Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut August 09, 2018 - 1:32 pm

Black Iqaluit resident suffers public racial taunting, abuse

“What hurts one group hurts us all as a human family”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Another sign that Iqaluit is becoming a multicultural community: members of Iqaluit's African and Caribbean community celebrate Africa Day this past May 26 at the pavilion inside Sylvia Grinnell Park, where they enjoyed fish cakes, cou-cou, spicy beans and rice. It's likely that about 250 Iqaluit residents are of African descent. The writer of this letter encourages a continuing conversation on how Iqaluit can respond to its increasingly multicultural make-up. (FILE PHOTO)
Another sign that Iqaluit is becoming a multicultural community: members of Iqaluit's African and Caribbean community celebrate Africa Day this past May 26 at the pavilion inside Sylvia Grinnell Park, where they enjoyed fish cakes, cou-cou, spicy beans and rice. It's likely that about 250 Iqaluit residents are of African descent. The writer of this letter encourages a continuing conversation on how Iqaluit can respond to its increasingly multicultural make-up. (FILE PHOTO)

June 23 was a special day in the life of my children.

On that day, my wife and I, and our daughter’s godparents visiting from England, were at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit to celebrate this town’s young women and men transitioning into the next phase of their lives.

After the ceremony, I drove past Northmart to pick up a few groceries. At this point, things started to go a little sour.

While paying for the groceries at the checkout till, I was approached by what seemed to be a highly intoxicated young woman who was yelling words in Inuktitut. I looked around thinking that she was talking to someone else. However, the comments were directed at me.

I swiped my debit card and said a quick “thank you” to the cashier. The intoxicated young lady stood in my way and said in English, “Are you just going to say thank you?”

At this point, I was totally confused by this bizarre behaviour and chose to ignore this person and leave the store.

Without warning, she lunged at me and kicked my lower leg. I was partially able to sidestep and avoid the full impact of her kick and she caught the back heel of my foot instead. Her momentum caused her to lose her balance and fall down hard on the floor.

The store manager came up and quickly picked up my attacker from the floor and marched her out of the building.

Totally bemused by this behavior, I left the store and walked to my parked vehicle only to see this young lady walk by and shout a few choice profanities at me, with the word “Portugee” thrown in. The word “Portugee” is a derogatory term that refers to a dark-skinned person, usually a black person of African descent.

I am not very clear on the origins of the word. However, it seems to be a term that is peculiar to Nunavut. I brushed off this incident and took it as one of those things that one must develop a thick skin about.

I had all but forgotten this incident until Aug. 1. When I got out of my vehicle at the Northmart parking lot, an Inuk man loudly proclaimed in front of me that “too many niggers are coming to this place.”

My initial reaction was knee-jerk anger and almost immediate confrontation. I yelled an expletive at him, which in retrospect I regret, as I should not have stooped to that level.

I entered the store and bought my groceries. While paying for my groceries, I had an almost déjà vu moment—the man was standing at the entrance and starting to yell abuse at me again.

I asked one of the store managers if he could please intervene, as I felt that the store was duty-bound to protect a customer from heckling. The store manager asked the man to leave.

When I left the store, the man was standing outside and continued to heckle me. I warned him that if he continued with that behaviour, I would report him to the police.

I also told him that you may not like somebody for whatever reason, but there is no reason to use a racist term towards that person. I spoke loudly for the benefit of onlookers.

Racism and intolerance have no place in Iqaluit, or in Nunavut, and in Canadian society as a whole. When we look to the wisdom and guidance of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, tolerance is addressed in these fundamental values:

Inuuqatigiitsiarniq: respecting others, relationships and caring for people.

Tunnganarniq: fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive.

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in Section 6, gives all Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to move to, and live in, any province or territory. They may also look for work or set up a business there.

I mention this section of the Charter because Nunavut, just like the rest of Canada, is becoming a multicultural society. At the last census count, at least one out of five people in Canada identified as a visible minority, and with globalization this proportion is set to increase over time.

