Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Simeonie Kunnuk Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2009
Interview with Simeonie Kunnuk Turquetil Hall/Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School Survivor, Ottawa, Ontario
Peter: Please feel very welcome Simeonie.
Peter: Prior to going to school in Chesterfield, can you speak about your life style in Iglulik area?
Simeonie: Yes. I can speak a little about that. We used to travel by dog team quite a bit when I was still in my mother’s amuti(woman’s coat for carrying babies on their backs). I can remember riding on the qamutiik(sleigh) and remembering very well, when I fell off the qamutik, as the dogs and qamutiik made a sudden turn. It was just when we were about to begin our journey, when I was told to get on the qamutiik and then, when it made a sudden turn, I fell off to the ground. Peter: What then?
Simeonie: Then they left, and when they left, I thought, they were going to leave without me. I was told to come, come. I was walking and they said, run, run!! It was my mother who told me to run and it was in the spring time. We were going along the beach, so the dogs and qamutiik, were making turns here and there. When we passed the beach area and got to the main ice, it became comfortable riding and very pleasant.
I don’t’ remember exactly where we were living but my older brother Qattuurainnuk was shoveling something, seemed way down, perhaps some cached meat. I remember having to have a shit. I hesitated to tell about it for a time. And then I told him, I really had to go. He told me to go home and go to my mother. So, I started running as fast as I can, and then, and as I was running, I could not longer hold it, I had an accident and shit in my pants. I remember this very well.
The other time was when we were going out walking with my brothers. I was sometimes denied from going, perhaps I was too small. I would then go back to my mother and told her, I wanted to go walking as well. At first, I was denied but allowed to go anyways. When I was allowed to go, then they all walked the short distance, perhaps thinking, I was too small to walk a greater distance. Then, I remember watching them picking berries, such as cranberries. I remember these things. Peter: You had a very happy life?
Simeonie: Yes, we would go traveling by dog team and I would go participate in boating as well. I remember wanting to go out boating with the other. Perhaps the boat was not that big and as a small boy, I was able to climb on it. When I got in, I put on a coat, that was several sizes too big for me. After we had been out boating, I remember eating, the soft part of the rib, which probably belonged to a bearded seal. It was so delicious! I remember this well. We seemed to have plenty to eat as well. It seems, we were away often. Sometimes, I would not see my father and other relatives for quite sometime. Men were away for sometimes, hunting.
Peter: What were your favorite part of your life?
Simeonie: Boating, yes, being part of the group boating. When I returned, there were no dog teams left, only using skidoos. I remember dog teams seemed to go fast but found out that they were not that fast, but able to travel great distances. As I got older and able to do more things, I remember going to traveling by dog team. I remember having to run often, along side of the qamutiik. Sometimes, I would left a bit behind, while running. But then, I would catch up to them again.
Peter: How old were you when you were sent to Chesterfield Inlet? Simionie: I was maybe around six or seven years old. I think, after my older brother Akkiutaq had fell in the water, I was being allowed to go. I remember my aunt, who was my sister, but called her aunt, as the Inuit culture dictates, I was to call her my aunt, as she was named after my aunt. I was told, I would see her later on as they had left before us. I was thinking I would see Qattuurainnuk, my older brother. But, they had gone to Churchill, Manitoba. I thought, I was going to see him in Chesterfield Inlet but did not. And then I did not see my auntie(my sister) for a long time, but I remember, when we went to church, she was sitting on the other side and we men, were sitting on this side as well. Men were on the right hand side of the church and the ladies were on the left side of the church, that was how it was set up. I remember seeing her on the other side.
At one point, I was trying to get close to her as I was very attached to her and loved her. When I was trying to get close to her, I remember being pushed away, and told, we were not to be touching each other and not be close. This was when we were going to have our picture taken, apparently.
Peter: Can you talk about the first time you got to Chesterfield Inlet, after you landed there by airplane? Can you talk about that?
Simeonie: I don’t remember quite that much about having to stop in between. I remember, it was quite an impression that we were riding on an airplane. After we landed there, we were apparently picked up by a boat. I perhaps did not have a coat, and I think, it was Sister Arcand, who put on my back, probably her jacket. She appeared to look, really tall! I remember that as something when we first arrived. My first impression was that, there seemed to be a lot of things around.
Peter: Did it seemed, there were a lot of houses?
Simeonie: Yes, yes. There were huge buildings as well. They had two storeys. One waa apparently the hospital and the other the hostels.
Peter: When you arrived to Chesterfield Inlet, who came to meet you?
Simeonie: I think, there were several children but I particularly remember Sister Archand. I remember that darn Brother Parent, who seemed to want to try and kissed me. I remember spitting on the ground. I seemed to have a particular memory of this. That darn man! That was how it was.
Peter: About your parents, can you talk about this when you were leaving from Iglulik to go to Chesterfield Inlet?
Simeonie: I remember, it was seemed it was only my mother, perhaps my father was out. I remember telling her, I wanted to go and see my auntie. For sure, I will see her, and I wanted to see her.
Peter: In Chesterfield Inlet?
Simeonie: Yes. I thought, I was going to return. That was what I was thinking. Right after I see her, I thought for sure, I was going to return. It was like that.
Peter: When you were going to go to school, were your parents told about this, prior to you going to school in Chesterfield Inlet?
Simeonie: Perhaps yes, my father was told about this by Father Fournier. At first he was told that everything was all right but then, when they would return home from school, they were treated in ways, that were not right. They were we were being helped when we got over there but then found out later, this was not always the case. They were apparently being put through many hard times. And the reply was, they(the church) did not know. They were not aware of it. That was what was said.
Peter: When you were at the hostel, the Turquetil Hall, can you describe what it was like?
Simeonie: Yes. When we got there in the early stage, I remember, we used to have to get up very early in the morning. I remember the ones who were the same age as me who were trying to go outside, I think, it was Tagaaq and Simuuk Qupaaq. As our culture dictates, we were always go outside when we first got up. And that was what these two were trying to do and they were not allowed to do it. I was following along. When a Sister noticed me going out, I suddently went back to my own bed. We were not allowed to go outside, even though, the light was coming on, outside.
Also, when I first went to the school, I remembering having to go pee in a real big way. I was told by someone that, when we had to go, we were told to say, “please”. I kept trying to say, “please.” As I really had to go to pee, I could not hear and think properly. But then, I was directly to say, “please may I go to the washroom.” I properly did not exactly pronounce the words properly and having to go so badly, I was almost jumping up and down, I remember going to the washroom, even passing the lineup of boys. There were two of us, peeing in the same toilet, at the same time. That was my first lesson in learning to speak English.
Peter: Inside the classroom….
Peter: In the classroom, do you remember what kind of courses or lessons, you were learning? Do you remember what they were?
Simionie: There were some little ones and big ones, apparently letters and numbers. Then, there were A..B..and that was what they were making us do. A, B, C, D..it was like that. They were also teaching us about adding numbers, as we were lerning about the English language. Those were the most items that I remember, learning.
The other thing I remember was, it seemed we used to line up quite a lot. When we were about to go outside, we would all line up and then, when we were going to go back inside the hostel, we would all line up. When we were going to go eat, we would line up. Sometimes, some of us, would try to go first, line up in front of the others. We started to get to know the ones, we didn’t know before. Sometimes, it was fun and sometimes, it was very confusing, not knowing what to do. I then became friends, with some people in Chesterfield Inlet, especially the ones, who were the same age as me. For instance, Peter Autut, Johnny Sammurtuq, in fact, many of Sammurtuqs. Jose, I had forgotten his name. Sometimes, it was wonderful and sometimes, it was a feeling of extreme homesickness. No wonder! In part, it was extremely unhappy time.
