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Louie Uttak Testimony

Click 'Read More' for English Translation of Louie Uttak Testimony by Peter Irniq, February 2009

Louis Uttak Testimony, Iglulik Nunavut, May 2007

Peter Irniq:  Louis Alianakuluk Uttak, welcome!

Louis Uttak:  I feel very welcome, being here.

Louis Uttak:  It is wonderful that you have come.  

Louis Uttak:  Yes, absolutely, no problem.  

Peter Irniq:  You are obviously aware and now of Inuit who were taken to a Residential School in Chesterfield Inlet, during the 1950’s and 60,s  from Iglulik, and the survivors from here were the largest numbers, that went there to go to school.  How did you feel as a relative when these children were being taken to school, I know for sure that you yourself, never went to that school?

Louis Uttak: At that time, my father was a handy man at the Roman Catholic Church so we had very few people in the settlement.  When the children were being sent away, they took them away with a Police Aircraft.  When all the children came here ready to fly out to go to school, the population of Iglulik would increase drastically, it appeared to have many people.  There were only a few residents here, including the staff at the Hudson’s Bay Company store and the Roman Catholic priests.  

Peter Irniq:  You lived out on the land here, being close to the animals for survival, so when the children were soon to go out to school, did you all come here to meet in Iglulik?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, other people would come here.  For us, we were already living here but other families would arrive here, bringing their children, so that they could go to school.  They would take the children away around August.  

Peter Irniq:  You were Inummariit(a true natured Inuit)?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, we were Inummariit/Inullariit(True Traditional Inuit).  

Peter Irniq:  Now that you are an Elder, can you describe what Iglulik used to be like during the 1950’s and 60’s?

Louis Uttak:  There were four buildings.  One house belong to the Roman Catholic Church.  The others, staff house for the Hudson’s Bay Company, a store, and a small warehouse.  These small buildings were four, all white.  

Peter Irniq:  What about the Inuit, how did they live?

Louis Uttak:
  They were living in tents.  And then, they would live in qarmait(sod houses) in the winter time.

Peter Irniq:  And some in iglus?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, in  snow houses.  

Peter Irniq:  While the children were going to school, was your life here a hunting society, hunting caribou, moving inland in search of caribou, fishing, walrus hunting, basically, you were living very traditional, like the Inuit should?

Louis Uttak:  At that time, there was no caribou around, so people did not go on the land or inland to caribou hunt, but they did go out seal hunting and walrus hunting.  That was the main occupation at that time.  Sometimes, we went far away to hunt caribou on Baffin Island.  This area here, nearby had no caribou.  

Peter Irniq:  So when the children were being taken away to school at that time, you knew why, they were being taken away to go to school?

Louis Uttak:  We were informed  by the Roman Catholic priests, that these children had to go to school, and learn to speak English, so that they could have good jobs in the future, so they had to go to school.  As we were very traditional Inuit, we just didn’t know anything about those things, so when they told us, it was going to be good for their future, so we just said yes to their instructions, that they will have good homes when they got to Chesterfield Inlet, and will be well-cared for by the Grey Nuns.  

Peter Irniq:  As parents or as a relative, I believe you have a younger brother, who went to school there, so were they, your brother or brothers, taught very in Inuit culture, prior to going to Chesterfield Inlet?  

Louis Uttak:  My younger brother, the older one, I was beginning to take him out hunting on the land.  He was able to help me while out there, as my father was quite a little old man. When I was beginning to take him out on the land, then he was taken away to go to school.  It was during the later stages that his younger brother, Lazarie, was sent to school.  They did not go out to school at the same time.  

Peter Irniq:  How old were you at that time?

Louis Uttak:   I was around 17 years old and was married at the age of 17 years.

Peter Irniq:  Around 20 years?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  

Peter Irniq:  As a relative, an older brother, when you knew that the children were going to be sent away to school,  you were obviously notified by the priests, and as a relative, and knowing the fact that your family member is your partner for life, when they were being sent away, it must have been very difficult?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, a lot!  I was planning to be out hunting with my younger brother, as food was the only thing that we wanted to get for survival.  I am sorry, you sometimes go back to that date of their departure, instantly.  

Peter Irniq:  When they were at school over there, you would not see them for entire year?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  We would not see them.  We would not seem them at all.  But, at Christmas time, we would be informed by the Roman Catholic Church that they were celebrating Christmas and all were fine, that they were having a Happy New Year.  For us, Happy New Year, did not mean anything, as we did not know anything about it or it’s meaning, as traditional people.  However, we knew what Merry Christmas was.  When they celebrated Happy New Year, to us, that had no meaning.  

Peter Irniq:  Did you write to them, did you receive letters from them?

Louis Uttak:  Not at all.  We did not write.  There was no way of sending them out.  

Peter Irniq:  Airplanes, did not come around much at that time.

Louis Uttak: 
Yes.  One-engine airplanes did come in, you know, Bush Pilots such as Charlie and Gunnar.

Peter Irniq:  Roman Catholic priests had already come at that time, they had what we call today, “over and out” telephones, so this is how, you got some information about the children, that they were all right and that they were enjoying school?  They used to talk to their fellow-priests in the other communities?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  We used to hear that they were all right and that we should not worry about them.  

Peter Irniq:  They would be out for about nine months and then return here, when they came back, was that a wonderful time?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, very much!  They used to bring back white bags, that resembled white bags, used for flour, the little boys used to come back with pair of pants, that looked foreign with leather patches on their knees, and the little girls had cute little hats.  We saw that like that.  They looked like beautiful White People.  

Peter Irniq:  That is what they were being sent out to become White People, assimilated?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  Absolutely!

Peter Irniq:  When they arrive, they would become, young girls still, and the young boys the same thing, when they arrived and you came here to Iglulik to get them from the plane, so when they came home, did you take them back out on the land, to places where there were fish or seals?

Louis Uttak:  There was no other way but!  But, they would also become more lazy and clumsy, I especially noticed that with my two brothers.  I used to think that, they would know more about living on the land, had they not gone to that residential school.  Guranteed, what we had to do was to follow the instructions of the Government and Church at that time.  

Peter Irniq:  If you did not wanted to send them out to school, do you know what would have happened to you as parents, were you aware?

Louis Uttak:  I remember my father saying, “here is my big helper, he is gone.”  That was what he said.  Here were two of my younger brothers, who were old enough to be his helpers, they are gone, he used to say how sorry he was about the fact that they were gone, he used to say that more than once.  

Peter Irniq:  Were you ever told as parents that if you did not send your kids to school, you could be put in jail by the police or your family allowance of $6 a month, could be cut off?  Have you ever heard that statement said to  parents?

Louis Uttak:  I actually did not hear about the fact that you could be taken by the police but I specifically remember that you would not receive your family allowance.  I remember very well, when the parents were told about the fact that if they did not send their children to go to school, they would not be provided with family alowances, that was what I heard in those days.

Peter Irniq: 
You mentioned that when the students would return home, they would become a bit clumsy, no wonder, do you also believe that, they would forget much of their Inuit culture and their language, when they would return home?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, of course, no wonder!  No wonder!  And the other thing was while they were speaking in Inuktitut, they would speak some English, mixed with it.  We would not understand.  So, they would speak some English, while speaking Inuktitut.  Each year, next year, especially my two brothers, it was like, they would become more and more strangers.  And more foreign!  They were becoming more and more foreign, as they grew older.  