Between 2011 and 2016, 1.2 million new immigrants settled permanently in Canada.

For the first time, Africa ranks second, ahead of Europe, as a source continent for recent immigrants to Canada, with a share of 13.4 per cent in 2016.

Asia, including the Middle East, remains, however, the top source continent for recent immigrants. In 2016, the majority of newcomers to Canada, 61.8 per cent, were born in Asia.

As Nunavummiut, we must unite as neighbours and stand against any form of discrimination or hate speech directed at anyone. It should never be appropriate to say “those white people,” “those Inuit,” “those blacks,” “those Indians,” “those Asians,” or “those gays and lesbians” in a negative and derogatory manner.

What hurts one group hurts us all as a human family. We should not dehumanize another person just because they look different or speak with an accent.

In closing, I would invite citizens of Iqaluit to engage in a respectful dialogue about how we can deal with our increasingly multicultural society, the changes and impacts on the local population, and some possible best practices in this ever-evolving conversation.

Most important, let’s unite against any form of racism, abuse or hate speech directed at any person or group of people. Let’s foster love, inclusiveness and good spirits.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.

(Name withheld by request)
Iqaluit

(Editor’s note: We contacted the writer of this letter, verified his identity and established that his account of these racial abuse incidents is genuine. He asked that his name be withheld to protect his family from any backlash.)



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(75) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bbff on August 09, 2018

Unfortunately our government continues to promote this racist behaviours and attitudes. While it’s critically important to protect and promote Inuit language and culture it’s not acceptable to promote it as superior and above the culture and well being of others within the territory. This article is a great reminder that Nunavut is a Canadian territory and must also work to welcome others as an open Canadian democracy.

#2. Posted by step in on August 09, 2018

People can’t let this behaviour slip. We need to step in when we see it happen. Bullies will back down when confronted by more than 1 person.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an inuk, qalunaat, black or Asian, you should be able to go about your day without being targeted. No matter race or gender we should step in when we see this type of behaviour. There are many problems in Nunavut and a lot of tension but let’s at least be respectful of one another when we’re together in public. There are better things to be angry about than the colour of a random person’s skin.

#3. Posted by Pagan on August 09, 2018

I’ve been up here for 12 years. I live and worked in the south for over two decades and even now I still go through culture-shock in my own culture, with the racism, negativity not just rom Inuit but Caucasians too. Some of the civil servants, teachers, nurses or other professionals cannot stand being a visible minority and sometimes I will say, now you know what I ;lived through with the stereotypes and racism but I go out of my way to defend these “visible minorities” because I know what it feels like to live through it

#4. Posted by sad to see on August 09, 2018

Most Inuit and northerners are good, accepting people and won’t behave that way because they know and understand very well what it is like to experience racism.

Unfortunately, Nunavut also has a lot of seriously damaged and broken people who cannot control their anger because of trauma, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction.

Mental health and addiction treatment is not at all well supported in the territory, so they are often left to rampage around the streets and community.

Living in Nunavut can be wonderful, but comes with the price of inevitably having to deal with psychotic maniacs.

Don’t let the monsters of Nunavut get you down. There is lots of love and good people who don’t care what your skin colour is or where you come from.

#5. Posted by earth3rd on August 09, 2018

This is the word the drunk lady said…
puatugi or puatiki
It is not a derogatory term, it’s literal translation means “a black guy”.
The Inuit call whites, qablunaaq or qalunaat, but once again it is not meant as a derogatory term.
It is just part of the Inuit language and should not be taken as an insult.

#6. Posted by 59009 on August 09, 2018

I’m sorry you had to go through that. I for one am enjoying the increasing multiculturalism that Iqaluit has been experiencing the last few years.
But unfortunately wherever there is multiculturalism, there is racism

#7. Posted by Hmmm... on August 09, 2018

How sickening small-minded individuals!
No respect for anyone whatsoever!
Such a disgrace for other Inuit.

Please do not think that all Inuit are like that.