Some of us were brainwashed. We were sexually abused, when we were very young children. I know very well today that we were sexually abused when we were six, seven and eight years old. It was extremely painful. At that time, it was very scary! You did not know what to do. We were told, “not to tell anyone”. I remember one who was older than I am, he was told by Brother Parent, not to tell anyone. Then, he told me, not to tell anyone. It was like that and I was very aware of it. I had my own mind at that point, I could hear him when he was speaking in English and at that point, I was able to understand English. When something was about to be done to us, especially to the older boys, Brother Parent, would reach into his pocket and show us all kinds of candies. Then, he would direct us to go to the washroom. Or, he would get me to go somewhere else. They, then would let us pray, separately. They would have us say the rosaries and pray. Perhaps, this was his plan, especially to the younger ones. This is what I think today.
Peter: At that time,when you were told not to tell anyone, did you wanted to tell somebody? Did you ever to tell him that you were going to complain about him?
Simeonie: For me, I had no thought of telling someone. I had no way of thing about telling someone, when he was doing all this to me. You would think that you would have told some authority or leave him all together, to somewhere. However, there was no place to go to. And when you have something being done with all this, it was hard to know, how to tell. And when you were at all unsure, about how to tell it, then he told us, don’t talk about it. For what, how and what was it? I remember all this. What was it, you were not to tell about, especially not knowing how to tell about it in the first place. It was made sure to us that this is something, we are absolutely not to talk about, especially by this one, who just did this to us.
Peter: So you had absolutely note one to complain to?
Simeonie: Yes. I was always told to say yes.
Peter: You mention that he used candies as his bait when he wanted to sexually abuse you. Did he have other things that he used as his bait?
Simeonie: No, I don’t remember. I never ate candies. Perhaps, the older ones were given candies. I remember he used to put his hand in his pocket and taking out lots of candies. I remember when we were in the room of a Sister and then in the room, in the room of Brother Parent. We were at one point put into a large room by I think, sister Rocan, Sister Allard and I think, Sister Servant. My little cousin and I were placed into a large dining room. I was asked if I had been given candies to eat. I would reply, I never had any candies. I never ate candies. Thinking back, I think, they became aware of what was happening. They knew about the room and I used to wonder, how did they know? I don’t remember him using other baits, that I don’t remember.
The other time I remember was when in our school. There was an addition to the school at that time and when something was making all kinds of thundering noises in the next room, I wanted to see what it was. But, the school teacher told me to stay in the classroom. Apparently, it was my Auntie’s teacher, who was physically hurting the pupils. He would be throwing the pupils around, against the wall, each time, he got angry. And when we went outside for recess, we used to see the older boys and girls and their teacher. I got to know as to who Mr. Demuele was, without ever meeting him. Not only did I get to know who he was, I got very scared of him. And then, I did not wanted to see him any more.
Later on, when I was in Iqaluit, I got to see him there. Apparently, he was not that big and he was skinny! He was a bully towards the children!
Peter: Was he your teacher?
Simeonie: No. This was probably because I was too young. He was teaching the older ones. I heard stories about him where Richard nearly fought him and my older brother, nearly fought him as well. I hear a bit about these incidents.
Peter: I saw your brother in person, when he almost fought Mr. Demuele. Simeonie: Oh?
Peter: When Mr. Demuele was trying to fight him, your brother fought him just immediately outside of the school.
Peter: Have you heard that he really used to punish the pupils? Have you heard about that too?
Simeonie: Yes. We used to hear him screaming at the pupils. After all, the school was not that big. You could easily hear what was going on, next door, as the walls were quite thin. It also used to be quite for a long period of time. It was like that. My teacher’s were not that bad. They used to it to us like this(makes a sign). I forget who it was, I was imitating him, and I was going like this. Then, I got hit on the hand, like this.
Peter: Was that your punishment?
Simeonie: Yes. At first it used to be really hard but I started to imitate my fellow-pupils, learning, and that was how, I started to learn.
Peter Irniq: When you were first in Chesterfield Inlet, attending school for the first while, do you remember your fellow-pupils, who wanted to go to the washroom, used to have an accident, by peeing in their pants?
Simeonie: One time, there was a little guy from Chesterfield Inlet, he was sitting down on his chair and we noticed it was wet under his seat, when we actually paid attention to what has happened, he appeared peed his pants. As it turned out, we the younger ones were not physically hurt by our teacher, when something like this happens. I actually did not see one being hurt. At least with my teacher. But, this was the main one (with a ruler) on your hand.
Peter: Was the young person did not know how to ask a question to want to go to the washroom, is that why, he had an accident? Or was it because, you were not allowed to go and pee in the washroom?
Simeonie: I think, that was what it was. There were quite a few of us who noticed him pee in his pants. Our teacher noticed him. I don’t remember much after that. I also don’t remember his name. Maybe, Mark, no, there was no Mark. Mark was a bit of a friend of mine. We were sometimes a little bit bully to others, and we were often a team.
Peter: What did you learn inside the school?
Simeonie: Oh yes, “See Spot Run”. It was about that little dog, and also, he had spots on his fur, and ears were down flat on his head. There was also Dick and Jane. Those are the ones, I remember most. We also learn about those very small A, B, C’s and just very small numbers. Oh, the other things was when I was in Iglulik at this point, doing Grade 3, I was asked what I wanted to do. I said, I wanted to travel. I also wanted to become a policeman but it was hard to figure out what you wanted to be, not knowing what you wanted to be. There were mostly only the teachers and the priests. I don’t remember so much but always remember the ones that were most difficult. It was when I moved to Ottawa, and for about five years, I attended healing sessions. I think, it was from 1993 to 1998. After this, only when I was attending to those healing sessions, I started to remember, the good times, that we had there as well. At that school, I remember older boys used to pull us with sleigh toys. I used to have happy times with those. I used to enjoy playing hide and seek. I don’t remember exactly as to how many of us but we used to team up and play hide and seek. We used to get scared of some others too, when we were playing. We used to take long walks too on the land. The bigger boys used to go and set up traps and each weekend visit them. For us smaller boys, they used to line us up, and had us, clean the floor with brooms. We used to wash the floor and wax it. They had us do all this every weekends.
Peter: At the school, was there an Inuit Teacher?
Simeonie: I don’t remember being taught in Inuktitut. I don’t remember this at all, taking place in Chesterfield Inlet.
Peter: Were you able to speak Inuktitut inside the classroom?
Simeonie: I remember having to learn English quite a lot and when we needed to go and pee, that we had to speak English to the teacher. I think, this has had a lot of impact on us and having to try and impersonate those who can speak some English, about wanting to go to the washroom. Wanting to go to the washroom was something we learned and it was quite a job, to learn it, good!
Peter: Were you made to feel ashame and be embarrassed about your Inuit culture, either by the teachers or the staff at the hostel?
Simeonie: I don’t know if I can answer that question but we were told about the Qablunaat(White People) being very good at doing things. This was something we were to understand fully. Peter: Was the school a good place to learn a lot about knowledge?
Simeonie: Some of it yes. If it had been taught and learned, it would have been easier. In some parts, we were not totally taught but startled about learning something. I think, the thing about all this, was that we were made to learn to go pee so much and made to be sad about not being able to talk in our own language. So we tried to speak English, even though, you sometimes don’t understand what it mean’t to speak English. Up to this day, I have learn some English pretty good. Sometimes, I do it on purpose, not to speak English. Sometimes, I tell the Qablunaat(the White People), I am going to teach you in Inuktitut. I won’t use the same kind of teaching tactics that we had when we were little children. We are not going to be like that. Here in the south, I can talk about like this now. Sometimes, I say it just for fun of it. Peter: When you were being taught in school at that time, were you made to feel intimidated or scared?
Simeonie: Perhaps, it was not totally understood inside the classroom but made to pray was more intimidating than schooling. When you were praying inside the church and when you started to look around, your head would be moved straight forward, like this. When you look at the person, who did this to you, then she would put it like that again. This part was really hard to know. And when they did this to you, they would say nothing about it and do it to you like that. It was hard to know.
