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Richard Imariotok Testimony

Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Richard Imariotok Testimony by Peter Irniq, February 2009

Testimonies by Richard Imariotok, Ottawa 2008

Peter Irniq:  Richard, please feel comfort.

Richard:  Yes.

Peter:  At that time, you also attended a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, when we were going to school there, from 1950 to 1969, first, can you talk about the time, where you used to live as an Inuk, prior to going to school?

  When I was leaving for Chesterfield Inlet, I remember living in Qaqqalik(one that has mountain) on Baffin Island.  I remember this very well, as when I think about it, I can see myself then.  I remember there was a little lake, and on a lake, there was a “sigjariarjuk” a little bird, a sand piper.  I used to try and go after them and it was a really fun activity, as I was only one.  I had a pair of boots, where I used to go in the water.  I was told, not to get too wet, as it was not a good time, to dry clothes, outside.  Even when I got wet, no one paid attention to me.  After remember this, I remember getting ready in the summer, along with Serapio’s (Ittuksardjuat’s family), including Alexina’s, Natalino’s, we were being brought over to Iglulik.  As we had a small canoe, we tried no to move around so much, as we had lots of load in the boat.  We were bringing over to Iglulik, some meat for them.  I remember arriving to Iglulik, and there were lots of people on the beach, apparently, they were ready to go away as well.  A day or two after, another thing I remember very well was, we were all told to come down and we all went down to the beach, those of us that were going into the plane, we were placed into a boat, all ready to get into an airplane.  Looking back, I saw myself as people, treated like bunch of dogs, when they got us ready to go away.  We were not well prepared of what we were going to do. 

Peter:  Was that when, you were leaving for Igluligaarjuk(Chesterfield Inlet)?

Richard:  Yes, when we were getting ready to go to Chesterfield Inlet. 

Peter:  Can you describe what your life was like prior to going to Chesterfield Inlet?

Richard:  I remember it as something that we were hunting often and then, I remember fishing as well.  As I was still too small to go out hunting, so I didn’t go along with the hunters very much.  At one time, when I finally went along, I remember them going out to hunt geese.  I remember, they caught lots of geese.  I also remember running after the geese but I could not catch them.  I remember carrying two geese on my back, but then, I had nothing to carry when we finally got home, as they were too heavy for me to carry.  And then, I remember being on the beach quite frequently, being watched all the time, as there were adults all the time.  As a precaution, I was often told not to hop on the pieces of ice, only as long as there were adults around.  As we did not have many people,  there were not that many fellow-youth, that were around. 

Peter:  When you were hopping around from one piece of ice to the other, were there, Qallupilluit(spirit creatures, that are often under the pieces of ice on the beach, and can be heard knocking on the ice, when the tide is low and Inuit teachings tell us that they have fur the same as ducks and sometimes can be seen only by angakkuit(shamans))?

Yes, there were Qallupilluit.  There were lots of them, you could hear them a lot.  And also, I also remember seeing something really bright, perhaps, it was the home of a Qallupilluq. When we were living in Qaqqalik, Natalino’s mother, used to fry oils or fat, she used to tell me when she would be frying these oils/fats of seal.  As soon as she started doing that, I used to go walking outside of our camp, looking for “roots”, a kind of vegetation, that grew on the land.  When I got these plants, I would bring them to her and she would fry them with fat, and we would eat them and to eat them, they were really delicious. 

And while we were still at that place, I remember men, making saputit(fish weirs or fish dams), built on the rivers, to trap the fish into, when the arctic char were swimming back up to the lakes, normally in the early fall.  I remember bringing small pieces of rocks to those who were building fish weir.  When it became too deep where I was and I could not go back up to the land, I remember being brought up, by one of the men, building the fish weir.  I also remember at that place, especially in the bay, we would go down to the beach, when the water was at a low tide, in areas where there was puddle of water, there used to be a lot of fish.  We would also unroll our fish nets across the water at the mouth of the bay, so that they could catch fish, I also remember this very well. 

Peter:  So at that time, prior to going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, you lived a life of a true Inuk?

