About Isuma In 1985, the Inuktitut-language video, From Inuk Point of View, broke the race-barrier at Canada Council for the Arts when Zacharias Kunuk became the first Inuit or Indigenous applicant ruled eligible to apply for a professional artist’s grant. Kunuk was the video’s director; Norman Cohn was cameraman; Paul Apak was editor; and elder Pauloosie Qulitalik told the story, and by 1990, the four partners formed Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc. to produce independent video art from an Inuit point of view. Early Isuma videos featuring actors recreating Inuit life in the 1930s and 1940s were shown to Inuit at home and in museums and galleries around the world.
Over the next ten years Isuma artists helped establish an Inuit media arts centre, NITV; a youth media and circus group, Artcirq; and a women's video collective, Arnait Video Productions. In 2001, Isuma’s first feature-length drama, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, won the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival; in 2002, both Atanarjuat and Nunavut (Our Land), a 13-part TV series, were shown at Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany. Isuma’s second feature, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, opened the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, and its third feature, Before Tomorrow, written and directed by Igloolik’s Arnait Video Productions women’s collective, was screened in World Cinema Competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. In 2008, Isuma launched IsumaTV, the world’s first website for Indigenous media art, now showing over 6,000 films and videos in 84 languages. In 2012, Isuma produced Digital Indigenous Democracy, an internet network to inform and consult Inuit in low-bandwidth communities facing development of the Baffinland Iron Mine and other resource projects; and in 2014, produced My Father’s Land, a non-fiction feature about what took place during this intervention. Recent projects include the feature drama, Maliglutit (Searchers), the TV series, Hunting With My Ancestors, and the first Haida-language feature film, Edge of the Knife. Most recently, Kunuk, Cohn and the 30-year Isuma media art project was named to represent Canada at the 2019 Venice Biennale. See www.isuma.tv/isuma, https://twitter.com/IsumaTV, https://www.facebook.com/isumaTV.
Dr. Zacharias Kunuk O.C. Born in 1957 in a sod house on Baffin Island, Zacharias Kunuk was a carver in 1981 when he sold three sculptures in Montreal to buy a home-video camera and 27” TV to bring back to Igloolik, a settlement of 500 Inuit who had voted twice to refuse access to outside television. After working for six years for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation as producer and station manager, Kunuk co-founded Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc. in 1990 with Paul Apak Angilirq, Pauloosie Qulitalik and Norman Cohn. In addition to Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, Kunuk has directed more than 30 videos screened in film festivals, theatres, museums and art galleries. He has honorary doctorates from Trent University and Wilfred Laurier University; is the winner of the Cannes Camera d’or, three Genie Awards, a National Arts Award, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and just recently, the 2017 Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association. Zacharias Kunuk was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2015.
Norman Cohn Born in 1946 in New York, Norman Cohn travelled to Igloolik in 1985 to meet Zacharias Kunuk and Paul Apak after seeing videos they had made while working for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. In 1990, assisted by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Cohn moved to Igloolik, where, with Kunuk, Apak and Pauloosie Qulitalik, he co-founded Igloolik Isuma Productions, and helped develop Isuma’s style of “re-lived” cultural drama by adapting the authenticity of video observation to the art of Inuit storytelling. Cohn’s experimental video work began in 1970 in the U.S.; he immigrated to Canada in 1976 and became a Canadian citizen in 1981. In 1983, Cohn’s exhibition of 16 videos, Norman Cohn: Portraits, opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal and 49th Parallel Gallery in New York. In 1987, his experimental non-fiction feature Quartet for Deafblind was shown at Documenta 8.
Paul Apak Angilirq Born in 1954 on the mainland near Igloolik, Apak was a hunter, dogteamer and still photographer when he began his career in 1978 as a trainee in The Inukshuk Project, Canada's first venture to train indigenous TV producers in remote communities. Apak joined Inuit Broadcasting Corporation in 1981 and in 1992 was honoured by IBC with a Special Recognition Award for his career contribution. An experienced adventurer, Apak filmed The Qidlarsuaaq Expedition driving one of three dogteams retracing a 19th century Inuit migration from Igloolik to Qanaaq, Greenland; and Through Eskimo Country, helping to build and sail a traditional walrus-hide boat from Siberia to Alaska through the Bering Strait. Apak wrote the story and Inuktitut screenplay for Atanarjuat The Fast Runner based on interviews with elders. He passed away from cancer in December 1998 before the film was completed.
