy about?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Sort of. 


      Peter Irniq:  Can you talk about some of them?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  One of the things that I was very happy about what when we would go out trapping foxes.  Those of us who were bigger.  Every Saturday, we would go out and check our traps, by walking.  We would wait the entire week to visit our traps.  When we go to check on them, we would catch a fox on a trap.  At that time, when it became November 15, we would have an anxious time.  We would down to the beach in front us at the hostel, we would go and look for food garbage, that they used to throw out there.  At one time, a Sister was trying to keep us from going to sleep until 12 midnight and when midnight came along, couple of us, would go down to the beach in the dark, and then set traps, with a hope of catching a fox.  When they went to check them later on, they had a fox.  And then, us, me and Jack(Anawak), Jack was my really good friend.  Behind the community, there was a little shack, we noticed a small fox went under the house.  We set up the trap and went out further for sometime.  When we came back, we noticed we had a fox already.  And then, we had another fox where we set up another trap.  My goodness, we truly wanted to get foxes.  That time during the year, it was fun, as a man.  We noticed  four men, side by side.  Each had foxes in between them, in fact, they had lots of foxes, at that time!  At that time, we were being taught how to skin a fox.  Those made it sort of fun, as they were sort of preparing us, for eventually becoming true Inuit. 


      Sometimes, it was not happy at the hostel.  Our house, it didn’t bother me that much, even though, it does bother me at times.  Over there, there were some unhappy situatins.  When I got there for the first time, there were children who were eight years old.  When I look at my children today and they are eight years old, they are still pretty small.  That was how old I was when we left to go to school. 


      Peter Irniq:  You were still a little child?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Apparently, yes!  I still remember most.  When we got there for the first time, I had a favorite aunt.  She was my mother’s younger sister.  She also went over there.  Today, she is no longer alive.  I could not see her for three days, when I was first there.  When I did not see her for three days, I wanted to see her as I was remembering her.  Where do these women go, I was thinking to myself.  I must have been trying to becoming more clever, at this point.  When I first started to try and notice where they went, I see the women would go upstairs and we boys were down here.  When I would see them through a small window, they would go the stairs.  I wondered, if she was up there too?  So, I proceeded to go upstairs.  When I got upstairs, I was asked, what I was doing?  I said, I was up there to see my aunt.  I was met with absolutely no smile, by a Sister!  I was told, I am not supposed to be up there, they grabbed me and dragged me downstairs, back to boy’s dorm!  I was brought to our supervisor immediately.  Here, I was eight years old, I was put to bed right away.  One who didn’t understand any of the rules applied to us. 


      Peter Irniq:  There was no attempt to make you understand why and here you were, you wanted only to see your aunt?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes. 


      Peter Irniq:  You only wanted to see your relative?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  It seemed we were not allowed to see our relatives immediately, upon arrival.  If it was your sister, you were cut off from seeing her.  Yes, over there, there were some very unhappy experiences.  Also, I remember being put to bed, I don’t know how many times, I was put into bed, even though, I thought, I was being pretty good, all the time, at this point.  I thought, I was pretty obedient, but then, I would be dragged to be put to bed.  At one point, we were outside and then went inside the hostel.  When we got in, we of course, were told to go in.  With the girls, we had to take turns to go in and out.  When the little girls were out, we boys, were instructed, not to go outside.  When we do go out, there was a special for the boys, to be at.  When they got the little girls to go in, then, they allowed us boys to go outside.  Soon after we had been outside, I was instructed to go inside.  I didn’t know why, I was told to go in.  When I got in, I was brought to the boy’s washroom, where we had several toilets.  And I noticed there was someone who put into the toilet, the entire toilet paper.  Someone flushed it and it got so full that it overflowed.  It was so full that it spilled all over the floor, and there were toilet paper all over the floor.  Then, they(Sisters) started to interrogate us little ones about it.  They knew, I did not do it.  As long as they pointed at me, then they said, it was me, who did it, there was no question about it. 


      Peter Irniq:  Was there someone who told on you?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It was a fellow-child.  When I was being pointed at, they said, it was me.  I tried to tell them, I didn’t do it as I knew, I didn’t do it.  I was blamed for it.  When they got to know it was not me, but it was already to late, to correct it, then it became me, who did it.  The Sisters made sure of that.  Then, they dragged me to go to bed. 


      Peter Irniq:  During the broad daylight?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  During the afternoon.  It was after, we had finished schooling in the afternoon.  The next day, I had to prepare a toilet paper like this.  See those little lines and blocks on the toilet paper?  The next day, they made me, prepare this toilet paper into three little pieces like this, on this toilet paper.  They made me to fix them up and set them up, on top of each other, for other people to use.  For a time, it was only me, who was doing that, but then, it became all of us doing this.  We would use them to blow your nose and to wipe your ass.  That entire exercise became a rule! 