And also, back in 1992, when I was finding my life too hard, I shorten my name, I got talking to a reporter, I don’t remember what we were talking about but I started to talk about having been sexually abused and being bullied. I wanted to get it out. Perhaps, I was beginning to understand all this very difficult period of my life in Chesterfield Inlet. I think, at that time in 1992, I told my story in News North. As a result of that, it started to come out more, even though, it was intimidating and scary at the same time. When it became more public, I knew I was not alone, as Marius, yourself and others, and it was just wonderful, knowing that I was not alone, any more. And in 1993, my life was becoming more healther and the ones that I was angry about towards the White People, they were beginning to come out more. At this point, I am feeling a bit improved, a bit better. I can now bring them out better. It is not scary any more. I now know this.
Peter: the schooling that you had in Chesterfield Inlet run by the priests, this school had a huge impact on your life, especially the ones, when you were sexually abused? Simeonie: Yes, when I was made to walk, I was abused and made to pray at the same time. I think, that broke my life very much. I was such a young child. Now that I have become an adult, I think, now I can say, I have almost totally healed.
Peter: It was like your childhood was stolen, by the priests and Brother Parent in particular?
Simeonie: Yes. I think, my ability to think as a human being, was slowed down, through the church and schooling, being sexually abused. As it turned out, it was not made totally clear about the fact that I was to have a good education, a good spirtual journey, my ability to have a good education, and my ability to lead a good social life. When I would return home, I think, they were aware of what has happened to me. They would speak to me about it and bring me to my grandmother for advice. I was also brought to the other elders for advice. I forget exactly who it was but made a very good advice to me, saying that since you were not allowed to tell anyone at that time, but you will find the right time, to be able to talk about it. After that advice, that darn Brother Parent came to Iglulik and when I was with the other children, who were my age group, perhaps, I was about nine or 10 years old, I was able to tell them about what Brother Parent used to do. My mother was apparently listening to me about this and told my father. They then told the other parents two parents, and they brought me to the Roman Catholic Mission. They were talking about that darn Brother Parent, who was quickly kicked out of Iglulik. That was like that. That was how it used to be but now, I am able to do things for myself, I am probably healed more and more at peace, and I feel I have become more complete within my life. I don’t worry too much any more. I feel, I am more free now.
Peter: Where did you get the strength to do this and move forward?
Center for Child Sexual Abuse Trauma, I went to see them for about four or five years. I also went to see a healing group from Nunavut, when they would come down here. I was beginning to understand more and more and get out whatever negative thinking I had. As I result, I had a better way of doing things and thinking more positively. You would have less negative feelings. Sometimes, when you start talking about these to others, they are startled but as for me, as I have some understanding of the issue, I am pretty comfortable talking about it. I also talk to my former school mates and talk about it. We are not as embarrassed to talk about it, as we were previously. Especially, the time, we were in Chesterfield Inlet. Also to the people, who are my age group. That’s the way, it is.
Peter: The meeting we had with Bishop in 1993 in Chesterfield Inlet, where we talked about having been abused by the Church staff. The first Apology he delivered, we totally disagreed with it. It looked as though, he did not believe us. He even told us at that time, some of your memories is foggy. That was why, we did not agree with it. Later on, we wrote his apology that he delivered in 1996 in Iglulik in February.
Simeonie: Yes, we did. How many were we, who were very brave to write his Apology. It became a genuine apology. It was a time when we wrote an apology that we agreed with. The other thing is Government is going to make an apology, apology with which, they had not totally discussed it with us. It would have been very good, if we had had an opportunity to trade ideas about it, especially in moving towards reconciliation. Perhaps, the Qablunaat and Inuit, will have to make public, something that will make us move forward. As Inuit, we can also do things. We are hesitating at the current time, however, perhaps, we will make things happen. I am hopeful.
Peter: Prime Minister is going to make an Apology to the Survivors of Residential Schools and our parents on June 11. What he will apologise about, is this something that will help us move forward or is the apology be helpful?
Simeonie: It may or may not be visible immediately, perhaps to some yes. This is something that is a very hard to do. It is something that is real. It is something that cannot be answered easily. Perhaps some people will benefit out of it quickly. And for others, it may take sometime to digest and perhaps, it may take others to benefit from it as well and be helpful.
Peter Irniq: Do you believe that Canadians have a right to know about our experiences? All Canadians?
Simeonie: If majority of Canadians know about this, it would be better. They are not all informed about it, although, it is easier now to know these from radio and various news media. There are many thousands of us, who are of the same mind about much of this issue, perhaps many were aware of it in previous times or since previous times. But some of them say, I am only finding out about this now. This is unfortunate. This was part of our life and its something that we were always aware of as Inuit. This was our way of life as children, when were being assimilated into the European world.
Peter Irniq: Are you in an agreement with the upcoming Apology?
Simeonie: Yes, it will help towards the healing for the loss of culture, language, and physical. We have been paid compensation monies for all this, it is another way of identifying the hurt, that was done to us. When the Prime Minister of Canada apologises, he will apologise on behalf of all Canadians. This will allow Candians to have a better understanding, or maybe, they won’t even understand it. I don’t know how it’s going to be really. At least, they don’t try to not respond any more to reasons why, we were sent to school in the first place. They are trying to have some answers now. It’s going to be better.
Peter: Will this open an opportunity for the Canadian government and to the Survivors, to work together to establish a better relations?
Simeonie: It will probably open up opportunities to promote harmony for Qablunaat and for us as well. Perhaps, it will provide us with an opportunity for us to understand each other better. It may allow us not to be told any longer how to live our lives, like the Qablunaat ways, they will probably consult with us more in ways of how to talk to us about our previous life styles. As it was, Inuit were living in iglus, traveling by dog teams, hunting, and that was a way of life for survival. Perhaps, we can as Inuit help to promote our way of life and benefit others. This is how, I feel.
Peter: When we were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, as traditional Inuit, did they teach you how to use a toilet paper? Do you remember this?
Simeonie: No, I don’t remember this. But, I remember about the way, we were supposed to pronounce the names of the Sisters. Anaq(shit) was what I used to say, when they were teaching me to say, Edna. Sister Anaq! I remember this particularly. I remember this very well, as I was the first one to pronounce the name properly and they gave me a cookie for pronouncing it properly.
Peter: When you were in Chesterfield Inlet, do you remember the kinds of foods, that you used to eat? Do you remember what they were?
Simeonie: I remember these eating utensils, they may have been bowls, and they were upside down, I wondered why, they were upside down. There was these cups as well. There was porridge. I remember about how I was going to eat, so I learned to eat, by watching the others. I think, I used to be left-handed. I remember being tied up right here, when we were about to eat. I used to take it off but they would tie it again. I then struggled to try and eat with my right hand. That was how, I became a right handed. Today, I can use my both hands, with ease. I don’t know why, they did not wanted me to use my left hand.
Peter: When you were learning to speak English and write English, did this benefit you?
Simeonie: Not really in English, but through understanding it yes. I am able to do this pretty well now. A,B,C’s is what I remember learning well. The other things that I remember well were learning to add arithmetic. I became more able about this one. But, it was when my father said that the Qablunaat were going to come here more and more that they had their own language and their language was different than ours, that they had different ways of learning things than us, knowing their ways, would be more beneficial to me. As a result of what he said, I decided that I was going to learn more about the English language. I was not thinking about what we were learning in Chesterfield Inlet at this point, as I was still quite startled about what happened in Chesterfield. As a result of this, I was not in the right mind to think effectively. It was when I got home here, I was able to learn more effectively. I was a young teenager at this point. I was also getting some good advice from my grandmother.