Pauloosie Qulitalik Born in 1939 on Baffin Island, Qulitalik was Canada's first unilingual Inuk filmmaker, working for Inuit Broadcasting Corporation in Igloolik from 1990-1992 and receiving a landmark Canada Council grant in 1992 as Isuma's producer for Saputi (Fish Trap). Qulitalik served for many years as Chairman of Igloolik's Community Education Committee, concerned with ensuring Inuit culture was included in the school curriculum. As elder Chairman and co-founder of Isuma, Qulitalik oversaw the cultural authenticity of every Isuma production, and played lead acting roles in many, including Qaggiq, Nunaqpa, Saputi, the Nunavut (Our Land) TV series and Atanarjuat The Fast Runner. Qulitalik passed away in 2012.
Contact, Distribution, International Sales
Kunuk Cohn Productions / Isuma Distribution International Inc. / Kingulliit Productions (southern office) 5333 Avenue Casgrain #910 Montréal, QC CANADA H2T 1X3 tel: +1.514.486.0707 / fax .9851 info [at] isuma [dot] tv
Kingulliit Productions Inc. Production Headquarters P.O. Box 223 Igloolik, Nunavut, CANADA X0A 0L0 tel: +1.867.934.8725 Zacharias Kunuk, President: zkunuk [at] isuma [dot] ca
Publicity Lucius Barre (Press, New York): lucius [at] rcn [dot] com tel: +1.212.595.1773
(previously posted in 2006)
Igloolik Isuma Productions, Inc. was incorporated in January 1990 as Canada's first Inuit independent production company. Isuma is 75% Inuit-owned. The founding shareholders are Zacharias Kunuk (President), Paul Apak Angilirq (Vice-President), Pauloosie Qulitalik (Chairman), and Norman Cohn (Secretary-Treasurer). Paul Apak passed away in December 1998. Isuma’s headquarters are in Igloolik, Nunavut, with a southern office in Montreal and international representation in New York.
Isuma's mission is to produce independent community-based media – films, TV and now Internet - to preserve and enhance Inuit culture and language; to create jobs and economic development in Igloolik and Nunavut; and to tell authentic Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences worldwide.
Beginning in 1988, Isuma’s unique style of ‘re-lived’ drama - Qaggiq (Gathering Place, 1988), Nunaqpa (Going Inland, 1990), Saputi (Fish Traps, 1993), and the 13 part dramatic TV series, Nunavut (Our Land, 1994-95) - achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim, winning awards in Canada, France, Peru, USA, Spain, Taiwan and Japan.
In 1999, Isuma filmed the first Aboriginal-language Canadian feature movie, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, a $1.96 million historical thriller based on an Igloolik legend of love, jealousy, murder and revenge, with financing from Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board. Filmmaking in Igloolik in 1999 contributed $1 million to the local economy, creating more than sixty part-time and twenty full-time jobs in this isolated and under-employed community.
Among other international festival awards, Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., was named 1996 Nunavut Business of the Year by the Baffin Region Chamber of Commerce, and, in 1997, received the President's Award from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for '…outstanding achievement in preserving and enhancing Inuit culture and language…'. In 1994, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn won Canada's prestigious Bell Canada Award for Outstanding Achievement in Video Art.
The Dawn of the Millenium
Atanarjuat The Fast Runner won the Caméra d'Or for Best First Feature Film at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival, six Canadian Genies including Best Picture and 19 international festival awards overall. The film was a box office success in France, Canada, the U.S. and twenty other countries around the world, and more than sixty international film critics named it one of the Ten Best Films of 2002.
The Canadian box office success of Atanarjuat The Fast Runner won Isuma a 3-year Performance Envelope of financing from Telefilm Canada, enabling Isuma in 2003 to begin developing seven new scripts for future productions. In 2005, the first led to The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, a $6.3 million Canada-Denmark co-production set in 1922 Igloolik, when Inuit changed from Shamanism to Christianity. The Journals was selected to open the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, with the release date set for September 29, 2006.
In the Summer-Fall 2006, Isuma’s next feature in production for 2007 release is Before Tomorrow, based on a novel by well-known Danish writer Jorn Riel: the story of an Inuit grandmother and grandson who find themselves the last humans on earth. Before Tomorrow is written and directed by the Arnait Video Productions, on a $3.5 million budget.
Isuma also produces and distributes documentaries for television including most recently, Artcirq (2001), Kunuk Family Reunion (2003), Urban Inuk (2005) and Kiviaq vs. Canada (2006). In 2003, Isuma entered into a co-venture with Kunuk Cohn Productions to establish Isuma Distribution International (IDI), to distribute and sell Inuit and other Aboriginal films and television series in Canada and internationally. Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and Before Tomorrow are all distributed in Canada by Alliance Atlantis MPD, and internationally by IDI.