Peter Irniq:  When you look at the survivors of Residential School, do you believe that we have lost a lot more parenting skills, than you guys did?  We don’t hold as good of a parenting skill, as you did?  

Louis Uttak:  Yes, very much.

Peter Irniq:  After they had gone to that residential school, their lives would change very much, very foreign, that was how they would return home.  If we had not been to a residential school, we would not have lost so much.  If we would not have gone to that residential school, do you believe that, we would hold so much more Inuit culture and Inuit language?  Do you believe this also?

Louis Uttak:  Absolutely!  It’s not a wonder, they were like that.  Absolutely. It was exactly like that!   The ones who did not go to school, were much knowledgeable  about hunting and surviving in the winter time.  They were able to make good iglus in the winter time.  They knew how to prepare food very good.  And, they were much more healthly, it was noticeable.  That was noticeable.  

Peter Irniq:  What about us being taught about English, writing English and adding arithmetic,

Louis Uttak:  I am sorry…

Peter Irniq:  Please, don’t be sorry, it’s okay…..

Peter Irniq:  I forgot what I was going to ask…..Yes, when we had been attending school in Chesterfield Inlet, learning to speak English, learning to write in English and adding arithmetic, looking at it today, do you think, those of us that went to school in Chesterfield Inlet, does it look like, we are well educated?

Louis Uttak:  No, but what you all were going to learn and become knowledgeable about Inuit culture and our strength, it’s like, that part has been taken off.  It’s taken off!  

Peter Irniq:  What about having been educated in English, what does it look like?

Louis Uttak:  In some, it is very good, some of you have become leaders.  Only some.  Quite a few, for example, Kusugaq(Jose), you, people like, Louis Tapaarjuk,  with this it’s very good, when you are working towards improving the Government.  But others, they didn’t seem to go all the way, like they started to use alcohol, although, I don’t want to remind myself of this.  But, you are all not the same.  You have many uses.  Many have become leaders, who have gone to school in Chesterfield Inlet.  

Peter Irniq: But, we paid a very high price, we lost out a lot with our Inuit culture.

Louis Uttak:  Yes!  Absolutely!  Yes, Absolutely!  For sure!  

Peter Irniq:  We have also lost a lot of our language?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  

Peter Irniq:  We have also lost some of the legends of myths?  Including Traditional Inuit songs.  Especially those that made us Inuit in those days, and the foundations of the Inuit, at that time.  And since time immemorial.  

Peter Irniq:  What else do you have to say?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, of course.  I want to say something, perhaps it won’t be appropriate?  

Peter Irniq:  Feel free.

Louis Uttak:   My son, he went away when he was six years old.  When he was very small.  When he left, although my wife and I loved him very much, my wife named him after her grandmother, so we loved him very much.  When he was at that very young age, he was apparently sexually abused.  He started to think that this was part of his culture, so to this day, he is like that.  This is extremely painful for us.  Otherwise, he would have been our help.  His mind is now broken.  To my wife and myself, this is the most stressful!  He was our first child. As a result, he has become a sexual assaulter himself.  He is currently at Ikajurtauvvik(correctional institution).  This is very hard on us, sometimes it is very painful.  Sometimes, without being seen, in some mornings, we sometimes discuss this.  It’s like some of your body is taken off and is missing.  Part of it is missing somewhere but it cannot be helped.  

Peter Irniq:  If he had been with you among his own fellow-Inuit, it’s obvious, he would not have been abused like that?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, for sure!  

Peter Irniq:  This is absolutely not our culture, to the little children?  

Louis Uttak:  Absolutely.  Of course!  We knew who taught him this, I know the person, I just don’t want to say the person’s name.  

Peter Irniq:  It’s good that you mention this, it will help others, no matter where they are.

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  

Peter Irniq:  Since he was abused like that and it happened to little children, it is being talked about quite a lot all over the place today, those of us who went to school, we talk about it, if you were to see the people, who used to do these things, what would you say to them today?

Louis Uttak:  Now that person has died since, I cannot tell him anything any more.  If I say his name, is it okay?

Peter Irniq:  Yes…go ahead.

Louis Uttak:  He was a Brother, his used to be known as “Igajialuk” “A big cook”, he was a cook for the priests.  He was the one who abused my little one.  So, he learned from him and as as a result, he thought, this was part of life.  It is extremely resentful and hurtful!  Sometimes, as I said, my wife and I are sometimes unhappy about that situation.  

Peter Irniq:  As parents?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  

Peter Irniq:  We had a reunion in Chesterfield Inlet in 1993, particularly regarding those, who were sexually abused, talking about these things by the residential school survivors, by parents and the public, keeping in mind that we have a zero-tolerence for sexual assaults, and making sure that these things are never repeated in the future, do you think, the meeting we had was very useful?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, it was very helpful.  It was very helpful and aimed towards healing.  If it could be done again, even though, it might be slow, it would be very helpful again.  It would be very helpful inside Nunavut, for those who went to school in Chesterfield Inlet.  Yes, absolutely.  

Peter Irniq:  If we were to have another reunion of residential school survivors in Chesterfield Inlet, or somewhere else,   to talk about positive things this time around and if possible, bring the parents of, would this be a right way of doing it as well?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, of course.  It would be a reunion of celebrations.  People would be happy.  Yes, very much.  The money is always the problem but…the stuff that you are talking about would be very good for our future, as long as I am still alive…but then again, it’s hard to know ahead.

Peter Irniq:  When we talk about healing, this whole exercise has become a lifetime healing, from that experience for those of us that went to school there, if we have those people who are taking a healing journey from those experiences, if they would have an opportunity to do more healing, do you think, this would be very helpful for our fellow-Inuit in the future?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, of course, it would be.  I forgot what I was going to say, darn it!  Those are have been hurt, some of them no longer believe in some priests.  Even though, they belong to Catholicism, they no longer practice it, because they are still extremely hurt and in pain.  Some of them no longer care about them, while some still do believe.

Peter Irniq:  Yes, I understand you very well.  And what you want to do, to help others, I understand it very well and appreciate it very much.  You can still say what you want to say, if you want.  If you don’t want to say something about what you do not want to make public, you are free to do whatever you want.  

Louis Uttak:  Perhaps, I could say a bit more.  Towards Nunaliurti(Creator), to God, some have not changed their attitudes.  Some have move on from the Roman Catholic Church, as they were made to be very hurt and in pain.  Those survivors who are still make the sign of the cross, are now divided, since attending school in Chesterfield Inlet.  We as adults, will not intervene, as they are free to do whatever they want to do.  

Peter Irniq:  When they were in Chesterfield Inlet, perhaps some of them are feeling, they are prayed out or perhaps not, but maybe this is contributing to the fact that they no longer wish to be part of Roman Catholic Church?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  They prayed too much and too often, every evening, every meal,  they were made to go to church too much, every day, they were made to pray too much and overboard, some of them got tired of it, since their childhood.  Now, this had this feeling, as they were growing up as adults.  

Peter Irniq:  At that time in February 26, 1996, here in Iglulik, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, and regarding those who were sexually abused in Chesterfield Inlet while we were going to school,  he came to deliver an Apology.  We were present, including Jack Anawak, Marius Tungilik, Andre Tautu, we came here to support each other and also to support our fellow-Inuit in Iglulik, who we went to school with, I think, you were there to listen.  His apology at that time, did it help to make things easier for the future?