When I became an adult, I found out that Inuit were able very able people. Their ways of teaching, was already in place, as well. They were already able to teach all this through traditional ways of the Inuit, and this was and is very beneficial. Listening to them through radio, the government workers and teachers, how would I say this, I am even forgetting the Inuktitut language, listening to those announcers or speakers who go on the radio, they are very able and wonderful to hear about what they are doing. I wonder, if we were never abused, we would have been that much more able, even though, we are able at this point. We can complete our abilities as Inuit as well. Even, using our Inuktitut language as well, I know this.
Peter: Perhaps, it was because we were abused or mistreated, this is allowing us to be stronger as people?
Simeonie: Yes, we are stronger because, we were made to struggle with our lives. With what happened to us, it slowed us down but through healing, we can better complete what we are doing about our abilities to do things. I believe this is how it is.
Peter: To those who used to abuse you, what do you think of them today, are you angry at them, what are your feelings?
Simeonie: I have thought about this quite a lot. As long as I think about them, my life will be run by it all. I have thought about it, but have gone beyond it. I will re-live it I am sure, at times. But, I have to talk about it so that others who may have the same thing happen to them, may benefit from what I can offer in terms of solutions. At that time, there quite a lot of us who were taken to school and many were made to be hurt. I am thinking, this type of situation will happen in great numbers in the future. We are more careful today. We are probably going to be better at parenting with our children. We will raise them in a much better way. We have a very bright future!
Peter: What was your first Chrismas like, the one you remember first in Chesterfield Inlet. What was it like?
Simeonie: Richard was crawling on the desert. We had learn about the desert in Africa, and learn that the desert had no water at all. He became very thirsty and was crawling on all this desert. So, he was given a small cup of water, he took out his comb, put it in the cup, and decided to comb his hair. We had a really big laugh about that. It looked like he was in the desert and was really thirsty. But when he was given a cup filled with water, he took out his comb from his pocket, and decided just to comb his hair. We had a really big laugh about that.
Another time was when Paul Apak and what was his name from Repusle Bay, Baramabumbum(Christmas song), it was really a beautiful song to listen to. I think, it was little Emanuel, he was one of the smallest and was also in the play a game of being married to a little girl, they were playing husband and wife. Both of them had cute little smile, that was quite something to watch. I remember this particularly well. We were more free to do things at that point, and had various kinds of recreational games. I remember it like that. The thing was, every evening, we had to go to the church and pray all the time!! We would pray in the morning, another praying just before a meal, when we just about to have a recess, we would pray again. Then, at our hostel, there was a small little chapel, in addition to another church, in the community. We would go and pray there often, and were made to dress in our Sunday best, clothing. Our buttons were so tight that it felt as though, we were going to “hang ourselves”. We had little shoes as well, which were really hard on the heels and toes, they made lots of hard noises! I remember this one. I remember watching the little ones, getting all dressed up, when they didn’t know how to do it, they would ask about how to dress up. That was how, I spent my first Christmas time, there.
Peter: Did you like the songs that were being sung by the priests, inside the Church?
Simeonie: They were very hard to understand when they were singing. I wondered, what they were singing abouit. It sounded something like, “Dominos Dominos’..that was what they were doing..
Peter: “Dominos Vubiscum…”
Simeonie: Yes. “boobii..boobii”, I thought that was what they were singing, apparently, it was like your said. They were often trying to make us sing. Oh, there was that little Alexander, I don’t remember where he came from. I think, he was from Pelly Bay. I remember doing very bad things with him, while were praying in the church. We got caught and we were severely punished. As for me, I lied about not being part of it. Then, they turned to the little ones, including Alexander, he was so scared that he started to pee in his pants. He was severely punished, even though, it seemed, it was not that big of an issue, to punish about that he was punished about. It was fun for a while, then became no fun. I remember that about this little Alexander, he was my same height, my equal. Sometimes, we were both bad little boys, doing bad things, together. That was how we were.
Peter: When you first got there to Chesterfield Inlet, there seemed a lot of Qablunaat(White People) in the community. Do you remember things that happened to you, that were most embarrassing for you?
Simeonie: I was being told to pronounce the name Edna and not anaq(shit), Edna. They said, “it’s not anaq”. I was somewhat embarrassed about that as there were many of us at that point in the classroom. The teachers were teaching us how to pronounce names that were not Inuit names. When we were learning to pronounce those names, I was trying to be the first one all the time. At that point, I thought for sure, I was winning the pronounciations and then, someone said, “it’s not anaq, it’s Edna!” I was embarrassed about it but then it was okay, because I was the winner.
Peter: When it was time for you to go back home, was it wonderful?
Simeonie: Yes, absolutely! They would feed us more good food, gave us a lot more freedom and to be outside more often. It seemed that we can be alone more often, now that they were giving us more freedom. It was wonderful to do all this, even though, we were conditioned to follow the others all the time, like the line ups and that. You had so much freedom that you didn’t at times where to go, at times. Others, who had lots of freedom, could go any where they wanted to go and sometimes for some of us, we would follow them. The bigger ones were faster at walking so for me, I was always trying to be close to the porch, watching for the others, as to where they might be going, so that I could follow them. That was how it used to be.
I also remember the bigger boys, building an iglu. We also used to go out skating.
Peter: When you were going home for the first time, and got inside an airplane, what were you thinking?
Simeonie: It seemed to me that I was helped to go into an airplane, as I was with the little ones, who were the same age as me. When we were told we were going home, I said, “am I going to see my mother?” I was told, “Yes, you are going to see your mother and your father”. Knowing this, I think, I had a really big smile on my face. I don’t seem to remember that much when I got home. Oh yes, I got home, when they had small new wooden houses, called “Match Box Houses”. When I first left home, they had a home-made wooden home, which was just like a small shack. At that time, it used to look really big, but it was apparently a small one, same size as a small shack. But the Mach Box House, was really huge! It was so huge that I felt sort of strange. I remember when I was getting there, there seemed to be a lot of noises and everyone seemed to be so much at peace. When I was coming in, my mother was saying, “He is coming in! He is coming in!” I don’t think, they mentioned my name but exclaimed that “he was coming in!” Then I walked in, I looked around to see but I was apparently the first one to go in. I was feeling extremely strange!
Peter: Towards your parents?
Simeonie: Yes!! I apparently became very strange and somehow feeling embarrassed. I think, I was very conditioned to think at the hostel that I had to go to bed, that I had to go and eat at a certain time, and go to recreation hall, that I felt very strange about coming back home. I was also expecting to be told what to do, and was only waiting for instructions. That was how it was. Then, I was asked, “are you hungry?” I said yes. Then, I was told, there is food here, then I started to eat. Over there, I was very conditioned to follow the rules all the time. And I did not have enough freedom at the residence, so I was waiting for instructions all the time. I got so used to be told what to do all the time at the residence. Then, when I got to become more aware of my freedom at home, I started to gain back my independence. That was how I was.
Peter: Do you have anything else to say about something that I did not ask?
Simeonie: I have understood my ability to do things. I do understand that I am no longer at a stand still. I understand it now. I am now better equipped to do things better by way of being able to do things, such as parenting my children, living in harmony with my fellow human beings, I am better prepared now about these. I am able to follow more about what I want to do. I am leading my own life now. It seems, I am able to let out what I want to say. I can better say things and express my own feelings better now. Even when we were first down here, when we were speaking Inuktitut, we would be noticed that we were speaking Inuktitut, then we would look at them but then continued to speak Inuktitut. Then sometime later on, we were noted for speaking Inuktitut and told to speak English. When there was no one answering back at that point, I answered: “You f-off!” “That’s my English!” I told him that. When he heard that, he did not tell us to speak English again, after that. He just became sort of like one of us. He also became a sort of a good friend, that was how it was.
Peter: Is there something that you would really want your children, your grandchildren and your fellow-Nunavutmiut, to hear about a message that you want to say?