Richard:  Yes, absolute!  I don’t even remember eve seeing Qablunaat(White People), even though, I had heard about them.  Mostly, priests.  I don’t remember other types of Qablunaat, only knowing about Roman Catholic priests. 

Can you talk about just when you were about to get ready to leave for Chesterfield Inlet?

Yes, when we were taken into a boat and then to the float airplane. We were all from Iglulik and the surrounding area, most of them came here to have their children to be sent to the school.  When we got into a plane, we all sat down.  I remember this very well too, that the airplane was awfully stinky!   It was apparently very stinky of gas.  The smell of gas was very strong, as I was not used to smelling lots of gas.  I didn’t really know it as smell of gas. 

Peter:  Did your relatives go to see you off, as you were leaving on the plane?

Richard:  As our boat was too small to transport us from our outpost camp, my father brought me over, but not my mother.  When we were coming here, we came here with Serapio, Natalaino and their father, I remember this.  We left my sister at Qaqqalik.  I remember very well, when we were leaving Qaqqalik, my sister was looking at us for a long period of time, as we disappeared into the horizon.  I remember her as I often looked back.  When I looked back, I guess, it was because, she was not going to see me again, for a long period of time, that she was looking at us, until we disappeared into the horizon.  That was what I was thinking. 

Peter:  When you were leaving for schooling in Chesterfield Inlet, do you remember if your mother or father was told, that your son was going to go to school in Chesterfield Inlet?  Do you remember?

  No, I don’t remember.  But, later on I asked my father if they had talked to him.  But, when he was down south during the winter, in the land of the White People, he was told, that I had to go to school.  That I had to go away to go to school.  That summer then, they brought me to Iglulik, at the same time, they went to trade their goods, with the traders. 

Peter:  Do you remember if they asked him, “what would you think of your son, going to school in Chesterfield Inlet?”, perhaps, they didn’t consult him seeking his permission?

Richard:  I think, that is correct.  Absolutely.  I also looked into the Archives, to see if there were signed papers, that I was going to school, I never found anything at all.  I never found anything at all, that was signed by the parents, giving permission to their children, being taken away to go to school. 

Peter:  What year was it, the first time you went to Chesterfield Inlet?

Richard:  1958. 

How old were you?

  Six.  The plane was very, very loud and very stinky from the gas, when we were starting to take off.  After a while, it got better.  Then, we landed in Naujaat(Repulse Bay), to pick up quite a few more kids.  We stayed there for a little while, then went back into the plane.  As it turned out, we didn’t have a lot of chairs any more to sit down.  We the smaller kids, sat on the floor of the airplane.  The bigger kids were sitting on the chairs.  Our hands were held on to, when we were trying to take off and landing.  I remember this very well, as we were sitting on the floor.  When we added more people, and croweded, it became much more stinky and some started to vomit, and it became very, very hot inside the plane.  As it got hotter, it became much more stinky. 

Peter:  When you came from Iglulik and then Naujaat(Repulse Bay), and on your way to Chesterfield Inlet, do you remember landing in between?

Richard:  No, I don’t remember, landing between the two.  I do remember, there was a toilet, where could go and have a pee, I remember that part.  I don’t think, we landed when we were going to Chesterfield Inlet from Repulse Bay.

Richard:  When you were leaving Iglulik, what did your father say to you?

Richard:  I don’t remember too much but he said to me, “always listen, I will see you again next year”, those are the ones I remember. 

Peter:  When you landed in Chesterfield Inlet, did you land in Tasiraaluk(the landing lake for planes on floats)?

Richard:  Yes, we landed at that lake.

Peter:  Who came to greet you?

I remember I saw people with long white dresses when I looked out through the window.  They had really long dresses and had little hats, with a screen around the hats, very close to their faces.  And the two people I particularly noticed were wearing black dresses(robes).  Those were apparently Roman Catholic priests and the others, Sisters.  That was how they were identified with the way, they were dressed.

Peter:  What else do you remember?

Richard:  I remember they had a crucifix, hanging around their necks, they were large.  They also wore a belt, around their waste.  But, I particularly remembered the ones, with hats.