      Peter Irniq:  And only because the toilet was overflowing?!


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, only because the toilet overflowed.  I was not responsible for it.


      Peter Irniq:  Did they find out, it was not you who did it?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I don’t think, they ever found out.  Also, at one time, some one broke a window.  I never know to this day, why I was blamed for these things, often.  One of my fellow-children, blamed me for it.  At home here at that time, I never knew anything about a window.  The last thing I would have thought of, is to break a window, let alone, not knowing, that a window would break.  They said, it was me, who broke the window.  Again, they put me to bed, in the day time.  I was of course, not sleepy at all!  We never got any orientation what-so-ever.  For one thing, we were not told about the windows being able to break easy.  When they thought, we did something, they put us to bed.  Then, I went to bed again.  We must have been thought of as foolish children.  As a child, I didn’t think, they were a big deal for us to be put in bed.  When I was younger, thinking back about the way, we were treated,  I used to think, “good, they have all died!”  Now, I don’t think that.  At that time, I used to think, since they did so many bad things to us, I used to think, they got what they deserve.  As a result, they will not be able to do anything like that to anyone else.  But, that was how things were done at that time. 


      Peter Irniq:  Are those types of punishments, that were part of the rules?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, those were the ways of punishing us, instead of teaching us, they totally avoided teaching us or informing us the right way.  They would punish us, and wanted us to know, before hand, that these things were not the right way.  They expected us to know things, that we did not know.  They had an attitude that, you should know about these things, before hand, that they were wrong ways of doing things.  The minute we got to Chesterfield Inlet, they got us to become adults, immediately!  It looked like that.


      Peter Irniq:  As a young boy, when you lived near Iglulik or around Iglulik, and when you suddenly spilled the toilet bowl, would have been punished severely by your mother?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No!  I know, I would not have been punished.  If you have an accident not on purpuse, people know.  He didn’t do this on purpose.  People knew, when you did things on purpose.  If I did something like that at home, I would not have been punished for it, either by my mother or my father.  About these things, they brought us up, totally differently, in Chesterfield Inlet.


      Peter Irniq:  They introduced you to a totally foreign culture, that was not part of Inuit culture?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  When I first went to Chesterfield Inlet, I did not at all know, English.  No wonder, and it’s not surprising that I never entered a classroom before.  As soon as I entered the classroom in Chesterfield Inlet, the teacher opened the window, and threw out my Inuit language, out the window, immediately!  My language in Inuktitut was then, left outside!  We were then taught to speak English!  They allowed us to do things, with such force or vigour!  Inside the classroom, you are not to speak Inuktitut!  If you speak Inuktitut, you will pay for the consequences!  If you speak it, you will be hit a with a large measuring tape, a yard stick, and hit on your hand. 


      Peter Irniq:  That was if you spoke in Inuktitut language?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes!  If you spoke in Inuktitut inside the classroom.


      Peter Irniq:  When you first left Iglulik, were you not able to speak in English, at all, as well?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes. Absolutely!


      Peter Irniq:  And you were eight years old?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  We always lived at a small outpost came.  We never lived in a community.  And the Qablunaat(White People), who were in Iglulik, did not go to outpost camps.  Those of us who lived in outpost camps, were all Inuit, and all spoke Inuktitut language.  Only in Inuktitut, since time immemorial. 


      Peter Irniq:  Now that you are an adult, do you speak to your fellow-Inuit in Inuktitut, since long time ago?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I normally do.  But, when you go out to different places, and when people speak a different dialect, then you feel, maybe they won’t understand me, speaking my own dialect, then you sort of have to speak in English.  When you go into a different community, whose dialect is different, then you have to do this but here in our community, I try to speak Inuktitut all the time, to my fellow-community members. 


      Peter Irniq:  When we were in Chesterfield Inlet, at that time, one of the things that was really wonderful for us, was the movies, and we would go to the movies, every Friday night, it seemed.  You mentioned earlier that you had punishements, and knowing the fact that, going to see movies, were one of our favorite past times, as we enjoyed watching cowboy movies.  If we did do something, and if we didn’t listen for example, without knowing or not on purpose, we would have been told, “no picture show for you tonight on Friday”.  Do you remember this as well?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Some were made to do this, and it was done to me as well.  I used to be  very envious of the children going to the movies, and again, my punishment was to go to bed, again.  I would be in bed, wide awake.  I was “bad” in their eyes, so they would stop me from going to the movies. 


      Peter Irniq:  It was really fun going to the movies.


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It was wonderful but sometimes you think the other way as well.  Sometimes, when you didn’t feel like going to a movie, especially when someone said, what we are going to watch tonight is a scary movie, so you didn’t really wanted to go to a movie but, they let you go anyways and told be “part of it”.  You had to go along.  We had to follow all these, and we were not free to not to them. 