Louis Uttak:  I myself thought, it was too weak.  For me, personally.  I thought, he did go far enough to comfort and please everyone.  That was my own feeling.  

Peter Irniq:  If the Prime Minister of Canada, could apologise to all Aboriginal People, not only to us as Inuit, but to First Nations and Metis, if the PM could make an apology to us, and be heard by all Canadians, and other international community, would this be the right thing to do for us?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, absolutely, there is no other way!  It would be good for Nunavutmiut and Indians, as they were also heavily abused.  It would be good for Nunavut as well to those Inuvialuit in the western Arctic.  If he could make that apology and if could hear what he is saying about the apology through CBC for us Inuit who are unilingual, we would breathe a lot easier, many of us.  While we are all still alive..

Louis Uttak:  Yes, yes.

Peter Irniq:  What did you think of that compensation money we got for those of us, who went to that residential school in Chesterfield Inlet?  What did you think of it?

Louis Uttak:  What I thought about that compensation money was about the fact that, as long as they use it wisely.  If they were going to get a useable thing for it, it would have made me happy.  If they were going to use it for things that were going to break their lives with, it would be very resentful.  I had two of those as my thoughts.  

Peter Irniq:  If they only played gambling with it with cards.?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  Even just using alcohol with it.  

Peter Irniq:  There was lot of money?

Louis Uttak:  Yes!

Peter Irniq:  As an Inuk, it was a lot of money.

Peter Irniq:  I don’t really have any more questions but, when we were leaving our homes in those days, our mothers made us really beautiful clothing, they made beautiful coats and beautiful kamiik(seal skin boots), all those things, when the children were leaving, you went to see them off, can you talk about what it was like?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, of course.  They used to come and get them with airplanes, that landed on the water, they had floats.  That was with a large Canso aircraft.  When they were being taken away, I used to bring them with small skiff, that I had to row it.  The little children used to be different.  Those who had more, used to have beautiful clean  kamiik(seal skin boots),  ones who were less fortunate like us, they used to leave, little bit dirty, even though, they were not that dirty, in that sense, they were all different.  I still remember them well, their mothers, their parents, were looking towards us, while I was rowing the boat to the plane.  Some were in pain!  Some were crying.  I used to see the parents like that, they were so hurt.  Here I was bringing little ones, that were well dressed, ready to go.  

Peter Irniq:  At that time, when we were leaving, for example, my mother made me beautiful niururiak(seal skin boots with hair on them), I used the brand new niururiak that she had made, I did not know personally that I was leaving but I was forcibly taken by the Roman Catholic priest, and I had put on my Inuit parka.  No wonder, we were very traditional Inuit.  When the children came home, did they wear the clothing that they had left with earlier?

Louis Uttak:  No!  As I said when we started this conversation, you had leather  on the knees of your pants, the little girls had, little hats, that was what they returned home with.

Peter Irniq:  What about the clothing they left with?

Louis Uttak:  I don’t know, I don’t remember this.  When they left home, they left with beautifully made kamiik(seal skin boots), whether they return home with them or not, I don’t remember at all.  

Peter Irniq:
  What about the language?  When your own children left using the traditional language from here.  When they returned home, did they continued to use the traditional language, they left with?

Louis Uttak:  No.  When they returned home, they spoke the dialect of  Inuit from Chesterfield Inlet.  They used words like, “asu” “don’t”, for example, and they longer spoke Iglulik or Amitturmiut dialects.  That was how, they would return home.  Only few, were noticeable.  

Peter Irniq:  When we went to school there, we were told not to speak our Inuktitut language.  That was what we were told.  If we were caught speaking Inuktitut, we would be hit with a yardstick, on the palm of our hands.  That in itself was extremely painful.  The thing is, many of us still speak much of our language.  And we are ones that are saying to the society today that let’s learn more about Inuit culture and let’s work to make sure that our language is not forgotten.  Is this something that is useful?

Louis Uttak:  Of course!  There is no other way.  It is truly wonderful that you are talking about this. The language of the Inuit is the strongest, our strength.  Also, let us not forget the writing system.  That is something that should be taught for our future, if we could do it today in a faster way.  

Peter Irniq:  Today, we teach our little kids in Kindergarten in Inuktitut.  They are taught in our Inuit language up to Grade 3.  This is the law in Nunavut.  If you would see law that would allow us to be taught in our language up to Grade 12, if you yourself is a big boss, if you are a Minister of Education, let’s teach them in their own language all the way up to Grade 12.  Would you take that action?

Louis Uttak:  Of course.  Inuit are very able.  They are very able about Inuit culture and our language.  As well about the writing system of syllabics.  Those are the two issues that I truly feel strongly about.  I will move on with them for as long as I am able.  

Peter Irniq:  They are the right thing to do?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, they are the right thing to do.  Absolutely!

Peter Irniq:  Elders are being used again today.  When we were going to school, their status as Elders, was no longer use as much.  They are being used again today.  Are you happy about this?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, very much, I am very happy about this.  At that time, I would not have been noticed as an Elder.  The Elders are being included today, this is something I am extremely happy about.  

Peter Irniq:  Today if the Elders, both men and women are allowed to be in the classroom on a more permanent basis, teaching about Inuit culture and language, would this be the right thing to do?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, I use myself as an example, as my wife and I teach.  When we go out seal hunting in the spring time, they at first are hesitant about learning but when they get going, they get to become very attach to what they are learning.  They also learn about their own language, when they get away from the community and go out on the land.  This is really wonderful.  Living in a community here, we don’t get to pay attention to each other.  There are too many things going on, such TV, and all sorts.  

Peter Irniq: 
Today, Inuit culture has been detoured big time.  Just as an example, building Inuksuit(plural).  Today we see for example, inunnguat(imitations of people), being called Inuksuit,  with heads, legs and arms, they are all over the place now.  There are lots of them now in southern Canada.  And they call them Inuksuk.  What do you think of all this?

Louis Uttak:  I don’t like the Inunnguat, very much!  There was a little old man, who committed suicide, he was an old man, up there, there is Iglulik’s big Inunnguaq(imitation of person), it is well-liked by White People, that old man did not like it at all, as it is a sign/indication for murder, or one who commits suicide.  That was what he used to say.  

Peter Irniq:  So, that is an interpretation for inunnguaq, with head, arms and legs, that “someone was murdered here or someone committed suicide here.”  

Louis Uttak:  Yes, yes.  

Peter Irniq:  Inuksuk, made by Inuit, sometimes have “pointers”, what is a real interpretation of an Inuksuk?

Louis Uttak:  To me that Inuksuk, if it represents fishing, or if it is made along the sea coast, that there are seals here,  and if it is build in areas where there are lakes on the land, it means, there are caribou.  They are very easily to know.  They are very good indicators of places for fishing and caribou hunting.  Those that have their “arms, wide open”, we Elders don’t like that what-so-ever!  

Peter Irniq:  They don’t represent Inuit culture, for obvious reasons?

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  

Peter Irniq:  What do you understand about drum dancing?