Peter:  Did you notice they were going to be your supervisors?

Richard:  I didn’t notice this much but after we all got off the plane, I notice, they were ordering us around, go here and go there.  I don’t quite remember but I think, it was either Natalino or Serapio, who told us that these are going to be our care takers.

I guess, they knew already from previous years?

Richard:  Yes.  Yes. 

Peter:  Where did you go from there?

Richard:  We were all lined up and walk along the creek from the landing lake.  I saw the stores, on our left hand side, we were going towards the hostel, the Turquetil Hall Residence.  We also walked by the church and another large building to our right.  I remember walking towards this large green building, which is one that I also remember well.  We were all lined up, when we walked there all the way, at home, when walking towards something like this, we would have been running around, all over the place. 

Peter:  When you got to Chesterfield Inlet, obviously, they spoke English.  Did you understand English?

Richard:  Absolutely not!  I was not able to understand at all, other than maybe, having learned to say hell.  I could not understand a word in English and did not understand their language at all. 

When you got to the hostel, what did you do then?

When we got to the hostel, we were all gathered at the recreation room or boy’s room.  I then had a bath and noticed what I was wearing on me, was very stiff.  I also  noticed that the shoes I was wearing were very stiff.  And I was also trying to stand up straight, as the new clothes I was wearing were almost choking me.  We were all very queit.  I then learned that we were not allowed to speak our Inuktitut language.  I was told about this by the older children. 

Peter:  You were now at a place that was not comfortable?

Richard:  Yes, I felt really uncomfortable.  I did not know what to do.  No wonder, I have never been at a big house before, period!  In Iglulik, I have been to a small church but I have never been to a huge building before, in my life.  I did not know anything about what they did. 

Peter:  Can you describe what the inside was like at the hostel, in it’s entirety?

Richard:  Our recreation room or the boy’s lounge was a huge one and next to it was a place to wash and the toilets.  On the other side, was another large room, with lots of beds, all lined up, this was apparently a place for us to sleep.  On the left hand side of the boy’s room, there was a large room to eat, but just before you got there, there was a room for your clothes.  When we got there and I was wearing that clothing that was very stiff, I asked one of the older boys, where I would go to go and pee.  He pointed towards a room, where there was toilets.  There were two doors that you had to open, they closed and open, by themselves.  When I got to the toilet, right away, I noticed a toilet, a large one.  As there were lots of us and as soon as I got to the toilet, I started to pee there.  As there was nothing in there, my urine made a lot of noise, as it was pouring out.  As I was peeing and it was making a lot of noise, the next thing I noticed was, someone grabbed me by the ear, and started to drag me.  They were apparently dragging me to the real toilets.  I then found out that I was peeing into a garbage pail.  When I was living at an outpost camp, we used a pail like that for a toilet.  Then, this Sister was talking something, that made no sense what-so-ever!  She got me to a real toilet and was showing me, how to flush it and she would put the lid and up and down.  This was apparently a place for me to pee and shit.  Later on, I got used to it and used it. 

Peter:  Here you are, you first got there, you were being scolded  and your ear was grabbed, was that something that had a lot of impact on you?

Richard: It was hurtful, right away.  It was painful.  At home, I would have been told what to do and what not to do.  I would not have been treated like that at home, I have never been treated like that at home, never! 

Do you remember there were all kinds of rules at the hostel?

Richard:  Yes, I remember some of them.  For example, when we lined up, the smallest ones would have to be at one end, and the bigger boys had to be at the front end.  I was particularly noticing this one.  We had to wait for others and when all of us were all there, all lined up, then, we would finally go in.  It would seem that, you would just go to wherever you were going, but we had to wait all the time. 

  How many times, did you pray a day?

Richard:  We would pray in the morning and in the evening.  And each time, we were going to have a meal, we would pray.  In the very early mornings, we would be woken up to go to Church. 

Peter:  When you first got to Chesterfield Inlet, you talked about seeing Sisters for the first time, were they able to speak Inuktitut?