      Peter Irniq:  So, when we did things that we liked  doing, we would be punished for them, if they thought, we were doing things, against their will?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, the punishment that used to get, was very big for what we thought were for small things.  When you did things without knowing or what they appeared to be small things, you would get a severe punishment for it.  At one time, we walked to the land, going out to check our fox traps, then when we got home, we were cold, and it was not a wonder, it was cold outside.  We put all our boots into one spot, and you will obviously remember, Sister Girard.  She spoke French fluently, as a French woman.  She also spoke some Inuktitut.  She was also learning to speak English.  She started to speak to us in English and there were quite a few of us, sitting on the floor.  I started to imitate how she was speaking in English.  She came over to me when she found out, took me to dormitory and had got me to sit on the floor.  I was trying my best to apologise to her about what happened.  But, she just told me to sit on the floor.  When it was 12 o’clock, she came over, and told me to go for lunch.  I responded by saying, “you told me to sit down, I am going to remain sitting.” 


      Peter Irniq:  Our big house, the place where we slept, can you describe it?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Where she had me sitting down, she got me to have lunch, then after lunch, she got me return to our dormitory.  She then, got me to sit on the floor again.  She got me to sit on the floor around 10:30 in the morning,  had a quick lunch, got me to sit again in the dormitory, finally at 3 p.m., when she said, it was time for my bath, she got me to stand up.  That was how it was, and it was a long period of time.  Later on, when I became an adult, I went to see where we used to sleep, it was one huge room.  It had beds, all lined up like this, and there were quite a few.  They may have been a row of six this way, and perhaps 24 rows this way.  There might have been about 40 beds, as there was may be 40 boys, that went to school.  The beds were all lined up very straight this way and that way, in one huge bedroom, the dormitory.  At each end of the dormitory, our supervisors had their individual rooms, where they slept. 


      At one time, I was curious about where they used to pee, especially since they had huge dresses, as Qablunaat.  When I got older and became an adult, and was free to do what I wanted to do, I went to see their bedrooms.  Apparently, they shared one washroom, between the two bedrooms, where they slept.  I had overcome my curiosity.  Also, some beds could be on top of each other for some.  Perhaps, you were there or had gone to where else, at that point.  These were particularly set aside for the big boys.  At one time, they had me sleeping on top bunk.  I fell off the bunk bed, at one point! 


      Peter Irniq:  I think, I was no longer there.


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  I think, there I was taught a pretty good schooling, there.  There was loud siren that they had, whether it was night or not.  And they were teaching us what to do, when that happened.  There was a door way from our dormitory, and then there were stairs from there.  We would wrap a blanket completely, and used to go outside, when there was a practice drill.  We did this at night, even though, we had been a sleep.  We would go down the steps and went outside, even though, it was cold outside.  No one froze.  I think, we were taught pretty good about this then. We were also taught pretty good, if there was an emergency, especially taught not to panic.  I don’t think, I learned very well, when I was a “trader” at the coop here, when the store was on fire, I became panicky.  It was extremely scary! 


      Peter Irniq:  If in fact, there was a fire at the hostel and there were about 70 or so, boys and girls, together.  Where do you think, they would have send us to?  Have you been told, where we would have gone to? 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, for sure?  Not at all, we were told nothing, the only thing they taught us, was how to get out of the building, in case, there was a fire.  We kind of knew about this prior, as we were told that we would have fire drill training.  If there was a real fire, this is where, you are going to go to.  No one told us about this.  Perhaps, they would have send all of you to the school. 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, perhaps.  Maybe to the hospital.  I am not sure, where they would have taken us to.  I know one thing for sure, they would not have taken us to Inuit homes, at that time.  The local  Inuit there, as our fellow-Inuit, we used to try and make friends with them, by visiting them.   It was fun to visit local Inuit, at that time.  But when our Supervisors found out that we were visiting, we would then again be told to go to bed, as part of the rules applied to us.  They would get the boys together and the girls together but separate from each other.  The boys were gathered and were then asked, as to “who have you visited?”  When the question was asked, all of the boy’s hands went up.  I did not put up my hand, as I did not participated visiting.  When there were only a few us, perhaps five of us, who did not visit the local Inuit.  All the others, who put up their hands, indicating that they had visited, were all put to bed, as punishment.  They apparently did the same thing to the girls.  Those who did not visit, came downstairs, they were not many, perhaps seven.  Those who indicated visiting, apparently were put to bed to punish them.  Those of us, who were “better” than the others, they got us together.  They got us to play bingo, and had placed various things on the table, for prizes.  Then, we were playing bingo, as though it was a real bingo game.  While participating at a bingo game, I suddenly remembered, that I visited certain people.  As soon as I remembered, the supervisors there seemed to know all about what happened.  I became very scared!  I wanted to tell them out loud that I had done this, while playing bingo at the same time.  I was actually quite struggling to tell.  I figured, the supervisors knew about this, wow, it was scary!  I wasn’t doing this on purpose.  If I had remembered earlier about my previous visit to the local Inuit, I would have been put to bed right away, along with the others.  Only when we got together, I remembered my visit, it became extremely scary.  If they found out about this, I would have been considered a lair.  Now at least, that’s in the past. 