Simeonie: Inuit are extremely very good about their abilities through their language and their legends. They were always as good as anyone else, as long as they promoted then. I think, they will now be promoted more about their abilities or about things, they can do. This is as long as they have the freedom to do so. This is how I feel. Thank you. Thank you very much. I want to say hello to my relatives, and my fellow-Inuit from Nunavut. I say, very warm regards.
Peter: Thank you. Simeonie: Yes.
Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk
Year of Production: 2008
1h 25m 11s
Healing, interviews, Isuma, Residential Schools, stories, storytelling, testimonies, testimony, Truth and Reconciliation
Click on 'Read More' for English Translation ofTestimony by Peter Irniq, May 2008
English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 12, 2008, Iglulik, Nunavut
Peter Irniq: We had a terrible Hudson’s Bay Trader back in 1956, like many of these people, were terrible. That summer in 1956, the Dew Line ships came and when left later on, they left a whole lot of material. Some things like pellets beach along the shore line, so one day, my father and Celestino and his father, walked over to where these pellets were beached, with the idea of taking them back to our tent. When we got there, the two adults, Celestino’s father and my father tie up the pellets with a seal skin rope, and Celestino’s father, started to pull the pellets back to his tent. Right at this point, this Bay Manager came along with his Jeep. With his was his girlfriend, even though, he was married. Well, me I took a beached light bulb, that was no longer going to be used, as I wanted it as my toy. Just when the Bay Manager was coming up, my father said to Amarualik, who was pulling the pellets, back to his tent. “He’s coming to get you!” meaning, the Bay Manager. He dropped his load and ran like heck to his tent, running away from the Bay Manager. My father waited for the Bay Manager to stop. When he stopped, he ordered my father not to touch the pellets. “Don’t touch those pellets, they will be used again.” My father responded in Inuktitut that translated into something like this: “You are a big lyer!” Then, he pointed to the woman inside the jeep and said to the Bay Manager, “she will be used again, stop being with her!”
That night Amarualik came over to visit and while drinking tea, they had a great big laugh about what happened that day. All they wanted to do was to use the pellets for qamutiik(sleigh) cross bars. The thing was, nothing was going to happen to the two men or the two of us boys. They were also not going to re-use the burned out light bulbs.
Zach Kunuk: Perhaps, you could tell a story about where you were born.
Peter Irniq: Yes, I was born in Naujaarjuat(A place of plentiful seagulls fledgelings) Lyon Inlet. My parents are known around here in the Amittuq, particularly by Elders. My father’s name was Angutitaq and my mother’s name was Katak. My sister’s name was Iguttaq. My older brother’s name was Ipuittuq Ivaluqut. Prior to my birth, they used to live around here. They lived here, perhaps from around 1940 to about 1946. At that particular period of time, they traveled by dog team from Gjoa Haven’s Utkuhiksalik(Back River) to Naujaat’s Ukkusiksalik(Repulse Bay’s Wager Bay). They lived there for a time, then they traveled this way through Naujaat-Repulse Bay, Sanirajak(Hall Beach) and then to Iglulik. They traveled all the way here, by dog team only. They used to talk a lot about people from this Region. When I became an adult, I got to meet the people they met and I used to say to myself, “oh those are the people, that my parents used to talk about”.
Over there, we never lived really in the community of Naujaat – the Settlement, as we were true Inuit, living off the land traditionally. We were true Inuit, with truly living the Inuit traditional ways. For example, for those watching us, we lived much like the ones that Isuma Produced sometime ago, Nunavut Series. The ones you guys made. At these scenes in the spring time, that is exactly how we used to live. We used to look for eggs, when there were eggs. And also, we hunt young mature seals, called Nattiat in the spring time as well. We went fishing, when it was time to fish. My father fished with kakivaak(fish leisters), that is how, he used to catch fish. He used to do this on the rivers and on the lake ice. He used iqaluujaq(fish inviter without a hook). As you pull the iqaluujaq up and down, just like jigging for fish, the fish would come, and my father would spear the fish down below, with his kakivaak. He used to catch a lot of fish, along with my brother-in-law at that time.
I grew up in a place called Nattiligaarjuk(a lake that has seals) Committee Bay. We used to fish there and we also used to fish at saputit(fish dam) built across the rivers to trap the fish, from going up stream. We fished just like in the films that you made. I used to participate in fishing, when I was just a little boy. When I started to learn how to fish at saputit, it was always hard to get some kakivaak material, such as muskox horns. That is what the kakivaak were made of. So, instead of using the precious kakivaak that the adults were using, my father used to make me kakivaak out of old fox traps. He fashioned them just like the real thing. We had no muskox around Naujaat either, so it was hard to get the real stuff to make the kakivaak. There is still not much muskox, perhaps you see one in the long run.
Up there, when we would fish at saputit in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be lots and lots of fish(Arctic Char). We would be spearing all the fish. I was a young boy at that time around 1952 or 53. When I was fishing inside the saputit, the water used to go up to my chest, so I was pretty small, fishing with my father and my brother in law. When my father and my brother-in-law were wading in the saputit, the water was just up to their knees. I guess, I was pretty small then. When I would spear a fish, I would pull the wooden handle of the leisters, towards my mother, who was on the dry land, then she would pull the fish on to the dry land. That was how I used to catch fish.
I remember when we were fishing one evening. It was so much fun and it was so wonderful! I remember being hit by a big fish, right behind my knee or at the back of my knee. That hurt really, really bad. When the fishing was finished that evening, my mother and I decided to look at my leg, I had a really big bruse(sp). Ouch!! It was painful! The reason for this was that the fish were swimming very fast all over, inside the saputit.
I also remember another story. It was a beautiful day and when we looked at the saputit from our tent, the fish were almost jumping up above the water. There were so much fish! I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. As a rule, my mother woke me up very early, so that we could all go fishing. When everyone else had left to the saputit to fish, I stayed behind. I was thinking that I didn’t wanted to leave the nice warm bed inside the tent, after all, I was a young child. I was going to go along with everyone but I decided not to go, as I really wanted to stay in bed. The bed was too cozy to leave!
After the fishing was done, everyone had came back to the tent. My mother was extremely angry with me. She was trying to teach me how to fish at saputit, and teach me how to fish. She then, spanked me quite a few times on my bum. That hurt very much. Every since then, I learned my lesson and tried to be obedient as I did not wanted to be spanked again. We Inuit, when we were spanked once, we would learn a great deal of lesson. Spanking was one of the ways of disciplining someone, it allowed us Inuit to be listenful, that was how it used to be.
The other thing was when the days would now begin to get dark in the evenings, and you could see the stars in the darken sky, and it was now obvious that the fish had stopped swimming upsteam. Now then, the little ducklings were swimming, with their mothers the sea water. My father would have an age-old knowledge, that they are now swimming in the sea, it was time to move inland to search for caribou. At this point, the caribou fur or hair was just right for making clothes, and there is now lots of tunnuq(fat) on the caribou. We would then practice our traditional methods of hunting caribou through “tagjarniq”, “nunarpangniq” in your Amitturmiut dialect, “moving inland”. We would do this on foot and walked many miles in search of caribou for survival of our family, dogs and for our clothing and winter supply of food. As a child, this walking on the land was very boring. Adults would be carrying heavy loads on their backs of our belongingss, such as tents, beddings, etc. The husky dogs on the other hand, would be carrying our other supplies as well on their backs, such as tents, kettles, food we had to survive on. When I would get tired, “kaka” me, by putting me on his back, and carry me, along with all the load that he was carrying on his back. When I was no longer tired, I would again start running back and forth, in front of family.