Richard:  Absolutely not!  They were not able to speak Inuktitut.  There was however an Inuk Sister, who came in perhaps, after us, but her main function was to look after the girls. She was the one who was able to speak Inuktitut, after all, she was an Inuk.   I also noticed later on that others, Sisters and Priests, used to speak to each other in French, apparently.  They did not speak to each other in English.  When they spoke to us, then they would speak to us in English. 

Peter:  What about your food, what was it, you ate?

Richard:  It was the first time, I ever had a cheese.  It was my first time eating, it tasted horrible, it was aged!  As I could not eat it, I gave it to the person, who was sitting next to me.  I then remember being slapped on the back of my head.  They took the cheese back and told me that I had to eat it.  Even though, it was very stinky and horrible, it was a small piece.  I struggled to swallow it.  After I was finished, the Sister, went back to the place where she was watching us.  I also remember eating fish.  We had fish head or main part of the fish, the body.  The thing about those was that, they had guts in them!  When they boiled the fish, it tasted horrible, because of the guts included when being boiled.  At times we had fish quaq(frozen), that was okay, even thought it had guts, as we can eat some of the edible parts of the gut, but when you cook it and boil it, with the rest of the fish, it tasted horrible.  We also had corn beef in a can.  The thing about them was that, we ate them frozen.  I also particularly remember this.  It also seemed like, we drank milk all the time.  I never had that much milk at home.  No wonder, when I was born, I remember drinking mostly broth.  My grandmother brought me up with mostly with broth.  So, I didn’t have much milk.  We had much, a lot of it, even though I didn’t like it very much, I was able to drink it. 

Peter:  I think, they were cow beef, do you know why, they fed us that – frozen? 

Richard:  No, I never understood why.

Peter:  Perhaps, because we Inuit were seen as frozen meat eaters, so they fed us frozen cow beef. 

Richard:  Yes.  Perhaps yes. 

Peter:  Do you remember what the Sisters ate?

Richard:  Sometimes, I used to go to where they ate for what ever reason, they ate, very different foods, than we did.  They had their own dining room, separate from our boy’s and girl’s dining room.  Their dining room was close to the kitchen.  They ate very different things than we did, I remember this well. 

Peter:  Do you remember, they used to tell us, we eat exactly the same kind of things you eat?

Richard:  Yes, yes. 

Peter:  I want to move to the school now. 

Richard:  Yes. 

Peter:  Wait…

Peter:  Before we move onto the school, do you have anything else to say about the hostel itself?

Richard:  The girls used to be upstairs, above us.  We were not allowed to see them.  We were not to stare at them.  We were not to talk to them.  I particularly noticed this one.  And sometime later, when my sister went there to school, I was allowed to associate with her in any way.  Again, I particularly noticed this one. 

Peter:  So, you were not allowed to talk to her?

Richard:  Yes.

Peter:  If you were caught talking to your sister, what would have happened to you?

Richard:  We were caught talking to each other.  The Sisters came and asked what we were talking about and if we kissed or not.  They asked me those questions.  They asked what we were talking about and including kissing.  As my sister, we didn’t think of doing those things but I was very mindful of those questions. 

Peter:  At home, you would never be treated this way at all?

Ricahrd:  Absolutely! 

Peter:  At the dining room, the boys and girls were separated as well?


Peter:  You were not allowed to stare at the girls and visa versa in the dining room?

Richard:  Yes.  When you are seen staring at the girls, you would get a severe punishment.  As we were not to look towards the girls. 

Peter:  What did they do, did they slap you?

Richard:  They just talked to me.  When we were for the first time, the three of us, including one of us was Lazarie, we went down to the beach, looking for scorpion fish, we were enjoying our outing, after a while, we were being screamed at, so we looked up towards the land, and then we were told to come over.  When we went over to them, I remember, we were severely punished.  But, I did not understood, what we were being told, not being able to speak English.  I did not like the way, we were treated, as I used to go down to the beach at home.  When I got to this place, I was no longer allowed to continue this activity, looking for scorpion fish.  As a result of this, it was unpleasant or unhappy period. 