      Peter Irniq:  When we were made to trap foxes at that time, how much money did you get for one fox, that you caught?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  What I remember about this was that one fox was worth $3, at that time. 


      Peter Irniq:  That was in 1958.


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Around that time, 58, 59. One pelt was worth $3, so I got seven foxes, that entire year.  I got a lot of money, totally $21.  I was told that I had $21 and then was told, I could order things from the catalogue.  When she brought a catalogue in front of me, I was looking through it with anxiety, right through it.  And then, wow, I found a rifle, a 22 calibre.  There was no cartridge and only allowed to put one bullet, at a time. 


      Peter Irniq:  Yes, you load, only one bullet at a time.


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, if you shoot, take out the empty bullet and then put another one in. It was that kind.  I bought a rifle.  It cost something like $14.19.  Wow!  Then, I was looking and found beautiful wrist watches.  They were very cheap.  Now, I bought those two for less than $21.  I then added several other things which I bought with the rest of the money.  That was how, I started to buy things.  The big thing was, I even bought a rifle.  I bought these things with the seven foxes that I got that year.  When you consider the 22 with no cartridge today, they cost a lot of money now.  It was fun, at that time. 


      Peter Irniq:  Did you have money left over?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No, we had to make sure, we spent them all.  As we had to spend all of it, I bought three things with the money.  Prior to that, my father sent to me $2 at that time. 


      Peter Irniq:  This must have been a lot of money.


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:   When I got the $2, it was huge money!  It was taken by our Supervisor right away.  After the school was over, I asked, if I could go to the store with the money.  So, we went to the store to the Hudson’s Bay Company.   You know these brown papers like this, I loaded up with things, with the money I bought it, it was right full.  It was full of things, that are really useful things.  I bought sweets with him, such as candies, chocolate bars and gums.  After I had spent a dollars, then I still had a dollar left over, to spend.  I saved it for future so that I could use it, sometime down the road.  At that time, things were very cheap.  Wow! 


      Peter Irniq:  When you entered the classroom for the first time, do you remember what it looked like inside?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No really.  The thing that I remember most was when we were brought inside the classroom that, they opened the window, and then throw  out your Inuit language outside.  They closed the window, and then started to teach us in English. 


      Only when I got  a bit bigger, perhaps during the third year, or second year of schooling,  I wanted to go to the washroom.  The immediate answer was flat NO.  It’s not a wonder, I needed to pee.  The answer was flat no.  Then, it became completely hopeless.  Here I was trying to learn something in school, at the same time, I needed to pee so badly, knowing full well that my teacher did not allowed me to go to the washroom.  So finally, I was asked to help someone, perhaps it was Karlik or Komaksiutiksaq, who had requested some help to fill up a water tank with water.   They chose me to go.  When I got chosen to go, I went to the furnace room, and started to fill the water tank with water.  Then, over there was a doorway.  Here, I should just gone out and peed outside but didn’t.  But I guess, hearing the water running,  I peed in my pants, by accident, as I could no longer help it.  I tried to hold on to my pee but as soon as it started go, it went all the way.  Here, I could have just gone out and peed, as no one would have caught me.  I was scared.  When I peed, my pants got all went, no wonder.  It was  12 o’clock at this point, I left with the other students to go to the hostel to eat.  Here, I was all wet.  If the supervisors found out about this, I would have been beaten by them.  They could have done anything to me.  I just continued using my wet pants.  Only when Saturday came along, we used to change our clothing.  We wore our clothing for entire week but when Saturday came along, we would be allowed to have a bath, and only then, we would change our clothes.  My pants were wet at first, but as I was using them, for what looked like an entire week, they dried up.  I kept using them all the way, I must have gotten pretty stinky.  I was really scared of the supervisors.  If they knew, they would have done something to me. 


      I remember one other time about the other children.  The weather was some what like this outside, when snow was beginning to melt(in May).  These children were playing outside when the surface became wet and as a result they got all wet.  Well, I remember the Sisters ordered them inside, told them to take their pants down, and started whipping them, with the belts.  That is what they might have done to me, if they found out I was wet from peeing my pants. 