In 2006, Atuqtuarvik Corporation, the investment agency representing the Nunavut Land Claim, invested $1 million in Igloolik Isuma Productions to help develop new capacity and growth of Inuktitut films and television programming. Isuma has several new films in development as well as a children’s television series.
In 1991, with support from Canada Council of the Arts, Isuma helped create Tarriaksuk Video Centre, the Arctic’s first independent non-profit video training and access centre. Through the 1990s, Tarriaksuk sponsored Arnait Video Productions (Women's Video Workshop), Inuusiq (Life) Youth Drama Workshop and began local broadcasting through cable television Channel 24. Beginning in 1995, Channel 24 produced over 300 news and current affairs programs called Nunatinniit (At Our Place).
Arnait Video Productions
In 1999, Arnait Video Productions incorporated as the first women’s collective independent production company in the Arctic. Arnait continued to produce programs from the women's point of view, which have been exhibited in festivals and museums in many countries, including Ninguira (My Grandmother, 1999), a half-hour drama about women and health; Anaana (Mother, 2002) and Unakuluk (Dear Little One, 2006) about Inuit adoption. Currently, the key members of the Arnait women’s group are writing and directing Isuma’s third feature film, Before Tomorrow scheduled for release in 2007.
Innusiq & Artcirq
In 1999, Inuusiq (Life) Youth Drama Group was created to use art, performance and video as tools by youth to combat youth suicide. This led to production of Inuusiq (Life, 1999), a one-hour docu-drama, and Artcirq (2001), a documentary about Igloolik’s youth circus and video performance group. Artcirq and the Innusiq group currently are developing a youth feature film to be produced by Isuma in 2007-08.
Nunavut Independent Television Network
In 2001, Tarriaksuk and Channel 24 evolved into a new non-profit society, Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV), to expand local access television in Igloolik and develop use of internet-TV (IPTV) to link other Nunavut communities with increased Inuktitut-language TV programming. Join us Fall 2007 for the official launch.
Trailer of the first Inuit feature film Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, a life-threatening struggle of love, jealousy, murder and revenge between powerful natural and supernatural characters set in ancient Igloolik. Watch this complete film on iTunes.
Trailer of the first Inuit feature film Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, a life-threatening struggle of love, jealousy, murder and revenge between powerful natural and supernatural characters set in ancient Igloolik. Watch this complete film on iTunes.
Four years after Atanarjuat The Fast Runner showed Inuit life in the mythological past, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen depicts events in 1922 when Shamanism was replaced by Christianity and the balance of Inuit life was changed forever, while the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen happened to be passing by. Watch this complete film on iTunes.
Nunavut, circa 1913. Kuanana returns from a caribou hunt to discover his wife and daughter kidnapped, and the rest of his family slaughtered. His father's spirit helper, the loon Kallulik, sets him on course to overturn fate and reunite his family. Watch this complete film on iTunes.
What We Eat: Inuit jazz throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, and Cannes-winning filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, talk back to Brigitte Bardot and anti-sealhunting lobby on the eternal reality of hunting. Selected for Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, Best Short, imagineNATIVE Film Fest 2009.
This second Isuma-Artcirq co-production by Igloolik youth is a story about a young Inuk who lost his love. Using alcohol to put reality and the past behind, the past keeps hunting him. When he loses control and beats up a man on the street he is sentenced to two months in an outpost camp, where a hunter is waiting for him.
Second Isuma recreated fiction, 1991. Summer in the 1930's. For Igloolik Inuit, it is the time of Nunaqpa, 'going inland,' the long walk in search of summer-fat caribou to catch enough meat for the hard winter ahead. Two families leave for the hunt, while the old couple waits by the shore for their return...
Third Isuma recreated fiction, 1993. As summer ends near Igloolik in the 1930's, three families build a saputi to trap fish going upriver for the winter. The days are getting shorter and young people daydream, while waiting for fish to come. But nature is not always predictable....
Saputi is a part of the Unikaatuatiit (Story Tellers) Series.
First Isuma recreated fiction. A late-winter Inuit camp in the 1930's. Four families build a qaggiq, a large communal igloo, to celebrate the coming of spring with games, singing and drum dancing. A young man seeks a wife. The girl's father says no, but her mother says yes...
Qaggiq is a part of the Unikaatuatiit (Story Tellers) Series.