That is so rude and makes me mad that they even thought of doing that and thought it was funny.

Inuit were taught to be kind to everyone. Share and make everyone feel welcomed.

That behavior is crap. Please be respectful to all races.

You wouldn’t want anyone doing that to you right? Smarten up!

#8. Posted by Amoudla Sataa on August 09, 2018

It is with sadness and disappointment I hear about your experience. Our family has been brought up to be open and accepting of others no matter where they are from. It is my hope that individuals like those people will realize they are in a total minority in terms of their narrow mindedness. I certainly hope that there will be no more problems where racism is not experienced here in Iqaluit. No matter where we are, no one should be made uncomfortable and be made ashamed of who they are. Embracing differences and similarities is something that needs to be learned and role modelled. A good topic to be learned in schools as well.

#9. Posted by sled dog on August 09, 2018

sorry to hear that happened to you. Yes, there is racism from Inuit, just look at the article on housing, Lightstone’s analysis and purpose is to divide people by race. That is shameful for a MLA in a public government.

#10. Posted by context on August 09, 2018

@5 re. Word puatiki
You missed the point. Most people who live in Iqaluit know qalunaat and puatiki aren’t derogatory words. They might be a bit silly when you know the meaning behind them, but when thrown into a conversation it shouldn’t be seen as an offense.

But it’s the context and tone. The person yelling wanted to abuse the victim. If I yelled “Inuk!! Inuk!!” or “black guy!!” at someone in a menacing manner, does using the correct words make it acceptable? No.

#11. Posted by IQ first solutions on August 09, 2018

Blacks being mistreated in Nunavut is nothing new. Despite all the mistreatment I love Nunavut. The N work is commonplace. learn to speak English is second on the list. General maltreatment is third. Nothing new, I spent over a decade in Nunavut. When you see a black person, that person is most highly qualified with multiple degrees. A general comment, blacks in Nunavut are most likely to be underemployed.

#12. Posted by boris pasternak on August 09, 2018

sorry to hear that it had happen to you, we too (inuit) have lot of that in southern Canada, it’s wide spread. I flew with my wife with air Canada first class a lot, no more than two times I was asked if I was on the wrong line. i just hope it does not reach to a point where a little guy with square mustache or his like does not appear again in this world.

#13. Posted by Be Kind on August 09, 2018

#5 - anyone who has been on the receiving end of a slur-filled tirade will tell you that context is everything. Even innocent words can be hurtful when spit from an acid tongue.

#14. Posted by Supersiksik on August 09, 2018

Anyone see the movie “White Dawn”? I kinda feel that the term Puatiki would have been taken from this movie. To my understanding, this is a term Inuit have used to describe people of dark complexion, ie) African Americans. It’s intent wasn’t used as a racist term, similar to the term Qallunaq.

Sorry for the person who may have felt discriminated against, but hopefully this comment gives you a bit of insight as to why you may have been called Puatiki.

I understand that you may not want to be called this, which I personally would respect. We Inuit used to be called Eskimo and have educated the world why we don’t use that term. Maybe it’s time someone come up with new terms for non Inuit.

#15. Posted by respect goes 2 ways on August 09, 2018

#2, we’re not “qalunaat”, just like you’re not eskimos.

#16. Posted by ArseBackWards Place on August 09, 2018

Racism is not only common in Nunavut it is tacitly acceptable at a very broad societal level. I hear it almost every day. Unfortunately.

#17. Posted by The White Dawn on August 09, 2018

Earth3rd: It is not a literal translation meaning “black guy”. The etymology of the word puatiki is portugee. It is a borrowed word in Inuktitut. Portugee is a historically derogatory term for Black people. It came from black hires on ships, they called them portugee. There is a long history of afro-portugese people that were colonized. When the whaling ships came the black crewmen were called portugee, hence the Inuktitut puatiki.

Many people don’t know this history, understandably. It’s a word we don’t need to use anymore.