Up where we used to live in Nattiligaarjuk(Committee Bay), we lived all of the seasons. At one point, when we were inland, walking on this big sandy area, that extended many miles. Well, as I was walking and running ahead of the others, I noticed a little black spot ahead of me on this sandy surface. I ran towards it and when I got to it, it was one side of muskox horn. It was so old that it had lichen on it. It means, it was there for quite a while. I grabbed it and then here I ran back as fast as I could towards my father, mothers and other members of my family, to show off my find. I gave it to my father. My father was ever so thankful for me, for finding such a treasure, now, he could make a kakivak out of it. At his spare time, when the days were not good for hunting, he would patiently make a kakivak(fish liester) out of it.
During this particular period, which was in the fall time, my mother would sew all our caribou clothing, preparing them for winter use. On the other hand, men did cache the meat and fat for the winter supply. I truly love to eat the tunnuq(fat) and marrow. It’s amazing, how much I love to eat the caribou fat and marrow. I used to truly enjoy eating the patiq(the marrow). One time, my mother made me eat lots of patiq. I ate so much of it that, I got sick and had enough of it. Again, she was teaching me a lesson, not to eat too much of it. Since that experience, I don’t like to eat as much patiq as I used to, but still I like them, including the tunnuq. I also enjoy eating “kiksautit” and “iluit”, the caribou guts. These are the most delicious parts of the caribou. I also used to enjoy eating the eyes and ears of the caribou. These were the kinds of things I used to crave for, when I was a little boy. These were the delicacies for the little boys, like myself, when I was a little boy. To this day, whenever I go out caribou hunting on the land, I still eat the ears and eyes of the caribou. To me, that taste of a good delicacy is still there. My thought sometimes instantly returns to Inuit culture and traditions. This is how, I grew up in and around Naujaat.
In the winter time, I remember my father and others used to hunt seals very traditionally through the “agluit” “seal breathing holes”. They used very traditional hunting methods in those days, using only a downed hair of a bird, as an indicator when the seal would be coming to breathe through it’s seal hole. They also used a small thin piece of metal, which was lowered to the seal hole, to know when the seal would be breathing and then, it was time to harpoon it. They could not see the seal breathing, as all the seal holes were covered with snow during this period of time, which was normally in the month of March, when the days were getting longer. As a young man, I learned the techniques and I hunted using these thousands of year old methods. That was part of my life. In 1961, when my father decided against me going back to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, this period of my time was a really awesome period for learning about my own culture. Hunting with “qiviutaq”s birds downs and savgutaujaqs(thin metal) indicator of when the seal was coming up to breathe, these are one of the many things, I learned from my father about my culture. I learned a great deal from my parents, sometimes learning about Inuit myths and legends, listening to them telling stories about these was one of the most pleasant past times.
I used to ask my father to tell Inuit legends. Sometimes, he would tell a story about Kiviu, Inuit legend, who journeyed through many places. He would tell a story about Sakaliktuarjuk, a poor hunter who fooled every one in the village, that he was actually a good hunter. He would tell a story about Akturraarnaat, an evil mother, whose son was blind. My mother would tell a story about a sister and brother, who became thunder and lightening. These are the things I grew up with, as a young child. I learned about traditional pisiit(songs). My mother, father, my sister and my brother-in-law were very good sings, so I used to listen to them singing, traditional songs. I grew up to become an adult, knowing some knowledge about traditional songs of the Inuit and know how to sing some songs, to this day. I also have some knowledge about shamans. I used to watch my brother-in-law, practicing his healing of the sick. He was a shaman. My brother-in-law used his powers to heal the sick, using his angakkuuni(being shaman) techniques. My father, on the other hand, used to say, that he was not a shaman. Later on, I learned, people used to talk about him, that he was also an angakkuq. He was an extremely good hunter. He used to say, “out there” there must be something that we could see in terms of animals such as caribou. He would repeat this often, to the point where, it was repeated too often. He then, used to tell a story about spirits of angakkuit(shamans).
He used to tell stories about some Inuit who had birds for spirits. Some other people had other spirits, such as wolves, and Nanurluk(a polar bear spirit). Others used to have human beings as spirits. Sometimes, they used their parents, normally deceased as their spirits, such as mothers or fathers or other relatives. My father used to tell us a story about having a ptarmigan for spirit, and how unpleasant this was, when flying. He said, this is because, they not only fly very fast but flew all over the place. It seemed like, you can hit a hill or something. He said, he used to hear this from other people. He said, other hand, having an ukpigjuaq(an owl) for a spirit, they are very easy to fly with. He said, they would fly high up in the sky and can look both ways. And they could see everything and anything down on the ground. I used to think later on that maybe he was talking about himself. Maybe, he used to fly, but we just didn’t see him fly. This was probably how, he used to know where these animals are, that are “out there”. When he finally goes over to the land, that he was talking about repeated, sure enough, there was caribou. He was like that. I grew up learning by observing all the things about Inuit cultre.
In the summer time, as children, we used to go down to the beach when the tide was low, looking for Kanajuit(sea scorpions or scanvenger fish with large mouth). Sometimes, we used the go down, when pieces of broken ice were on the beach. We could start to hear the “qallupilluit”, they would be knocking again the ice or the ground. Qallupilluit are spirits, and cannot really be seen by any human being, unless you have extra ordinary powers, such as shaman. My father said, they had feathers like ducks. When we were children, like my friend, the late Simon Aglak, we used to like to go down and look for kanajuit. We used to live on the east side of Naujaat, at Kuugaarjuk, quite a bit of distance from Naujaat. When the tide was low, Simon and I used to look for kanajuit. We used Inuit Traditional Knowledge, looking for these kanajuit. Sometimes, when we would be walking close to the ice, qallupilluq(single) would begin pounding against the ice. When that happens, my mother would yell and say, “you might be gotten by a qallupilluq, come up to the land here”. When you were going to sleep at nights, as long as there was ice around, you could hear the qallupilluit pounding against the ice.
When we were looking for kanajuit, my mother also used to say, when you are out there, and if you see a “nipisa”(a round-shaped black fish with sticky pad protruding from throat with which it clings on to things, or sticks to your hand, like a scotch tape). My mother would say, the only way to take it off is with an ulu(a half-moon) woman’s knife. One time, when Simon Aglak and I were looking for kanajuit, I lifted the rock to see if there were Kanajuit, and all of a sudden, I saw this fish, I grabbed a hold of it, and it got stuck on the palm of my hand. My mother carefully, took it off with her ulu. That was how, I grew up as a child, with my parents in Naujaat.
Ever since I can remember, I used to hear about other Inuit from Uqsuqtuuq(Gjoa Haven) Region, Qairnirmiut(the people of Baker Lake area), Talurruaq, my father used to live within those regions. I used to hear about our fellow-Inuit in those areas. I grew up as a true Inuk, living in an iglu in the winter time. While living in an iglu, it can be old at times, especially when there was no oil on the qulliq(Inuit oil lamp). When you live on the sea coast, you used seal fat to light your qulliq. But when you are on the land, or inland, you would have a small oil lamp, that you carried with you. Since there was no seals on the land, my mother would use tunnuq(caribou fat) to light the small qulliq. She used to light the qulliq when she was going to sew our clothes in the evenings. We also used to chew the caribou fat to make candles. We used them for lights in the evenings. This is how I grew up in the Aivilik Region of Nunavut. When I was growing up, I grew up with much happiness and with wonderful things happenings. That was my cycle of life.
Zack Kunuk: What is it your Inuktitut name?