      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember some students because they could not speak English and ask the teacher, “I would like to go to the washroom” that they ended up having an accident inside the classroom and peed their pants?  Have you ever notice some of those?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I actually did not notice anyone.  I think, that was sometimes obvious for both boys and girls as well.  It was extremely difficult to try to tell the teacher that you needed to go.  This was a hard part for us, as we did not speak fluent English, because we were real Inuit to begin with.  And when we needed to go to the washroom, they didn’t think, it was the major problem.  That was how, they treated us.  I just never got anything done to me, because I was hiding things very much. 


      Peter Irniq:  Was there a teacher teaching Inuktitut inside the classroom?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Not right inside the classroom itself. But, just outside of the school, there was a workshop, so that gentleman from Kangir&iniq(Rankin Inelet) Pierre Karlik, used to teach us how to make toy sleigh, he taught us some Inuit cultural ways, even though, it was in a small way.  That was only at that place and when you got inside the actual classroom, then you have nothing in Inuktitut, what-so-ever. 


      Peter Irniq:  Did you learn to make fish net there?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, at home, where we were.  They were fun to do!  I used to finish, two spools at a time.  We used to stand next to each other making nets, which was fun part.  And the other fun part was when we were trying to see who could finish first.  So, we used to have a competition, as to who, could finish the net first.  I can and know how to make fish nets, but I buy the ones that are already made, ready for use, from the store.  The first one I made over there, I gave it to my grandfather.  I made three nets in three years.  The first two I made I gave them to my grandfather and his brother.  The third one I made, I gave it to my father.  So we made fish nets.  The floats were not included from the store, so we made floats out of ordinary wood.  We made them very good looking.  We learned to make things like that, at that time.  They really were wonderful. 


      Peter Irniq:  What about the priests, did you have catechisms?  Did they come around to teach as well?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, they came and to preach about religion.  They taught us, inside our classrooms. When they came to our home, they did not talk about it. 


      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, we had all kinds of rules, in which, many of those have quite a lot of impact on all of us, in every which way.  Many Survivors talked a great deal about how, we used to be abused, as a result, we have to have a healing for life, and it is a real healing for us.  Do you have something to tell us about this?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I cannot  really talk about it, in depth.  I cannot talk about it to it’s end.  I don’t think, I can even talk about it in every detail.  I will probably jump from issue to issue.  Well, when I first got there, I was taught about praying, believing.    I can speak about praying and it’s something that is good.  We would go to pray at 6:30 in the morning, started the church service at 7 a.m.,  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  On Sundays, at 6:30, then later in the morning, at 10:30. And after lunch at 3 p.m., then 7 in the evening.  Four times a day.  Then, on Monday, during the week, we would say the rosary, every day, right after school, at our hostel, for entire year.  That first year, I remember it very well.  But, the next year, it was not as much as it was during the previous year.  But, I like it.  To this day, I am not angry about the church services or prayers we had.  Whenever I can go to church, I go to church, at every opportunity.  But the thing is, because of who the priests and Angilican are today.  It is not what they were.  This is why, I can go to church today.  In Chesterfield Inlet, there was that darn person, who tried to make friends with the children, in (a sexual way).  If that person is here and working here today, I would not be going to church whats-so-ever!  And to think of this, it is not what these priests were then, I am able to go to church today.  And I struggle to try and make sure, that these church people we have today, are not those of what we had at that time, as a result, I am able to go to church today.  I am not praying to those people, I think they are sent to as messengers to preach about believing.  But, when those others were doing things that they were doing to us, it makes you very angry.  Looking back, it makes you extremely angry.  I never had any real close friends, I think, because I was put to bed too many times.  My fellow-children used to turn on me.  My fellow children used to point fingers at me.  It makes you think, that was the only kind of friend I had and accepted it.  Looking back about it, it angers me very fast.  Having talked about it somewhat, I am now able to leave it behind, more so than before.  Now that I can leave it behind me, I can now refrain from thinking about it.  It taught me a great deal of lesson and I have seen many people, who done this sort of thing here in our community.  I have never wanted to pass on this issue to our children.  Looking back to what happened to us in the past over there, it sometimes, makes me think that, “good  now that these people are gone, those who have done wrong to us”.  It is not a wonder, that these people did things that they were not supposed to do. 


      Why is it, that Catholic priests are not supposed ?  How come the Grey Nuns cannot have husbands?  We are all made to want, all of us.  I believe that this topic should be considered seriously by the Pope.  That is precisely what I think about.  This business of wanting, will always be around.


      I also hear of Anglicans who went to schools as well.  Those of us who were brought up as Roman Catholics, we were the ones, who attended that school over in Chesterfield Inlet.  And also, others who went to other schools, they were sexually abused.  It’s exactly the same way.  I wonder why, this is such so strong.  I don’t want to let go of my beliefs.  As a result, as long as I can go to church, I will.  But, whatever I learned in Chesterfield Inlet, in terms of praying and in terms of the faith, I will use it.  I know that I did not get them from the priests and Christian brothers, at that time.  We were taught about religion but this faith is much bigger.  This is why, I am able to go to church.  I think, sometimes we do not consider those, who were hurt.  This is how, I can say it. 