Peter:  Your life was changed drastically?

Richard:  Yes.  My life was changed.  No wonder, I had never been in that type of situation, and having never gone to school, in the first place.  I used to ask a lot of questions about what we were going to do next, what purpose does these different things, serve?  I would ask questions like that.   When I was caught speaking Inuktitut, I was severely punished for it and was being hit with a yard stick on my hand.  I remember the Sisters used to have something hanging in front of them, and it was black.  It was rubber.  I found out, it was to spank someone with it.  So, when the Sisters were scolding people, for whatever reason, they would hit them, with that thing.  I was always trying very hard to be good, and not do anything bad, and try not to say too much.  Even though, I used to ask a lot of questions, I had to shut up, being a bit more aware.  I was just merely asking questions, and just following others. 

Peter:  When you first entered a classroom, do you remember what it was like?  What do you remember about the inside?

Richard:  When you first entered the classroom, teacher’s desk was up there, the big black board was in one area, and the windows were in one area.  The placed seemed to be all windows.  Our desks as students were all lined up straight.  I could not see too much around me, as I was placed in  front of the classroom, most of the time.  I think, I was the smallest, when I was there, the first time.  In terms of numbers, I was the 43rd, perhaps being the smallest kid.  I remember being number 43 and the next year, my number being 42.  As a result of not being able to see too good, they placed me in front of the class. 

Peter:  Can you describe what the number 43 is?

Richard:  Oh, it had to do with the sizes of the students.  The biggest person was number one, as the students were smaller in height, their numbers, became higher.  Because, I was the smallest, my number was 43. 

Peter:  Inside the school?

Richard:  No, at the residence.

Peter:  Who was your teacher at the school, was it a Grey Nun, do you remember who the teacher was?

Richard:  Yes, she was a Grey Nun, her name was Sister Rocan.  Sister Rocan was my main teacher and sometimes I had Sister Chaput as my teacher.  And at the school, there was a priest who came, during the entire week.  He was the only one, who was speaking in Inuktitut.  And all the writings on the black board, were very well written.  Looking at them, I realized, they were something, we were going to learn about. 

Peter:  When you first entered the classroom, do you remember what type of topics, you were learning? 

Richard:  Yes, I remember the one that had ears that were flop and hanging, Dick and Jane. 

Peter:  The little one, whose ears were flop and hanging, and it was spotty?

Richard:  Yes…I remember starting to read, Fun with Dick and Jane.  I remember the pictures of girls, they all seemed to wear dresses all the time, in the book, that we were reading.  Even though, we never knew anything about pigs and cows, that was what we were taught about in the reading books.  And also at a later date, we learn about other countries, topics that we really didn’t seem to care about.  I didn’t think, there was much sense on this one.  But at a later on, I did not mind it any longer. 

Peter:  What about catechasm?  What did you learn there?

Richard:  We learn mostly about the land of Jesus, where he used to live, it was mostly about those.  And also, there was a King and the Queen, overseas.  We were told that they were our big bosses for us residents of Canada.  I could not understand this, how could they be big bosses, all the way over there, especially, when we are here.  We also learn about Black Peoples homeland.  Others, such as learning to read and write English, I remember them being taught for the first and second year. 

Peter:  Were you able to talk Inuktitut inside the classroom?

Richard:  No!  We were not allowed to speak in Inuktitut. 

Peter:  If you were caught speaking Inuktitut, what would have happened to you?

Richard:  Our teacher used to hit us on our hands, when they caught speaking in Inuktitut. 

Peter:  Do you remember if there were Inuit teachers?

Ricahrd:  No, there were no Inuit teachers but I don’t know how many years later, we used to have an occasional Inuit teacher, who was teaching us how to write Inuktitut.  This was only after, we had become much bigger, and been there for a good number of years. 

Peter:  Today, many people who went to school in Chesterfield Inlet, talk about sexual abuses and having been sexually abused.  Can you speak about this from your personal experiences?