Qimuksik (Dog Team) is one of the 13-part Nunavut (Our Land) series follows five fictional families through the different seasons of an Arctic year, from the glorious northern spring to a uniquely Inuit Christmas Day. Other programs include contemporary documentaries on whale and polar bear hunting, modern leadership, elders’ advice, and a youth group’s effort to learn circus skills to reduce youth suicide.
Igloolik, Spring 1945. In Qimuksik (Dog Team)while imparting knowledge to the next generation, one family travels in the immense and beautiful arctic during spring.
Inuaraq teaches his young son how to survive in the old way: driving the dogs, building the igloo, catching seals on the open water, running down caribou to feed the family. scroll for more info...
Dad teaching his son about survival: navigation, ice thickness
Dad being a role model
Tracking caribou by examining hoof prints and using the raven’s flight direction and sound
Skinning a caribou – special way to do this for clothing (instead of random use)
Relationship with the dogs: man and dogs have a very special connection: they work together and one cannot live without the other. The man feeds the dogs and working with dogs has many benefits (unlike a skidoo, dogs don’t run out of gas!). Dogs are useful for polar bear hunting. The dogs know where there is thin ice, know how to avoid danger while travelling. The dogs can find their way home, even during a white-out or blizzard. Jayson Kunnuk
Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Paulossie Qulitalik
Filmmaker Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Producer: Norman Cohn, Paulossie Qulitalik, Zacharias Kunuk
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 4. Igloolik, Fall 1945. Even here, news of the terrible world war raging outside makes people frightened and uneasy. They talk of the danger of the unknown future, of shamanistic intervention to protect their culture.
Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk, Paulossie Qulitalik, Norman Cohn
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 5. Igloolik, Fall 1945. Igloolik, Fall 1945. Akkitiq wakes up to a nice day for seal hunting. The stone house is warm and comfortable. Men pack up the dog team and look for seals on the fresh ice,while women work at home. Sometimes, the squabbling of children leads to trouble among families.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 6. Igloolik, Spring 1946. It is the season of never-ending days. Two dog teams searching the spring ice, men and boys hunting day and night. Seals are everywhere: at the breathing holes, sleeping under the warm sun. Amachlainuk has a lucky day.
Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk, Paulossie Qulitalik, Norman Cohn
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 7. Igloolik, Spring 1946. Seal pups: springtime delicacy, prized for their soft fur and tender meat. When the pups start coming out on the ice, even small children and grandmothers can hunt.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 8. Igloolik, Spring 1946. Inuaraq throws his bones at the river and finds the fish swimming back and forth. Back at the tent Qulitalik sends the young men out with fish spears to try their luck. The walk up the rushing river is exciting but treacherous. Fish are hiding. It's easy to fall in.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 9. Igloolik, Summer 1946. The distant sound of the atookatookatook Â¼, the first gas engine to arrive in Igloolik, brings a surprise visitor to Qaisut, island of the walrus hunters. The Priest arrives to study Inuit life, to dig in the ancient ruins and to see the hunt.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 10. Igloolik, Summer 1946. After the walrus hunt everyone is happy. There will be lots to eat for a long time. Children climb the famous cliffs of Qaisut, exploring paths and ruins left by hunters from the ancient times. Good walrus hunting doesn't only attract Inuit. Suddenly, Grandmother sees a polar bear after the meat.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 11. Igloolik, Fall 1945. Even here, news of the terrible world war raging outside makes people frightened and uneasy. They talk of the danger of the unknown future, of shamanistic intervention to protect their culture. The weather turns colder.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 12. Igloolik, Fall-Winter 1946. Sitting around the stone house carving a harpoon, Qulitalik starts talking about the year gone past. Everyone joins in with stories and laughter. Tea is boiling over the seal lamps, children playing on the caribou skin beds. Grandmother tells the old stories, everybody has a new one. Home is warm and cozy.
Nunavut (Our Land) TV Series Episode 13. Igloolik, Fall-Winter 1946. It's almost a month since the sun disappeared. Back in the stone house everyone wakes up to Christmas Day. For Inuit in 1946, Christmas is a strange mix of ritual, some from the old life and some from the new.
Nunavut-based director Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner) and researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro (Seeds of Change) have teamed up with Inuit communities to document their knowledge and experience regarding climate change.
Paul Apak Angilirq (1954-1998) was vice-president and co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions in 1990. Apak began his career in 1978 as a trainee in Canada's Inukshuk Project, the first project to train indigenous TV producers in remote communities. He worked for IBC.
Zacharias Kunuk tackles the subject of the High Arctic Relocation from an Inuit point of view in the documentary Exile. In 1953, Inuit families were forcibly relocated to the uninhabited and inhospitable high arctic, 1500 kilometres north of their traditional homeland of Nunavik, in northern Québec.