Louis Uttak:  Regarding the drum dancing, we the Inuit of Qikiqtani(Baffin Island), we were told stop using drum dancing, the singing of traditional by the Anglican missionaries.  That was how we lost it all.  All around Baffin Island, we were told that we no longer had to practice our culture including drum dancing, singing of traditional songs, story telling of myths/legends, we were told to cut them all off!  That missionary was one person, who totally cut off that part of the culture.  But, the Inuit here, know and remember about the meaning of it, this is wonderful.  The late Noah Piugaattuq and my father used to say, this drum dancing is a celebration.  It is a celebration of thankfulness.  It was the celebration of singing and story telling, by being purely happy.  That was what Noah Piugaattuq and my father used to say.  

Perhaps, I don’t answer you appropriately.

Peter Irniq:  You answer appropriately.  I like your answers.

Peter Irniq:  When we were in Chesterfield Inlet to go to school.  As for me, I was there for four years.  When I was 11 years old, I was taken away by a priest.  While I was in Chesterfield Inlet for all the years that I was there.  The school opened in 1953 and closed in 1969, as soon as the Northwest Territories Government took over.  It is wonderful that they closed it down.  For all the time that I was there, I did not seen one drum dance, whats-so-ever.  When the Government of the Northwest Territories came to be, we decided to take back the business of drum dancing.  I remember when drum dances used to be held.  Using your own words, drum dancing was a celebration of life, in all of Nunavut.  

Louis Uttak:  Of course, there is no other way about it.

Peter Irniq:  Today, we are drum dancing again in all of Nunavut, this really is wonderful, eh?

Louis Uttak:  Of course, yes.  It was always a celebration and thankfulness.  That is what I am aware regarding this.  

Peter Irniq:  But, we have to teach the traditional Inuit singers about it.

Louis Uttak:  Yes.  Absolutely.  We have to teach them how to sing.  

Peter Irniq:  About these pisiit(Traditional Inuit Songs), what do you think of them?

Louis Uttak:
  These talk about the difficult times they have faced.  They tell a story about how close they were in contact with danger.  They talk about the animals.  In composing Inuit songs, they never call the animals by their proper names.  For example, caribou is “one with horns” walrus is “one with thick skin hide”, a composer would never call the animals by their names.  He will not say, “caribou” “aiviq” – Walrus),  he would be talking about huner, he would be talking about surviving, and he would be talking about them in a wonderful way.  They are pleasant to listen to, as he talks about his songs.  

Peter Irniq:  Why is it that when Inuit are composing their songs, they don’t’ call the animals by their proper names?  Why don’t they say, tuktu – caribou?  Why? Why don’t they say, Nattiq(seal)?  

Louis Uttak:  I don’t totally understand this but they talk about seals for example as spotties, especially for the common ring seals.  Perhaps, they don’t want to be seen as conceded as hunters.  When the drum dancers were drum dancing, and while the wife was singing the traditional song, they used to watch them or observe them carefully.  Just by listening to the song, sung by his wife, the people would pay particular attention of what type of aniamals, the man has caught. This is a common knowledge.  

Peter Irniq:  Do you also believe that, prior to the coming of the Roman Catholic or Anglican Missionaries, we never had a writing system as Inuit, the composing of Inuit traditional songs are like our only way of writing our thoughts, tell our histories.  What is what one thinks about them?

Louis Uttak:
  Yes, absolutely!  Through the brain here, they will not lose the traditional songs.  It was like through their brains, they would never lose the traditional songs.  The songs and traditional stories were kept, not in the computers but in their own brains.  Wow!  Inuit are very, very wise!

Peter Irniq:  If Inuit songs are translated into English, what would you think of it?

Louis Uttak:  I would like it very much, if they are translated into English.  If they interpret what they mean, I would like it very much if they translate them into English.  People recognize the strength of the Inuit.  Qablunaat would become more knowledgeable.  Qablunaat play guitars, Inuit are exactly the same way, about their songs.  

Peter Irniq:  When we were in Chesterfield Inlet, we were sexually abused.  When the children came home from there, did they complain to you as parents that they used to be sexually abused?

Louis Uttak:  No.  No way!  They would never complain.  They were told, never to tell anyone.  Even though, they did not complain, you know, they have become, big boys, we would ask them to say something even though, we would not ask them ourselves.  It was obvious that they were in pain about it.  They were hiding something.  I knew about this my son.  It was noticeable about the fact that, he would never let out, about what he was hurting.  It was obvious.  I wasn’t going to ask him about.  It was obvious that his mind was far away and disturbed.  I knew about that.  Both my wife and I knew this.  They would under no circumstances, complain!

Peter Irniq:  At that time, when Jack Anawak and I started to talk about this publically(in 1990), were many people surprised and started?

Louis Uttak: 
It was very hurtful!  It was very hurtful for me, as I would listen to the radio about it.  It was good too that it was being brought out in public, but it was painful.  You felt it very strongly!  Go!  Go!  Go! Go for it, that was what we said.  My wife and I said, go, make it public.  But, I don’t know about the others.  Go ahead, make it public, that was what we thought.  

Peter Irniq:  Today, we are still talking about it, in some ways.  Today, I am wondering, if it has been helpful to many Inuit.  Today, is it something that the society would want us to go ahead with it to continue to pursue it?

Louis Uttak:  Yes, it is something that is being supported now.  If you are getting lots of support, it is very, very good.  It is very good and give you more strength, as some Inuit who are parents of survivors are still living.  Their children, who went to school there, are still alive.  It is good to pursue, it’s wonderful.  It is wonderful, that the experience is still being made public.  

Peter Irniq:  Thank you very much!

Louis Uttak:  You too.  Thank you for your very good questions.

Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

Filmmaker Contact:


isuma [at] isuma [dot] ca

Year of Production: 2008

Country: Canada

Region: Nunavut

See more

Tukisigiarviit: Jon's Working Channel

    • 1h 56m 16s

      Peter Irniq Testimony

      uploaded by: Zacharias Kunuk

      channel: Truth and Reconciliation

      Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2008

      English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 12, 2008, Iglulik, Nunavut

      Peter Irniq: We had a terrible Hudson’s Bay Trader back in 1956, like many of these people, were terrible. That summer in 1956, the Dew Line ships came and when left later on, they left a whole lot of material. Some things like pellets beach along the shore line, so one day, my father and Celestino and his father, walked over to where these pellets were beached, with the idea of taking them back to our tent. When we got there, the two adults, Celestino’s father and my father tie up the pellets with a seal skin rope, and Celestino’s father, started to pull the pellets back to his tent. Right at this point, this Bay Manager came along with his Jeep. With his was his girlfriend, even though, he was married. Well, me I took a beached light bulb, that was no longer going to be used, as I wanted it as my toy. Just when the Bay Manager was coming up, my father said to Amarualik, who was pulling the pellets, back to his tent. “He’s coming to get you!” meaning, the Bay Manager. He dropped his load and ran like heck to his tent, running away from the Bay Manager. My father waited for the Bay Manager to stop. When he stopped, he ordered my father not to touch the pellets. “Don’t touch those pellets, they will be used again.” My father responded in Inuktitut that translated into something like this: “You are a big lyer!” Then, he pointed to the woman inside the jeep and said to the Bay Manager, “she will be used again, stop being with her!”

      That night Amarualik came over to visit and while drinking tea, they had a great big laugh about what happened that day. All they wanted to do was to use the pellets for qamutiik(sleigh) cross bars. The thing was, nothing was going to happen to the two men or the two of us boys. They were also not going to re-use the burned out light bulbs.