Peter Irniq: Taqtu Irniq, those are my Inuktitut names. My mother used to tell a story of her dream, when they lived in Maluk&ittat/Naujaarjuat or Lyon Inlet. She said, she dream’t about this Irniq. That Irniq had relatives in Naujaat as well here in Amittuq. He lived in that area around 1940 or 47. In her dream, my mother said, this Irniq wanted to be named in me. She said, her dream was almost life-like or as though she was awake. We were not related at all. This is why, I was named after that Irniq. Taqtu on the other hand, belonged to a lady relative of ours in Naujaat. When I was born, she named me after that special lady named Taqtu. When I was born and getting older, I remember calling her, “Taqtuuqatiga” “my fellow Taqtu”. This was part of Inuit culture that we practiced. To this day, whenever I talk about her, I refer to her as “Taqtuuqatiga”. This is very important aspect of Inuit culture. I only have two Inuit names. On the other hand, when I was born in 1947 and baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, I was named Pierre. Inuit called the priest Kajualuk(because his big beared was brown) so Inuit called him Kajualuk, translated to “Big Brown”. When I was going to a residential school, I became to be called as Peter, by the Qablunaat(White people).
Zack Kunuk: When you still a true Inummarik, I guess, you would never pronounce the names of the older people? You would have calling titles for them, “tur&urautiit?”
Peter Irniq: Yes, particularly, the old, old people, people who were much older than us. They were the fellow-Elders of my parents, my father. We were taught from never to call them by name. Even, if we did not have calling titles for them, we were told not to call them by their names. We respected their Elderships and their ages. It was like honoring them. As children, we were told not to call the older people, those who were older than us, by names. Some we had calling titles for them, and even when they were not related to us for example, we would call them, “my avvakuluk” “my dear little same name”. “My uncle over there”. We had different calling titles for them. “My same-age or equal-age person”. When people were named after certain individuals, we naturally had calling for each other. We were taught to respect and honor. When an Elder came into our tent, and I was sitting down, I was to stand up immediately and allow the Elder to sit down. I was told, do this, without being told.
Zack Kunuk: When was it that you were sent off to school?
Peter Irniq: Some Naujaarmiut(people from Naujaat) were sent off to school around 1953, 54 and 55. In those days, they were being sent to school in Igluligaarjuk(Chesterfield Inlet). As for me, I knew I was never going to school. I knew this because, I grew up as a true Inummarik, and knew that I would live an adult life as a true Inuk, a hunter, fisher, and trapper. Ones that are older than I am, they started going to school around 1954-55-57 to Chesterfield Inlet. It was around that time. For me, going to school was something that I was not prepared for as we never lived in a community with other people. My father used to say that living in a community, all you get is welfare from the Qablunaat. He didn’t want to be like that. He always wanted to be close to animals for food and clothing. We lived in Naujaat, I think, only two times, once in 1956 and another time in 1957. At that time, my fellow-youth, were being sent off to a residential school. As for me personally, we living in Tinujjivik(a favorite fishing spot of the Inuit in the spring time, when the fish were swimming down stream). We living there in the summer time and it was in the month of August. It was a time of year when the days were really beautiful, sunny and hot. Tinujjivik is not visible from Naujaat, but if you live in Naujaat, you could see in the distance, the outpost of Tinujjivik. It is around 13 miles west of Naujaat. Tinujjivik is a place for fishing. In the spring time, people would build saputit and when the tide is low, the Arctic Char would be trapped inside the saputit, and that was how we used to fish at Tinujjivik. We would move there in the spring time and moved a short distance to the east, where there are more seals in the area.
Well, that summer of 1958, we could see a boat coming, with an engine. We could see it very clearly, as it was a very beautiful day. As our custom goes, my mother started to make tea by burning heathers, as this was a summer time. We only used heather and other moss to boil tea in those days. It was such a wonderful feeling that we are having some visitors, so she decided to make tea to welcome the visitors. Then they beached the boat. As they beached, we walked down to the beach to greet the visitors, and all of us, walked down behind my father. But that father, a priest, the late Father Dedier, came off the boat, first. He came off the boat, and said to my father, “Peter Irniq is going to school in Igluligaarjuk so we came to pick him up”. He didn’t even greet my father by shaking hands! I have never seen my father panicked but at that point, he was panicky. So he ordered me by saying, “they came to get you, go put on some nicer clothes”. My mother and I quickly went back to our tent and she made me put on niururiak, a seal skin boots, with the fur outside. I got all dressed up in my best, and off we went to Naujaat. The visitors didn’t have tea. As Inuit, they would have stopped to have tea, if they were regular visitors, then leave after they had tea. I don’t have any idea why this happened the way it did. I wondered, if the priest had told them earlier that, before anything happens, we should leave immediately. I don’t know. When we were traveling towards Naujaat, my goodness, it was lonely. It was the loneliest time of my life! It was too awesome!
Zack Kunuk: You then, left your parents?
Peter Irniq: “Yes!”
It comes back instantly! My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my little brother, who died in later years, my niece, I watched them, as we are traveling farther and farther away from them. They were all standing by the shore, seeing me off, until I was no longer visible by eye. Wow! Perhaps, it’s that particular incident, when I was suddenly taken away, it’s been long time ago, since 1958, to me, it comes back quite suddenly, to the time I was a child. That very part, it is very difficult to become adult with. You stayed a child forever! Even though, I am a old person now, but sometimes, you have to returned to it, or re-visit it, instantly. And so, we were on our way to Naujaat.
Zack Kunuk: How old were you at that time?
Peter Irniq: Eleven. Yes, I was 11 years old, when I was taken away. So, we were traveling towards Naujaat. I watched my parents, as they were no longer visible by eye sight. They were still standing on the beach. They were also watching until we were no longer visible in the horizon. When we finally got to Naujaat, I was made to go to Angutinguaq family. My father and Angutinguaq were cousins. So I was to stay with this family, according to the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church. They were the adoptive parents of Jack Anawak. We had been here for some days, I guess my parents would watch from where they were, to see if the plane had come and coming to land in the water in Naujaat. Even though, Naujaat was some distance away, they could see airplanes from where they were. Since, they did not see any planes landing in Naujaat, a few days later, my father and my brother-in-law, came over by canoe with an outboard motor. When they arrived, it was so wonderful! Since they arrived, I became relaxed, knowing that I now have a foundation here in Naujaat.
At that point, Angutinguaq, who I called Haluuruluk. Since they were in the south in 1925, spokes some English, I was to call him, my Haluuruluk(my darn Hello). Now that my father and my brother-in-law here, I had a foundation and practically no more worries and stress. At that point, Father Dedier had said, the plane would be here to pick us up, after three or four days, to bring us to Igluligaarjuk. He said, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. Now that we are free to do whatever we wanted to do, and there was lots of broken ice in Naujaat at this point. My Haluuruluk had a boat called Uvajuk, it was very tippy so it was called that name. Using Uvajuk, we would go down to the sea, in between the ice, to see if there might have been bearded seals or walruses. We were doing this, while we were waiting for a plane. Once we were out there, they got me to steer the boat, while my father, Haluuruluk and my brother-in-law were on the look out for the animals, maybe polar bears. We waited may be about four days, a single engine plane came to pick us up. And so, we board the plane, and we were now on our way to Igluligaarjuk. It was my first time in an airplane. I remember my father having a discussion with another Inuksuk, when I was much younger child. This man was on an airplane previously. My father had asked him, when the plane was taking off, do you watch the ground? We used to get very few planes in Naujaat in those days. So, this man was telling about an airplane ride he had. He said, when they were taking off, and he was looking down on the ground, he could see that as they were going so fast, he could see stripes of blue, green or red or yellow. Remembering that story, I was looking down on the water as we were taking off. As you know it was my first time on an airplane. I kept on a lookout for green, red or yellow stripes. There was nothing. It was actually a slow airplane. Perhaps, he was exaduating(sp), to make the story more interesting. And when we were going back home, we were taking off from the snow, it certainly was not like that, there were no beautiful stripes. There were about 10 or 12 of us, who were brought from Naujaat to Igluligaarjuk. We traveled to Chesterfield Inlet for about two-and-a-half hours.
Zach: With a single engine airplane?