A group of Nunavut elders travel to five museums in North America to see and identify artifacts, tools and clothing collected from their Inuit ancestors. Directed by Zacharias Kunuk and Bernadette Dean.
Qallunajatut (Urban Inuk) follows the lives of three Inuit in Montreal over the course of one hot and humid summer.Only two generations ago Inuit lived in small, nomadic hunting camps scattered across the vast Arctic landscape.
In June 2003, Cannes prize-winner Zacharias Kunuk's family gathered at their traditional home camp site of Siuraajuk, to share stories and honor the ancestors who came before them: a wedding; a burial; messages from the past.
Inuit memories and experiences of shamanism, and oral histories about the last shamans practicing in the region of Igloolik, Nunavut. Interviewees range from young people to elders and politicians, but they all share a belief that things happen, and that shamanism is still a living religion.
Working and training together over the course of two summers, a group of students from Montreal's National Circus School and local Inuit youth from Igloolik produce a unique circus performance which marries Inuit traditions with classic elements of the Big Top. Written, produced and performed by Isuma's Inuusiq Youth Group.
Ajainaa! features Igloolik Elders discussing their views of contemporary Inuit life. Topics include the role of Inuit and "Southern" forms of education, survival strategies (such as how to save a drowning victim), and the differences between camp and settlement life. Written, produced, and performed by Isuma's Uqallangniq Elders Group.
ᓂᐲᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ Louie Uttak NIRB Community Roundtable, July 23, 2012, Igloolik, 5:58 Inuktitut, Igloolik Elder expresses his concerns for protection of marine mammals and wildlife and Inuit way of life, 'Don't hide anything from me.'
Zacharias Kunuk with Lloyd Lipsett, Formal Intervention, NIRB Technical Hearing, July 23, 2012, Igloolik, Part 1/2 3:13 English Version. Zacharias Kunuk, speaking Inuktitut, describes his childhood growing up in the heart of the Baffinland mining region, going to school in English, eventually becoming a filmmaker.
Zacharias Kunuk with Lloyd Lipsett, Formal Intervention, NIRB Technical Hearing, July 23, 2012, Igloolik, Part 2/2 1:18 English Version. Zacharias Kunuk concludes his and Lloyd Lipsett's presentation calling for up to date media technology and an Interactive Multimedia Human Rights Impact Assessment.
Louie Uttak NIRB Community Roundtable, July 23, 2012, Igloolik, 5:58 English version, Igloolik Elder expresses his concerns for protection of marine mammals and wildlife and Inuit way of life, 'Don't hide anything from me.'
George Qulaut, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 23, 2012 Igloolik, 8:58 English version, concerned that governments and Inuit organizations are not asking enough questions about the project, for example, will there be a Canada Customs checkpoint established at the Steensby Inlet port site for incoming supertankers?
ᓂᐲᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ Gamaillie Qiluqisaq, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 20 2012, Iqaluit, 3:51 Inuktitut, asks why mining royalties only flow to NTI and Inuit organizations or governments but not directly to the impacted communities like Pond Inlet.
Gamaillie Qiluqisaq, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 20, 2012, Iqaluit, 3:51 English version, asks why mining royalties only flow to NTI and Inuit organizations or governments but not directly to the impacted communities like Pond Inlet. NOTE Audio Mute first 54 seconds, advance to 54:00 to hear English translation.
ᓂᐲᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ James Etuluk, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 20, 2012, Iqaluit, 4:14 Inuktitut, response by NTI Vice-President to Gamaillie Qiluqisaq's comment about royalties to Inuit organizations but not to communities.
James Etuluk, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 20, 2012, Iqaluit, 4:14 English version, response by NTI Vice-President to Gamaillie Qiluqisaq's comment about royalties to Inuit organizations but not to communities.
ᓂᐲᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ Okalik Ejitsiak, NIRB Community Roundtable, July 20, 2012, Iqaluit, 6:33 Inuktitut, response by QIA President to Gamaillie Qiluqisaq's comment about royalties to Inuit organizations but not to communities.
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.
Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Joe Ataguttaaluk Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2009
Interview with Joe Ataguttaluk
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 moments..at 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 noticedfour 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?
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 bevery 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 likeddoing, 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 localInuit 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 throwout your Inuit language outside.They closed the window, and then started to teach us in English.
Only when I gota 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 was12 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 cannotreally 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, “goodnow 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 feelingof needing tohelp a child, because, he/she is achild.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 ourselvesor 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.