      Zach Kunuk: Perhaps, you could tell a story about where you were born.

      Peter Irniq: Yes, I was born in Naujaarjuat(A place of plentiful seagulls fledgelings) Lyon Inlet. My parents are known around here in the Amittuq, particularly by Elders. My father’s name was Angutitaq and my mother’s name was Katak. My sister’s name was Iguttaq. My older brother’s name was Ipuittuq Ivaluqut. Prior to my birth, they used to live around here. They lived here, perhaps from around 1940 to about 1946. At that particular period of time, they traveled by dog team from Gjoa Haven’s Utkuhiksalik(Back River) to Naujaat’s Ukkusiksalik(Repulse Bay’s Wager Bay). They lived there for a time, then they traveled this way through Naujaat-Repulse Bay, Sanirajak(Hall Beach) and then to Iglulik. They traveled all the way here, by dog team only. They used to talk a lot about people from this Region. When I became an adult, I got to meet the people they met and I used to say to myself, “oh those are the people, that my parents used to talk about”.

      Over there, we never lived really in the community of Naujaat – the Settlement, as we were true Inuit, living off the land traditionally. We were true Inuit, with truly living the Inuit traditional ways. For example, for those watching us, we lived much like the ones that Isuma Produced sometime ago, Nunavut Series. The ones you guys made. At these scenes in the spring time, that is exactly how we used to live. We used to look for eggs, when there were eggs. And also, we hunt young mature seals, called Nattiat in the spring time as well. We went fishing, when it was time to fish. My father fished with kakivaak(fish leisters), that is how, he used to catch fish. He used to do this on the rivers and on the lake ice. He used iqaluujaq(fish inviter without a hook). As you pull the iqaluujaq up and down, just like jigging for fish, the fish would come, and my father would spear the fish down below, with his kakivaak. He used to catch a lot of fish, along with my brother-in-law at that time.

      I grew up in a place called Nattiligaarjuk(a lake that has seals) Committee Bay. We used to fish there and we also used to fish at saputit(fish dam) built across the rivers to trap the fish, from going up stream. We fished just like in the films that you made. I used to participate in fishing, when I was just a little boy. When I started to learn how to fish at saputit, it was always hard to get some kakivaak material, such as muskox horns. That is what the kakivaak were made of. So, instead of using the precious kakivaak that the adults were using, my father used to make me kakivaak out of old fox traps. He fashioned them just like the real thing. We had no muskox around Naujaat either, so it was hard to get the real stuff to make the kakivaak. There is still not much muskox, perhaps you see one in the long run.

      Up there, when we would fish at saputit in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be lots and lots of fish(Arctic Char). We would be spearing all the fish. I was a young boy at that time around 1952 or 53. When I was fishing inside the saputit, the water used to go up to my chest, so I was pretty small, fishing with my father and my brother in law. When my father and my brother-in-law were wading in the saputit, the water was just up to their knees. I guess, I was pretty small then. When I would spear a fish, I would pull the wooden handle of the leisters, towards my mother, who was on the dry land, then she would pull the fish on to the dry land. That was how I used to catch fish.

      I remember when we were fishing one evening. It was so much fun and it was so wonderful! I remember being hit by a big fish, right behind my knee or at the back of my knee. That hurt really, really bad. When the fishing was finished that evening, my mother and I decided to look at my leg, I had a really big bruse(sp). Ouch!! It was painful! The reason for this was that the fish were swimming very fast all over, inside the saputit.

      I also remember another story. It was a beautiful day and when we looked at the saputit from our tent, the fish were almost jumping up above the water. There were so much fish! I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. As a rule, my mother woke me up very early, so that we could all go fishing. When everyone else had left to the saputit to fish, I stayed behind. I was thinking that I didn’t wanted to leave the nice warm bed inside the tent, after all, I was a young child. I was going to go along with everyone but I decided not to go, as I really wanted to stay in bed. The bed was too cozy to leave!

      After the fishing was done, everyone had came back to the tent. My mother was extremely angry with me. She was trying to teach me how to fish at saputit, and teach me how to fish. She then, spanked me quite a few times on my bum. That hurt very much. Every since then, I learned my lesson and tried to be obedient as I did not wanted to be spanked again. We Inuit, when we were spanked once, we would learn a great deal of lesson. Spanking was one of the ways of disciplining someone, it allowed us Inuit to be listenful, that was how it used to be.

      The other thing was when the days would now begin to get dark in the evenings, and you could see the stars in the darken sky, and it was now obvious that the fish had stopped swimming upsteam. Now then, the little ducklings were swimming, with their mothers the sea water. My father would have an age-old knowledge, that they are now swimming in the sea, it was time to move inland to search for caribou. At this point, the caribou fur or hair was just right for making clothes, and there is now lots of tunnuq(fat) on the caribou. We would then practice our traditional methods of hunting caribou through “tagjarniq”, “nunarpangniq” in your Amitturmiut dialect, “moving inland”. We would do this on foot and walked many miles in search of caribou for survival of our family, dogs and for our clothing and winter supply of food. As a child, this walking on the land was very boring. Adults would be carrying heavy loads on their backs of our belongingss, such as tents, beddings, etc. The husky dogs on the other hand, would be carrying our other supplies as well on their backs, such as tents, kettles, food we had to survive on. When I would get tired, “kaka” me, by putting me on his back, and carry me, along with all the load that he was carrying on his back. When I was no longer tired, I would again start running back and forth, in front of family.

      Up where we used to live in Nattiligaarjuk(Committee Bay), we lived all of the seasons. At one point, when we were inland, walking on this big sandy area, that extended many miles. Well, as I was walking and running ahead of the others, I noticed a little black spot ahead of me on this sandy surface. I ran towards it and when I got to it, it was one side of muskox horn. It was so old that it had lichen on it. It means, it was there for quite a while. I grabbed it and then here I ran back as fast as I could towards my father, mothers and other members of my family, to show off my find. I gave it to my father. My father was ever so thankful for me, for finding such a treasure, now, he could make a kakivak out of it. At his spare time, when the days were not good for hunting, he would patiently make a kakivak(fish liester) out of it.

      During this particular period, which was in the fall time, my mother would sew all our caribou clothing, preparing them for winter use. On the other hand, men did cache the meat and fat for the winter supply. I truly love to eat the tunnuq(fat) and marrow. It’s amazing, how much I love to eat the caribou fat and marrow. I used to truly enjoy eating the patiq(the marrow). One time, my mother made me eat lots of patiq. I ate so much of it that, I got sick and had enough of it. Again, she was teaching me a lesson, not to eat too much of it. Since that experience, I don’t like to eat as much patiq as I used to, but still I like them, including the tunnuq. I also enjoy eating “kiksautit” and “iluit”, the caribou guts. These are the most delicious parts of the caribou. I also used to enjoy eating the eyes and ears of the caribou. These were the kinds of things I used to crave for, when I was a little boy. These were the delicacies for the little boys, like myself, when I was a little boy. To this day, whenever I go out caribou hunting on the land, I still eat the ears and eyes of the caribou. To me, that taste of a good delicacy is still there. My thought sometimes instantly returns to Inuit culture and traditions. This is how, I grew up in and around Naujaat.