Peter Irniq: Yes, with a single engine airplane. This airplane belonged to the RCMP, the one they used to bring us over. On the side of the airplane was a yellow stripe, with a dark blue paint. The tail of the plane had a yellow paint as well.
Zach Kunuk: When you are getting close to Igluligaarjuk and the time you were landing to Chesterfield Inlet, can you tell us about that?
Peter Irniq: I remember this very well! I don’t forget things at all, so I remember it very well. I am an Inuk. I grew up as a real Inuk, at that time. My mother and father, always used to tell me to be looking or observing…always. If you see something, then you will be able to tell me. Look for animals. I used to look around for anything, at that time. When we left Naujaat, it was a beautiful day. We arrived to Igluligaarjuk, it was even more beautiful. Hot! There were some clouds. There were beautiful clouds, with the sun shining. When we got closer, the sea water didn’t seem to be as beautiful. But the land, was beautiful, much like Naujaat environment. The stone formations were beautifully bright! I could see all those each time I look down below me, from an airplane. They very much resembled, Naujaat rock formations. Naujaat has those. When we were getting closer to landing, the land and sea were both beautifully pleasant. That time, we landed at Tasiraaluk(a small big pond). Tasiraaluk belonged to Iguligaarjuk, it was situation just around the houses. We landed there at Tasiraaluk, a fairly big pond. The airplanes landed so it was quite a large pond. The Roman Catholic Church used it for water supply. We beached on a beautiful rocky beach with the plane. When we beached, we all got off. I saw some Inuit there but then, I saw the Sisters, the Grey Nuns, for the first time in my life. They wore long dresses, and their hoods had little “furs”, but with lots of little holes, just like window screens. Some of the nuns were extremely beautiful! When I first started seeing Qablunaat, they were always beautiful. To see the Grey Nuns, they were even more beautiful than the Qablunaat, that I had seen previously, which weren’t many. I started to see the Qablunaat there, some belonged to the Department of Transport and others were priests. I used to think, I wonder if White People had ugly people. They all seemed to beautiful and handsome. The Grey Nuns that I noticed so much being different than most people, were to be our care takers, supervisors. They came to meet us. So, I was standing there, as I didn’t know where to go, nor have any place to go. My fellow Naujaarmiut were there, Paul Maniittuq, John Ninngak Mike Kusugaq, and Katherine and the late Francios Nanuraq. There was also Nick Amautinnuaq and Jose Kusugaq, who we knew only as Amaujaq in Naujaat. When our names were changed by the Government of the Northwest Territories, he became Jose Kusugaq. He was along with us. There was also Agatha from Naujaat. There were others, Maria, Theresie, now Theresie Tungilik. She has his father’s name today. Those are the ones who came here to Igluligaarjuk. There was this little Qablunaaq, he was slightly bigger than I am. As I was 11 years old, I was not that tall. I maybe, was about this height. As he was standing next to me, and kept looking at me and then asked me: “What is your name?” with a French accent. I understood what he said, as the year before in 1957, we were taught some English by the Roman Catholic priest, perhaps for a week or so. We were taught in English about things that were inside the Roman Catholic Mission in Naujaat. “Box” “Seal” “House” so we learned a little bit in English, then. “Fish” I used to tell my father about what we had learned. He used to recognize the words that I told him about. The four of them, including my Haluuruluk Angutinguaq, Tapatai and Savikataaq were in the land of the Qablunaat in 1925. They were in Newfoundland, Halifax and in Montreal. When they returned, they learned some English and were able to speak some English. So what I was learning, he would recognize them once I tell him about them. We were taught by Iksirajuakuluulaurtuq(Formerly Father Franzen), and Father Dedier. So, when he asked, “what is your name”, I understood him. As I answered him, I was extremely timid and said, Peter. Also, I was feeling very strange to see the Inuit of Igluligaarjuk. Everything was too awesome for me!
From there, we were led by a Sister to the hostel. I walked along with my good friend Paul Maniittuq. Both of us walked in behind a Sister, as we were told to follow her. We were apparently going to the big house, the Turquetil Hall. It was a huge building, green in color. I turned to one side and noticed another big building. These buildings looked really big. I also noticed the Church Rectory, it was beautifully built. When I looked to the west, there was a Statue of Virgin Mary, surround by rocks, it was beautiful. From there, we saw another large building, two-storey, this was a hospital as well as being a home for the Nuns. This one was not to be our home, at that point. The one, we were going to was a two-storey hostel, it was to be our home for entire winter or during all the time, that we were going to be in Igluligaarjuk. We called it Iglurjuaraaluk – a real big hosue. When we got there, we were told to take our clothes off. We were to have a bath. We were deliced. We got our haircuts. We got our haircuts with those old fashioned manual hair cutters. I had a very short hair. In fact, all of us young boys had very short hair at that point. I also noticed that day that the young girls also got a hair cut, by cutting their hair, right across their forehead. They looked so different. It was the firs time I ever saw a bath tub, as we didn’t have bath tubs in Naujaat. It was the first time I ever saw and worn shoes. I put a short sleeve shirt for the first time. That was the first time, I ever put on a foreign clothing like that. Wow, it was so awesome! There were lots of boys and girls, Iglulingmiut, Qamanittuarmiut(Baker Lake) kids, Arviarmiut(Arviat kids), there were many of them. That day was something to remember, that very day in Igluligaarjuk.
Then when the night time came, we were told to go into our large, huge bedroom. There were many beds. I was given my bed, complete with sleepers or pjamas. I didn’t know a darn thing about these items, as we did not use them in Naujaat. As an Inuk, I slept completely naked, at home. Just before, we went to bed, we were told “to kneel down” and pray. I guess, this was the beginning of praying. We prayed a lot. That evening was just the beginning of our praying. When we woke up the next morning, we prayed firs thing, then just before our breakfast, when we got to the school, we prayed first thing, we used to go to school at 9 in the morning. Right after we said the Lord’s Prayer, “our father who art in heaven…” then we sang, what is apparently a “Oh Canada” song, Canadian National Athem. I didn’t know what I was singing about but just trying to follow along and copied everybody. I was completely unaware of what these songs mean’t.
We had our teacher, who was a Grey Nun. After that first morning of schooling, we had to pray again, just before we left for lunch. When we got into the dining room of our hostel, we prayed. Just before we left for school, we prayed again. When we got to the afternoon school, we prayed again and then sang, God Save the Queen. We stayed in school during the afternoon for about two-and-a-half hours. Then when the English classes were finished, a Roman Catholic priest came over to teach us catechasm. This activity was also very noticeable to myself, especially, during the early stages of staying there. I was happy with this exercise, as we were able to speak our own Inuktitut language. Whereas at the school, we were told to speak only English. We were completely forbidden to speak our own Inuktitut language.
At that time, Father Farard used to teach us catechasm. I had some idea about the Bible and the prayer, mostly I’ve learned this from my mother. This was prior to going to Igluligaarjuk. Prayer books were used quite a lot in those days, I even have one at home, one of the first prayer books of the Church. The top page has a drawing of a church, couple of iglus and Inuit. I have the old prayer book. When that priest was teaching us about the bible, I was the most knowledgeable one about it. I knew so much that I won a prize from Father Fafard. This was shortly after, we’ve been there for a short time. For my Prayer Book knowledge, he gave me a green apple for a prize. I didn’t know it was an apple. When you go outside, you can eat it, he said. So, when we got outside, I decided to take a bite out of this apple: Oh, what a horrible taste!! I found the apple so horrible tasting, so I gave it to Marius Qajuuttaq, who was walking with me up to the Turquetil Hall. I told him, I just hated the taste of it so I said, you can have it. A year ago, he has already been to that school, so he like it and found it very delicious! As for me, I ate a lot of Inuit food, such as dried meat, so I totally found dried fish very delicious. So, I gave that apple to Marius. I wonder, if he sometimes thinks about it today.