      Peter Irniq:  Those things, for example, if you don’t want to answer my question, it’s okay but if you want to answer it, that is okay.  Those who were sexually abused at that time, the children, or as very small children, if we were at home, we would not have been abused like that, as it is not in the culture of the Inuit, those who were sexually abused, they are healing today, forever or lifetime.  They want to heal since then, from there.  What would you say to them, your fellow-Inuit?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Well, I cannot say it.  But, I am aware of a need to feel.  A need for feeling  of needing to  help a child, because, he/she is a  child.  Sexually abusing a child, is not helping the little child.  A little child doesn’t seem to feel as a child but when they start to grow, and become aware of things, they can get angry.  He will have a reason to be angry.  I think, we need to think further ahead.  Ever since then, what happened to us, has been following us, this is how I see it.  As we grew up, we kept holding on to what happened to us over there, and in the end, we are very angry about it.  As for me, I have been able to heal about what happened as I have been able to get it out in to public, not particularly to yourself but it has healed me much more.  I have been able to heal great deal more from it.  I am able to think more about the fact that, “let’s not do these things to little children.”   Children do not think about these things.  When they become older, they can think for themselves.  Sometimes, they are made to take some things, they are going to be angry about later on. 


      Peter Irniq:  When they were sexually abused as little children, as a result, their childhood was taken away from them?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, that is right.  When they sent me to Chesterfield Inlet to school, I think, it was their attitude that I should be knowledgeable like an adult, at that instant.  This is probably how, we were treated during the time, we were away and for those of us, who were sent away.  Even some of those children, who were not sent out, they were also abused by some teachers.  They forget to notice the fact that they are children!  It’s nice that we have children, they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do, if they want to play in the puddle of water, that’s okay.  The thing is, when you did that in Chesterfield Inlet, then guaranteed, you were going to be whipped.  We were taught to do adult things right away.  Now, you do things the way, adults do, that was how we were treated. 


      Peter Irniq:  Those who were supposed to be our “mothers” and “fathers”, they didn’t have on their hands, any skills, to do with parenting?  Is that right?  It seems like, they did not have any love?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Perhaps yes.  But, maybe because, our culture was too different to their culture.  We even had a Grey Nuns, a Sister, who was an Inuk.  She was just an ordinary employee, so she could defended us but she was not given any powers and had no strength.  She knew the Inuit ways, but she had rules to follow, so she could not do too much.  Those who had authority, had absolutely no idea about Inuit culture, that was the problem.  It was like them saying, “leave your Inuit culture behind.”  Expect instead to becoming a Qablunaat, a Whiteman.  This was what I think, was happening right away, right from the start. 


      Peter Irniq:  When they took us to go to school in Chesterfield Inlet, was it their policy to make us Qablunaat(White People)? 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It seems pretty much that way.  I could perhaps say, I do not target the people of Chesterfield Inlet, at all.  I want them to be my friends.  I want to have them as my good neighbors.  But the ones, who were our Supervisors, authorities, they seem to wanted us to become White People.  In regards to the White Man’s culture, learn it well, that was why, we had to follow what his culture was.  Today, you can go sleep and woke up at 12, these children are able to do it, they can do it.  If they totally understand Inuit culture, they can use it.  I think, they wanted us to be assimilated to becoming Qablunaat(White People).    We had to use forks to eat.  When I first using forks to eat, I could not do it at all in the beginning.  It’s not a wonder, when I lived in my hometown, I never, did really see any of these these eating utensils, prior to going to Chesterfield Inlet.  Today, we can use them properly.  My children are taking them at my own home.  At that time, we just did not know how to use them.  We used to eat frozen cow beef,  as there was absolutely no caribou.  We had maktaaq.  We had frozen Arctic Char.  We had fish, whose guts were still in the fish.  When we were going to have boiled fish, they would cut up the fish into chunks, and then, they would have their guts attached to them, that we are now going to eat boiled!  We were made to try and drink the fish broth!  Like, they had guts in them!  Then, we had to eat them.  Prior, that was not how our people did.  They could eat some of the guts but,  they used to and knew how to separate the guts, between what was good to eat and not good to eat.   But, we at the hostel had to follow their rules and eat them, the way they served them, and we had to eat them ..for sure! 