      In the winter time, I remember my father and others used to hunt seals very traditionally through the “agluit” “seal breathing holes”. They used very traditional hunting methods in those days, using only a downed hair of a bird, as an indicator when the seal would be coming to breathe through it’s seal hole. They also used a small thin piece of metal, which was lowered to the seal hole, to know when the seal would be breathing and then, it was time to harpoon it. They could not see the seal breathing, as all the seal holes were covered with snow during this period of time, which was normally in the month of March, when the days were getting longer. As a young man, I learned the techniques and I hunted using these thousands of year old methods. That was part of my life. In 1961, when my father decided against me going back to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, this period of my time was a really awesome period for learning about my own culture. Hunting with “qiviutaq”s birds downs and savgutaujaqs(thin metal) indicator of when the seal was coming up to breathe, these are one of the many things, I learned from my father about my culture. I learned a great deal from my parents, sometimes learning about Inuit myths and legends, listening to them telling stories about these was one of the most pleasant past times.

      I used to ask my father to tell Inuit legends. Sometimes, he would tell a story about Kiviu, Inuit legend, who journeyed through many places. He would tell a story about Sakaliktuarjuk, a poor hunter who fooled every one in the village, that he was actually a good hunter. He would tell a story about Akturraarnaat, an evil mother, whose son was blind. My mother would tell a story about a sister and brother, who became thunder and lightening. These are the things I grew up with, as a young child. I learned about traditional pisiit(songs). My mother, father, my sister and my brother-in-law were very good sings, so I used to listen to them singing, traditional songs. I grew up to become an adult, knowing some knowledge about traditional songs of the Inuit and know how to sing some songs, to this day. I also have some knowledge about shamans. I used to watch my brother-in-law, practicing his healing of the sick. He was a shaman. My brother-in-law used his powers to heal the sick, using his angakkuuni(being shaman) techniques. My father, on the other hand, used to say, that he was not a shaman. Later on, I learned, people used to talk about him, that he was also an angakkuq. He was an extremely good hunter. He used to say, “out there” there must be something that we could see in terms of animals such as caribou. He would repeat this often, to the point where, it was repeated too often. He then, used to tell a story about spirits of angakkuit(shamans).

      He used to tell stories about some Inuit who had birds for spirits. Some other people had other spirits, such as wolves, and Nanurluk(a polar bear spirit). Others used to have human beings as spirits. Sometimes, they used their parents, normally deceased as their spirits, such as mothers or fathers or other relatives. My father used to tell us a story about having a ptarmigan for spirit, and how unpleasant this was, when flying. He said, this is because, they not only fly very fast but flew all over the place. It seemed like, you can hit a hill or something. He said, he used to hear this from other people. He said, other hand, having an ukpigjuaq(an owl) for a spirit, they are very easy to fly with. He said, they would fly high up in the sky and can look both ways. And they could see everything and anything down on the ground. I used to think later on that maybe he was talking about himself. Maybe, he used to fly, but we just didn’t see him fly. This was probably how, he used to know where these animals are, that are “out there”. When he finally goes over to the land, that he was talking about repeated, sure enough, there was caribou. He was like that. I grew up learning by observing all the things about Inuit cultre.

      In the summer time, as children, we used to go down to the beach when the tide was low, looking for Kanajuit(sea scorpions or scanvenger fish with large mouth). Sometimes, we used the go down, when pieces of broken ice were on the beach. We could start to hear the “qallupilluit”, they would be knocking again the ice or the ground. Qallupilluit are spirits, and cannot really be seen by any human being, unless you have extra ordinary powers, such as shaman. My father said, they had feathers like ducks. When we were children, like my friend, the late Simon Aglak, we used to like to go down and look for kanajuit. We used to live on the east side of Naujaat, at Kuugaarjuk, quite a bit of distance from Naujaat. When the tide was low, Simon and I used to look for kanajuit. We used Inuit Traditional Knowledge, looking for these kanajuit. Sometimes, when we would be walking close to the ice, qallupilluq(single) would begin pounding against the ice. When that happens, my mother would yell and say, “you might be gotten by a qallupilluq, come up to the land here”. When you were going to sleep at nights, as long as there was ice around, you could hear the qallupilluit pounding against the ice.

      When we were looking for kanajuit, my mother also used to say, when you are out there, and if you see a “nipisa”(a round-shaped black fish with sticky pad protruding from throat with which it clings on to things, or sticks to your hand, like a scotch tape). My mother would say, the only way to take it off is with an ulu(a half-moon) woman’s knife. One time, when Simon Aglak and I were looking for kanajuit, I lifted the rock to see if there were Kanajuit, and all of a sudden, I saw this fish, I grabbed a hold of it, and it got stuck on the palm of my hand. My mother carefully, took it off with her ulu. That was how, I grew up as a child, with my parents in Naujaat.

      Ever since I can remember, I used to hear about other Inuit from Uqsuqtuuq(Gjoa Haven) Region, Qairnirmiut(the people of Baker Lake area), Talurruaq, my father used to live within those regions. I used to hear about our fellow-Inuit in those areas. I grew up as a true Inuk, living in an iglu in the winter time. While living in an iglu, it can be old at times, especially when there was no oil on the qulliq(Inuit oil lamp). When you live on the sea coast, you used seal fat to light your qulliq. But when you are on the land, or inland, you would have a small oil lamp, that you carried with you. Since there was no seals on the land, my mother would use tunnuq(caribou fat) to light the small qulliq. She used to light the qulliq when she was going to sew our clothes in the evenings. We also used to chew the caribou fat to make candles. We used them for lights in the evenings. This is how I grew up in the Aivilik Region of Nunavut. When I was growing up, I grew up with much happiness and with wonderful things happenings. That was my cycle of life.

      Zack Kunuk: What is it your Inuktitut name?

      Peter Irniq: Taqtu Irniq, those are my Inuktitut names. My mother used to tell a story of her dream, when they lived in Maluk&ittat/Naujaarjuat or Lyon Inlet. She said, she dream’t about this Irniq. That Irniq had relatives in Naujaat as well here in Amittuq. He lived in that area around 1940 or 47. In her dream, my mother said, this Irniq wanted to be named in me. She said, her dream was almost life-like or as though she was awake. We were not related at all. This is why, I was named after that Irniq. Taqtu on the other hand, belonged to a lady relative of ours in Naujaat. When I was born, she named me after that special lady named Taqtu. When I was born and getting older, I remember calling her, “Taqtuuqatiga” “my fellow Taqtu”. This was part of Inuit culture that we practiced. To this day, whenever I talk about her, I refer to her as “Taqtuuqatiga”. This is very important aspect of Inuit culture. I only have two Inuit names. On the other hand, when I was born in 1947 and baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, I was named Pierre. Inuit called the priest Kajualuk(because his big beared was brown) so Inuit called him Kajualuk, translated to “Big Brown”. When I was going to a residential school, I became to be called as Peter, by the Qablunaat(White people).

      Zack Kunuk: When you still a true Inummarik, I guess, you would never pronounce the names of the older people? You would have calling titles for them, “tur&urautiit?”

      Peter Irniq: Yes, particularly, the old, old people, people who were much older than us. They were the fellow-Elders of my parents, my father. We were taught from never to call them by name. Even, if we did not have calling titles for them, we were told not to call them by their names. We respected their Elderships and their ages. It was like honoring them. As children, we were told not to call the older people, those who were older than us, by names. Some we had calling titles for them, and even when they were not related to us for example, we would call them, “my avvakuluk” “my dear little same name”. “My uncle over there”. We had different calling titles for them. “My same-age or equal-age person”. When people were named after certain individuals, we naturally had calling for each other. We were taught to respect and honor. When an Elder came into our tent, and I was sitting down, I was to stand up immediately and allow the Elder to sit down. I was told, do this, without being told.