Richard:  Yes, I was also impacted by this.  I remember being touched, in our dormitory.  I did not quite notice it as it was darkish in our dormitory.  I remember it as being a Sister, but she was very dark because of the dark room.  I cannot tell, exactly who it was.  And also, I was pretending to sleep, as I did not wanted to be sexually abused.  AS I said earlier, they used to wear these screens around their faces, to this day, I can still feel it to this day, on my body part here.  I remember this one and later on, I can remember very well, when I used to be sexually abused by a Brother.  I remember this particularly well and it used to happen at the church.  It started there at the church, as I used to serve as Alter Boy.  He used to abuse me there as well as at the Residence.  And also, I remember, he used to get several of us together and there, he would do all of us.  Looking back, I did not like this at all.  Perhaps, it was fun in some ways, but looking back, it was not a right thing to do.  For me, it was not a happy event at all.  He was not supposed to do this.  For my life at later on, it had a lot of negative impact on my life.  My life was changed very negatively.  I am not one to go after men, and I don’t get turned on by other men, even though, they can be my good friends.  I don’t find them nice, like women.  For a time, I did not know what to do, even though, I did not go after men, I wondered why, it was done to me, by a man.  I wondered why, I was like that, even though, I do not go after other men.  To this day, I have to try and heal from this.  I try to forget it but it is not possible to forget it.  Only when you talk about it over and over again, then it begins to disappear.  It is not embarrassing to talk about it any more, and when I have to talk about it, I talk about it. 

Peter:  These guys did these inside the church?

Richard:  Yes, inside the church. 

Peter:  Do you remember them preaching and preaching against these kinds of things?

Richard:  Yes.  I used to hear them preach, about them, that they are not to fool around.  Even one of the 10 commandments says,  “thou shall not commit adultery.”  “To they neighbor”, or something to that effect.  This was said quite often and we were taught against committing sins.  They taught us that when we had sins, then we should have confessions.  I don’t know how many times, I had to lie, saying, I had committed a sin.  When we left the Residence, we had to go to that church to get rid of our sins.  I went with others, just to be able to get out.  No wonder, we would not go out, when there was a bit of storm.  And over there at the church, there were no Sisters, so, we were more free to do more things.  This was as long as our supervisors were not around – only us! 

Peter:  When you were being sexually abused, did you wanted to complain to someone?

Richard:  I wanted to tell and complain but I was very embarrassed about it.   I had been sexually abused perhaps for three years and never having to tell anyone, and only then found a way to tell my sister.  She was the only one, that I was able to talk to about it.  As for my father, only when they were aware about these things through a radio, only then, I was able to talk to him about it. 

Peter:  The Survivors of that Residential School in Chesterfield Inlet, have talked a lot about this now, to this day, what steps have you taken towards this in terms of healing?

Richard:  When I become aware of this myself in 1989, I started to talk about this in an attempt to start getting it out.  As long as I talked about it, then, it will no longer be there.  It can never totally disappear but it does make the load much lighter, with your mind and your body.  As long as you keep talking about it.  And then, I became aware that I was not the only one, I start to work with alcohol and drugs, so that I can talk with them about these embarrassing topics, because I got to know, others were in the same situation.   Perehaps, if there were more of us, then we can better look after ourselves. 

Peter:  From July 3 to 7, we had a reunion of the Resdential School Survivors, we talked about having been sexually abused at the Residential School.  Did this meeting have any impact on us in terms of helping us to this day?

Richard:  Ah, yes, of course, in a very big way!  It did a lot of help since we talked about it and the result was that more people were able to recognize their problems and help themselves more.  And when they started to meet, and talk to one another about it, so it had quite a lot of help for moving forward. 

Peter:  This healing has become a lifetime healing, especially to this day?

Richard:  It looks that way.  But the thing is, it is not going to disappear totally, forever.  But, you can sometimes forget about it and not have to remember it all the time.  You will be reminded of it from time to time, even though, you don’t want to be reminded of it.  I am still like that.  I sometimes think of the past, I sometimes smell it, although infrequently.  Perhaps, I was so embarrassed from it or it was such a heavy load, that I started to drink quite heavily, just wanted to get drunk.  Maybe, I wanted to say things but did not have anyone to talk to.  I was perhaps trying to lose what I was feeling inside me.  This was perhaps the reason why, I was drinking so heavily.  Today, I can better plan things. 