      Peter Irniq:  At our own home, we would not have eat what we ate at the hostel?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Yes, that was the case.  Here is one, I used to think of quite often.  Whenever we would be leaving for Chesterfield Inlet, my mother used to make me brand new seal skin boots,  that were water proof, but when we got to the Hostel, they were taken away and they gave us new, shoes.  When we got back home to Iglulik, they didn’t appear, they didn’t come back home with us.  My mother used to ask, what ever happened to your seal skin boots?  The only answer I used to give her was, “I don’t know”.  She thought, we would be using them while we were over there.  The thing was, when we left from here, we used them, that was the last time we saw them.  We never knew anything about what happened to them, even though, our mothers worked really hard to make them well, chewing and softening the soles, sewing the entire boots, we used them once and after that, that was it, we never saw them again.  What happened to them?  They just left them to rott!  Should we try to do something about that?  I don’t know.  I think, there is something out there, that we can do something.  Have you had that experience?


      Peter Irniq:  My experience was exactly the same as yours.  When I got home, I check my bag, there was no kamiik(no boots). 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Here they were, our mothers worked really, really hard to sew those boots.  They sewed them really well, to make them look nice.  How do we retrieve those boots.  I sometimes think of what to do about this. 


      Peter Irniq:  Today, if we could have another meeting, as long as we are alive.   We now meet about the things that happened to us, and we met in Chesterield Inlet, in 1993, July 5 to 9.  We talk about bad things, I mean, not bad things but things that touched us personally, things that had impact on us, and we talked about those issues for five days.  The things that we talked about, things that we worked so hard about, did they help our fellow-Inuit?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  To me, yes.  When we were preparing to go there, I really did not wanted to go, because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get into.  I was think of wonderful times or maybe I wasn’t going to make other people happy but when we got there, we let out, what was bothering us for a long time.  That part had a great deal of help to me.  Perhaps, my friends had felt the same way as me.  Suppose we have another gathering, I think, we could bring out issues that are much more positive this time around.  Over there, we talked a lot about negative impacts on each one of us. 


      Peter Irniq:  If we were to have another reunion and talk about our successes at the Residential School in Chesterfield Inlet.  Would this be helpful?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I would like it very much to talk about the big help this educational facility has had to us who went to Chesterfield Inlet.  Looking back to the time that I was in Chesterfield Inlet, it was not all bad.  The system of moving education, was extremely good.  Looking back, how did we retrieve so much of Inuktitut language, from our parents?  Over there, they wanted to begin stopping Inuktitut in the classroom, but modern education in southern way, something I gain a lot of understanding from.  Can we talk about the foundation of the schools in our communities.  We already know that we are trying to keep on our hands, our Inuktitut language.  We are trying to make sure this happens.  But, education in English,  it is becoming a way of life for Inuit.  I know, we are not going to return to the traditional ways of the Inuit, completely.  Never-the-less, we have to take pride in the fact that our Ancesters have brought us here to this day, even though, it was a long journey.  It think, it would have many uses, if we could meet again in Chesterfield Inlet and talk about the modern education system.  Like, how can we improve the current education system, within Nunavut? 


      Peter Irniq:  Most of all, do you think the Government of Nunavut could learn a great deal from us, who have gone to the Residential School? 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Some of it, yes.  They could learn some from it.  It is quite obvious.  For example, you Peter Irniq, have participated in the making the Government of Nunavut, perhaps, those who have gone to school there, could provide more strength to the Government of Nunavut.  Especially with what we are trying to do today. 


      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to school there at a residential school, we did not learn almost nothing about Inuit culture.  But looking at the Survivors who went there, they appear to be very strong people.  I think, they could also vision the future.  Also, we had very strong parents at that time.  They knew their Inuit culture in a very big way, and practiced it well.  It would seem to be that these young people who are going to school today, would benefit from learning more about Inuit culture and where Inuit came from.  Especially at the high school level.  If they take more of their own culture, do you think, they could use this for their future strength?  Is this true?  Does it seem to have any truth to it?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:   To think of it, it seems to be true.  I think, we have to return to our past.  For example, in Ottawa, Nunavut Sivuniksavut is working very hard.  They have a lot of responsibility.  What they do is they learn things down there, that they could have learned up here and when that happens, they say, oh, really, we could have learn that at home.  They finally come to that conclusion, when they are learning more about Inuit culture, when they got to Ottawa.  Perhaps, what they learn down there, they could be transferred to Nunavut and put into practice inside the classrooms in Nunavut.  I think, they could gain a lot more knowledge.  Talking about my own children, they do not have a complete knowledge about Inuit culture.  We have not taught them.  We were taught by our parents.  And because, I have other responsibilities, I don’t have all the time in the world, to teach them all.  They should be put inside the classrooms.  They would have a lot of people to our students. 


      Peter Irniq:  Regarding as to what happened to us in Chesterfield Inlet, in terms of what happened to us about abuses and regarding our education system, what would you like to tell our southern Qablunaat in particular in the rest of Canada? 


      Joe Ataguttaaluk: To tell the people down there, maybe if I was a big boss..