      Zack Kunuk: When was it that you were sent off to school?

      Peter Irniq: Some Naujaarmiut(people from Naujaat) were sent off to school around 1953, 54 and 55. In those days, they were being sent to school in Igluligaarjuk(Chesterfield Inlet). As for me, I knew I was never going to school. I knew this because, I grew up as a true Inummarik, and knew that I would live an adult life as a true Inuk, a hunter, fisher, and trapper. Ones that are older than I am, they started going to school around 1954-55-57 to Chesterfield Inlet. It was around that time. For me, going to school was something that I was not prepared for as we never lived in a community with other people. My father used to say that living in a community, all you get is welfare from the Qablunaat. He didn’t want to be like that. He always wanted to be close to animals for food and clothing. We lived in Naujaat, I think, only two times, once in 1956 and another time in 1957. At that time, my fellow-youth, were being sent off to a residential school. As for me personally, we living in Tinujjivik(a favorite fishing spot of the Inuit in the spring time, when the fish were swimming down stream). We living there in the summer time and it was in the month of August. It was a time of year when the days were really beautiful, sunny and hot. Tinujjivik is not visible from Naujaat, but if you live in Naujaat, you could see in the distance, the outpost of Tinujjivik. It is around 13 miles west of Naujaat. Tinujjivik is a place for fishing. In the spring time, people would build saputit and when the tide is low, the Arctic Char would be trapped inside the saputit, and that was how we used to fish at Tinujjivik. We would move there in the spring time and moved a short distance to the east, where there are more seals in the area.

      Well, that summer of 1958, we could see a boat coming, with an engine. We could see it very clearly, as it was a very beautiful day. As our custom goes, my mother started to make tea by burning heathers, as this was a summer time. We only used heather and other moss to boil tea in those days. It was such a wonderful feeling that we are having some visitors, so she decided to make tea to welcome the visitors. Then they beached the boat. As they beached, we walked down to the beach to greet the visitors, and all of us, walked down behind my father. But that father, a priest, the late Father Dedier, came off the boat, first. He came off the boat, and said to my father, “Peter Irniq is going to school in Igluligaarjuk so we came to pick him up”. He didn’t even greet my father by shaking hands! I have never seen my father panicked but at that point, he was panicky. So he ordered me by saying, “they came to get you, go put on some nicer clothes”. My mother and I quickly went back to our tent and she made me put on niururiak, a seal skin boots, with the fur outside. I got all dressed up in my best, and off we went to Naujaat. The visitors didn’t have tea. As Inuit, they would have stopped to have tea, if they were regular visitors, then leave after they had tea. I don’t have any idea why this happened the way it did. I wondered, if the priest had told them earlier that, before anything happens, we should leave immediately. I don’t know. When we were traveling towards Naujaat, my goodness, it was lonely. It was the loneliest time of my life! It was too awesome!

      Zack Kunuk: You then, left your parents?

      Peter Irniq: “Yes!”

      It comes back instantly! My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my little brother, who died in later years, my niece, I watched them, as we are traveling farther and farther away from them. They were all standing by the shore, seeing me off, until I was no longer visible by eye. Wow! Perhaps, it’s that particular incident, when I was suddenly taken away, it’s been long time ago, since 1958, to me, it comes back quite suddenly, to the time I was a child. That very part, it is very difficult to become adult with. You stayed a child forever! Even though, I am a old person now, but sometimes, you have to returned to it, or re-visit it, instantly. And so, we were on our way to Naujaat.

      Zack Kunuk: How old were you at that time?

      Peter Irniq: Eleven. Yes, I was 11 years old, when I was taken away. So, we were traveling towards Naujaat. I watched my parents, as they were no longer visible by eye sight. They were still standing on the beach. They were also watching until we were no longer visible in the horizon. When we finally got to Naujaat, I was made to go to Angutinguaq family. My father and Angutinguaq were cousins. So I was to stay with this family, according to the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church. They were the adoptive parents of Jack Anawak. We had been here for some days, I guess my parents would watch from where they were, to see if the plane had come and coming to land in the water in Naujaat. Even though, Naujaat was some distance away, they could see airplanes from where they were. Since, they did not see any planes landing in Naujaat, a few days later, my father and my brother-in-law, came over by canoe with an outboard motor. When they arrived, it was so wonderful! Since they arrived, I became relaxed, knowing that I now have a foundation here in Naujaat.

      At that point, Angutinguaq, who I called Haluuruluk. Since they were in the south in 1925, spokes some English, I was to call him, my Haluuruluk(my darn Hello). Now that my father and my brother-in-law here, I had a foundation and practically no more worries and stress. At that point, Father Dedier had said, the plane would be here to pick us up, after three or four days, to bring us to Igluligaarjuk. He said, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. Now that we are free to do whatever we wanted to do, and there was lots of broken ice in Naujaat at this point. My Haluuruluk had a boat called Uvajuk, it was very tippy so it was called that name. Using Uvajuk, we would go down to the sea, in between the ice, to see if there might have been bearded seals or walruses. We were doing this, while we were waiting for a plane. Once we were out there, they got me to steer the boat, while my father, Haluuruluk and my brother-in-law were on the look out for the animals, maybe polar bears. We waited may be about four days, a single engine plane came to pick us up. And so, we board the plane, and we were now on our way to Igluligaarjuk. It was my first time in an airplane. I remember my father having a discussion with another Inuksuk, when I was much younger child. This man was on an airplane previously. My father had asked him, when the plane was taking off, do you watch the ground? We used to get very few planes in Naujaat in those days. So, this man was telling about an airplane ride he had. He said, when they were taking off, and he was looking down on the ground, he could see that as they were going so fast, he could see stripes of blue, green or red or yellow. Remembering that story, I was looking down on the water as we were taking off. As you know it was my first time on an airplane. I kept on a lookout for green, red or yellow stripes. There was nothing. It was actually a slow airplane. Perhaps, he was exaduating(sp), to make the story more interesting. And when we were going back home, we were taking off from the snow, it certainly was not like that, there were no beautiful stripes. There were about 10 or 12 of us, who were brought from Naujaat to Igluligaarjuk. We traveled to Chesterfield Inlet for about two-and-a-half hours.

      Zach: With a single engine airplane?

      Peter Irniq: Yes, with a single engine airplane. This airplane belonged to the RCMP, the one they used to bring us over. On the side of the airplane was a yellow stripe, with a dark blue paint. The tail of the plane had a yellow paint as well.

      Zach Kunuk: When you are getting close to Igluligaarjuk and the time you were landing to Chesterfield Inlet, can you tell us about that?