Peter:  Those who abused you at that time, what do you think of them today?

Richard:  I wondered what I thought of the one that was doing the most abusing, the Brother, why did he do what he did?  I thought about this question quite a bit since living here in Ottawa.  I did a research on him.  About where he went to school in Ottawa,  and he committed suicide here in Ottawa.  Perhaps, it was because, many of us have talked and he knew, about what we had said.  It was reported that he died suddenly.  We also looked for his grave.  And then, we found his grave.  How this helped me personally, I found out he lived in lower Ottawa.  He had 11 brothers and sisters.  I wanted to know why he was doing what he did so much? 

For the Grey Nuns, it was more understandable about he fact that they were women, and we were men.  But about him, why did he do what he did, I was a man, and he was a man, this I truly wanted to understand more about. 

Peter:  Do you know if Inuit did these things too long time ago?

From my own knowledge, Inuit did not do these things.  But, I was told by an Elder that, they did that very infrequently.  This Elder used to say, there is always one like that among women and men. 

Peter:  Do you have any other comments or statements to make, other than what I have asked?  Do you have anything else to say?

Richard:  Yes. It was not all bad.  The big boys used to teach us how to skin a fox.  Later on, this helped me quite a bit as,  I truly know how to skin a fox, to this day, and do a good job.  At one time on Saturday, we went to check our fox traps, there were 13 of us, so when we were going home, we grabbed each other’s leg, and we lined up very long, it was quite a lot of fun.  What a wonderful time, all 13 of us!  We each got one fox and others got two.  Wonderful!  Also Sister Pelagie, used to take us out fishing on the land, when it was possible.  We would have tea out there, this to me was also very wonderful activity. 

And also, I was searching for my father’s and my sister’s name, I came upon a letter that was written to an official from the Department of Indian Affairs.  I think, it came from a Bishop.  In the letter it stated that, these students cannot be taught by their parents, and can be best taught  by the Grey Nuns and Brothers about hunting.  They can do better in the long run.  To read that letter, I understood it to be a complete lie.  For me, anyways.  Also when I was 15 or 16 years,  my father went to ask Father Fournier,  and told him, for me not to go back to school.  He said, I had to learn to hunt so that I can hunt.  So, he did not want me to go to school.  He said, Father Fournier’s face became very red instantly, and he was really scolding my father, so the next year, I had to go back to school.  The thing my father wanted to do, was to teach me about how to be Inuit.  He also wanted others to teach me about Inuit culture.  The thing was, Father Fournier was a very big boss.  It could not have been helped.  Some few parents, tried hard to be above what Father Fournier was. 

Peter:  If your parents did not let you go to school, what do you think, would have happened to your parents?

They would have been easily taken into custody by the RCMP, had we not gone to school.  And also, they were told that they would not be receiving their family allowances.  That was what they were told.  I did not personally hear this but I read at the National Archives, that there was something written like that.  They would be put in jail or they would not get their family allowances, if they did not send their children to go to a Residential School.  Incidently, I am aware of one parent, whose family allowance was cut off and they no longer got their money for family allowance. 

The money in question was around $6 a month and it was a lot of money then. 

Yes.  And also, my father used to tell me that he used to send money to me, while I was going to that Residential School.  I don’t ever receiving any money, while we were in Chesterfield Inlet. 

Peter:  Do you remember how you were treated by the teachers and the supervisors,  just when we were about to be going home?

Richard:  Yes.  Even when we were cleaning the residence, we became free to go out anytime, go any where, about to walk around anywhere, we could even walk around with the girls.  I remember this well, as we no longer had any one watching us, over our heads.  We became much more free, only when we were about to go back home to our communities. 

Then, they became very good to us?

Richard:  Yes, very much.


Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

Year of Production: 2008

Country: Canada

See more

More from this channel: 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

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      uploaded date: 03-11-2011