      Peter Irniq:  Suppose, you became a Prime Minister of Canada…


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Inuit live here and they know about their land more than anyone else.  They should be asked more questions, what do you want for your land?  What would you want for your territory?  Today it seems as though, we are just put or located here.  Even though, Iglulik is here, and here is what it needs…as a commuity..we are just given things here and there.  And the things that Inuit truly need, they are not coming up, they are not popping up.  Just using Nanisivik as an example, there are no more people there. 


      And now, they just want to give it to the Military.  Why does Military have to be here?  There are lots of other things that need to be considered.  We need instead that we as Inuit can enhance what we need.  Where are they?  I think, these things need to be felt more by the Canadian Government.  Government always, “we have no monies”.  It is pretty obvious now that the designed for Nunavut, particularly of what Inuit need, priorities, things that can allow us move forward, we need to see the money increased.  And for those who are the survivors of residential school, many of them are hurt and need healing.  They say, there is some money for healing but, they are not at all easy to get into.  They seem to be really hard to get into, unless, you have all kinds of policies or have to go through so much red tape to finally get something.  If you can get through all that, then you can finally get some of it.  I think for another, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools, only has five-year mandate.  But as long as you have rules that are completely tied up, then, it’s not going to be easy.  It is then, it seems, useless to get into it.  Or trying to get something from it.   I don’t know how.


      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to a residential school, they were trying to have us assimilated into the White Man’s world, and not having any Inuit cultural programs for a long time, afterwards.  The school opened in 1953 and closed in 1969. When was it have you decided to retrieve your Inuit identity, or your Inuitness?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Not very long ago.  After Chesterfield Inlet, I returned home, probably in 1969 or 68.  Probably in 1968, I returned home for good.  So, when I got here, I started to work and started to make money, around 1968.  And also, I wanted to take some of the culture of the Qablunaaq(White Man).  But, my father was a full-time hunter, he would be out hunting with his dog team and would return, so my mother would tell me, “go and help your father”.  I tended to follow my mother’s instructions.  Perhaps, it was around that time, that I started to return to the ways of the Inuit, particularly Inuit culture.  It was like this, when my father came home from hunting, then if my mother tells me to go and help my father, then, I would do whatever she wanted me to do, to help my father.  Today, when they are told to do that, they seem to be able to tell you, “wait”.  At that time, it was not possible to say, wait.  When you were told do something, you had to do it, as it was to help someone.  A need to listen and follow what you were told by your mother, was an Inuit way of life and part of our culture.  I think, it was around 1968, I decided immediately, to take back my culture. 


      Peter Irniq:  The teachers who hit us with a yard stick, when they heard us speaking Inuktitut, and they used to severely punish us, it seemed as though, they went overboard, I think, as Inuit, we think that…are you carrying anger towards them?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Part of it, yes, it used to be.  It was during the earlier years that I used to be more angry but since then, I have been talking about it quite a lot, I tend to be carrying less anger.  But, following Inuit culture, if a little child was not behaving, we used to be able to spank them.  Looking back at their system, when the punished us, it was like, they could have just spanked us but they used to go overboard with the punishments, I think, that part broke us apart.  Then later on, the government made law, that you are not to touch your child.  They then, broke more of the Inuit unwritten laws.  Now, up to this day, we are not to do anything at all, to our children, in a way of discipline.  As long as they are able to speak, if you do anything to them, then, they tell the police and the Social Workers get involved, that is the way, they are today.  If the teachers at that time would have been reported about what they were doing, then they could have been dealt with as well.  They hit us!  If they could have used Inuit culture and only spank us, without needing to use a weapon.  I would not have mind so much, if only they spanked us to discipline us, I would not have mind so much but, the yard stick was three feet?  They used those to hit you, and hit you hard!  Then, they could have been dealt with by the Police and by the Social Services!  No one was moved or cared about to do anything about what they did to us.  I used to be very angry at those but having gotten them out of my system, I am no longer angry about them. 


      Peter Irniq:  I have no more questions, Joe, do you have anything else to tell?


      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Hmmm..well, when we were in Chesterfield Inlet, referring to men, especially those, who were our age group, for those of us, who were from the hostel, I wonder why, we allowed ourselves  or for whatever reason, we had them as our enemies or opponents.  For this reason, I have apologized to them.  To those, who lived in their own homes, we were friends inside the classroom.  But, when we got outside of the classroom, we then used to start a fight.  Looking back, I think to myself, what was the use?  What a waste of time, it was!  I have told them personally, I was sorry about this.  And I was very thankful to Andre Tautu, who came from Chesterfield Inlet, he also acknowledged and apologized to us.  I don’t know why, we were doing that, perhaps, because we were just being little children.  I just wanted to emphasize this. 


      Peter Irniq:  Thank you very much to you.  Wonderful!  






      Year of Production: 2008

      Country: Canada

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      uploaded date: 10-12-2008