      Peter Irniq: I remember this very well! I don’t forget things at all, so I remember it very well. I am an Inuk. I grew up as a real Inuk, at that time. My mother and father, always used to tell me to be looking or observing…always. If you see something, then you will be able to tell me. Look for animals. I used to look around for anything, at that time. When we left Naujaat, it was a beautiful day. We arrived to Igluligaarjuk, it was even more beautiful. Hot! There were some clouds. There were beautiful clouds, with the sun shining. When we got closer, the sea water didn’t seem to be as beautiful. But the land, was beautiful, much like Naujaat environment. The stone formations were beautifully bright! I could see all those each time I look down below me, from an airplane. They very much resembled, Naujaat rock formations. Naujaat has those. When we were getting closer to landing, the land and sea were both beautifully pleasant. That time, we landed at Tasiraaluk(a small big pond). Tasiraaluk belonged to Iguligaarjuk, it was situation just around the houses. We landed there at Tasiraaluk, a fairly big pond. The airplanes landed so it was quite a large pond. The Roman Catholic Church used it for water supply. We beached on a beautiful rocky beach with the plane. When we beached, we all got off. I saw some Inuit there but then, I saw the Sisters, the Grey Nuns, for the first time in my life. They wore long dresses, and their hoods had little “furs”, but with lots of little holes, just like window screens. Some of the nuns were extremely beautiful! When I first started seeing Qablunaat, they were always beautiful. To see the Grey Nuns, they were even more beautiful than the Qablunaat, that I had seen previously, which weren’t many. I started to see the Qablunaat there, some belonged to the Department of Transport and others were priests. I used to think, I wonder if White People had ugly people. They all seemed to beautiful and handsome. The Grey Nuns that I noticed so much being different than most people, were to be our care takers, supervisors. They came to meet us. So, I was standing there, as I didn’t know where to go, nor have any place to go. My fellow Naujaarmiut were there, Paul Maniittuq, John Ninngak Mike Kusugaq, and Katherine and the late Francios Nanuraq. There was also Nick Amautinnuaq and Jose Kusugaq, who we knew only as Amaujaq in Naujaat. When our names were changed by the Government of the Northwest Territories, he became Jose Kusugaq. He was along with us. There was also Agatha from Naujaat. There were others, Maria, Theresie, now Theresie Tungilik. She has his father’s name today. Those are the ones who came here to Igluligaarjuk. There was this little Qablunaaq, he was slightly bigger than I am. As I was 11 years old, I was not that tall. I maybe, was about this height. As he was standing next to me, and kept looking at me and then asked me: “What is your name?” with a French accent. I understood what he said, as the year before in 1957, we were taught some English by the Roman Catholic priest, perhaps for a week or so. We were taught in English about things that were inside the Roman Catholic Mission in Naujaat. “Box” “Seal” “House” so we learned a little bit in English, then. “Fish” I used to tell my father about what we had learned. He used to recognize the words that I told him about. The four of them, including my Haluuruluk Angutinguaq, Tapatai and Savikataaq were in the land of the Qablunaat in 1925. They were in Newfoundland, Halifax and in Montreal. When they returned, they learned some English and were able to speak some English. So what I was learning, he would recognize them once I tell him about them. We were taught by Iksirajuakuluulaurtuq(Formerly Father Franzen), and Father Dedier. So, when he asked, “what is your name”, I understood him. As I answered him, I was extremely timid and said, Peter. Also, I was feeling very strange to see the Inuit of Igluligaarjuk. Everything was too awesome for me!

      From there, we were led by a Sister to the hostel. I walked along with my good friend Paul Maniittuq. Both of us walked in behind a Sister, as we were told to follow her. We were apparently going to the big house, the Turquetil Hall. It was a huge building, green in color. I turned to one side and noticed another big building. These buildings looked really big. I also noticed the Church Rectory, it was beautifully built. When I looked to the west, there was a Statue of Virgin Mary, surround by rocks, it was beautiful. From there, we saw another large building, two-storey, this was a hospital as well as being a home for the Nuns. This one was not to be our home, at that point. The one, we were going to was a two-storey hostel, it was to be our home for entire winter or during all the time, that we were going to be in Igluligaarjuk. We called it Iglurjuaraaluk – a real big hosue. When we got there, we were told to take our clothes off. We were to have a bath. We were deliced. We got our haircuts. We got our haircuts with those old fashioned manual hair cutters. I had a very short hair. In fact, all of us young boys had very short hair at that point. I also noticed that day that the young girls also got a hair cut, by cutting their hair, right across their forehead. They looked so different. It was the firs time I ever saw a bath tub, as we didn’t have bath tubs in Naujaat. It was the first time I ever saw and worn shoes. I put a short sleeve shirt for the first time. That was the first time, I ever put on a foreign clothing like that. Wow, it was so awesome! There were lots of boys and girls, Iglulingmiut, Qamanittuarmiut(Baker Lake) kids, Arviarmiut(Arviat kids), there were many of them. That day was something to remember, that very day in Igluligaarjuk.

      Then when the night time came, we were told to go into our large, huge bedroom. There were many beds. I was given my bed, complete with sleepers or pjamas. I didn’t know a darn thing about these items, as we did not use them in Naujaat. As an Inuk, I slept completely naked, at home. Just before, we went to bed, we were told “to kneel down” and pray. I guess, this was the beginning of praying. We prayed a lot. That evening was just the beginning of our praying. When we woke up the next morning, we prayed firs thing, then just before our breakfast, when we got to the school, we prayed first thing, we used to go to school at 9 in the morning. Right after we said the Lord’s Prayer, “our father who art in heaven…” then we sang, what is apparently a “Oh Canada” song, Canadian National Athem. I didn’t know what I was singing about but just trying to follow along and copied everybody. I was completely unaware of what these songs mean’t.

      We had our teacher, who was a Grey Nun. After that first morning of schooling, we had to pray again, just before we left for lunch. When we got into the dining room of our hostel, we prayed. Just before we left for school, we prayed again. When we got to the afternoon school, we prayed again and then sang, God Save the Queen. We stayed in school during the afternoon for about two-and-a-half hours. Then when the English classes were finished, a Roman Catholic priest came over to teach us catechasm. This activity was also very noticeable to myself, especially, during the early stages of staying there. I was happy with this exercise, as we were able to speak our own Inuktitut language. Whereas at the school, we were told to speak only English. We were completely forbidden to speak our own Inuktitut language.

      At that time, Father Farard used to teach us catechasm. I had some idea about the Bible and the prayer, mostly I’ve learned this from my mother. This was prior to going to Igluligaarjuk. Prayer books were used quite a lot in those days, I even have one at home, one of the first prayer books of the Church. The top page has a drawing of a church, couple of iglus and Inuit. I have the old prayer book. When that priest was teaching us about the bible, I was the most knowledgeable one about it. I knew so much that I won a prize from Father Fafard. This was shortly after, we’ve been there for a short time. For my Prayer Book knowledge, he gave me a green apple for a prize. I didn’t know it was an apple. When you go outside, you can eat it, he said. So, when we got outside, I decided to take a bite out of this apple: Oh, what a horrible taste!! I found the apple so horrible tasting, so I gave it to Marius Qajuuttaq, who was walking with me up to the Turquetil Hall. I told him, I just hated the taste of it so I said, you can have it. A year ago, he has already been to that school, so he like it and found it very delicious! As for me, I ate a lot of Inuit food, such as dried meat, so I totally found dried fish very delicious. So, I gave that apple to Marius. I wonder, if he sometimes thinks about it today.

      Zack: Would you like some break?

      Peter Irniq: Yes, let’s

      Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

      Filmmaker Contact:


      Year of Production: 2008

      Country: Canada

      Region: Nunavut


      uploaded date: 03-11-2011