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


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ᓱᒃᑲᔪᒥᒃ ᖃᕋᓴᐅᔭᒃᑯᕈᓐᓇᐅᑎᖃᕐᐲᑦ? ᓱᒃᑲᔪᒧᐊᕐᓗᑎᑦ

ᑕᕆᔭᕋᓱᒃᑕᐃᑦ ᓱᒃᑲᐃᓗᐊᕐᐸ? ᐊᓯᓪᓕᕐᓗᒍ ᓱᒃᑲᐃᓂᕐᓴᒧᑦ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓇᕐᑐᒧᑦ

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

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ᑐᑭᓯᒋᐊᕐᕖᑦ: Testimony / Residential Schools