#18. Posted by Akuluk on August 09, 2018

Racism is enhanced by ignorance, and there is an abundance of the latter im Nunavut among both the locals and the low educated southerners who failed back home.

#19. Posted by Life on August 09, 2018

I am African and have lived with the Inuit close to 10 years and have experienced the welcome and love of people from the majority of the Inuit people in the communities that I have lived and traveled in right across Nunavut. In every nation and group of race and nationality there is always some not so good people who do not like other people. I have gone through that myself. I will say that the name Portugie comes from the fact that the first black people that came to the Arctic were part of the Portuguese Sailors that came to live in the Arctic. Their ships broke down in the Arctic and they ended up living up here for ever. So the term is not supposed to be derogatory but some of the young Inuit people think it is derogatory.
But in every society where there is high unemployment people usually discriminate thinking you came to take their jobs and they do not realize the contribution you are making to Nunavut and its communities.I take pride in that .

#20. Posted by Lala land. on August 09, 2018

What do you expect from a place where even the hiring process among many other aspects of life here are race based..

#21. Posted by Northern Inuit on August 09, 2018

this is extremely troubling to hear and I am very sorry that you had to experience this. 

a person is a person is a person, whether they are white, black, yellow, brown, orange (well not all orange but that’s another argument), purple or green, we all need to be respected and feel safe doing something as innocuous as going shopping for supper.

if you notice any disruptive behaviour such as this, please intervene and stop this sad abuse on another person.  in this day and age we should not have to worry about things like this. 

being hurt because of your past is one thing and you should request help to heal yourself.  there is no need to vent and cause pain to others because of what you have gone through.  that is not healthy or worth putting others in pain.

#22. Posted by Kenn Harper on August 09, 2018

The word Portagee or Puatugi is not a derogatory term. It is a historic term used for well over 100 years in parts of the eastern Arctic to describe black people. It was used by whalers out of New Bedford to describe black crewmembers from the Cape Verde Islands who were nominally Portuguese citizens, and therefore referred to as Portuguese. Inuit pronounced this word in their own way, giving it the pronunciation Portagee or Puatugi.

Of course, any word spoken with a sneer and a scowl, or by a mean-spirited drunk, can come across in a derogatory fashion. But there is nothing inherent in the word itself, as used in parts of Nunavut, that make it derogatory.

#23. Posted by My ancesters were born here and I too. on August 09, 2018

To this person who was abused because of the color. Please forgive us Inuit. As long as I remember, my people from the village of Iqaluit were always welcoming new people. We went through hell a while years after. At the end, when I looked after my dad after he had a stroke. I had a chance to know more about Iqaluit history and the people. People who was coming to Iqaluit to live because we were more friendly then any other settlement in Baffin. Than, again because, of our welcoming way, look what we have, full of homeless people. That is why, I am not home because, I knew, things were not going to be the same. Today, I am still waiting to this attitude, to Accept The Things I Cannot Change.

#24. Posted by the fox on August 09, 2018

As a Black person living in Nunavut for some time, I can confirm that this experience is very real and very true.
Many times I have been called a “nigger” by fellow Inuit whom I consider my brothers and sisters.
I have been publicly ridiculed and called “Puatiki” by Inuit community members and children.  All these events happen when I am minding my own business. Community members go out of their way to ridicule Blackness.
I believe it is time that awareness is raised around the mistreatment of Blacks in Nunavut…not just by the Inuit community but by the entire general population in Nunavut that fail to recognize that Black people should be treated with fairness, love and respect like any other group.
#11 - You raise a good point about many of the Blacks in Nunavut being highly qualified and educated with multiple degrees however, compared to other groups, they do not access the same access to management opportunities and get less pay than other workers in the GN.

#25. Posted by Philthy on August 09, 2018

I call B.S. on this letter! I was standing right beside this guy when the described incident took place. In my opinion the black skinned man was making a mountain out of…nothing. The store manager was a newbie and didn’t show any cultural sympathy whatsoever to the Inuk’s side of the story. I found it not a little ironic that an newcomer would be yelling “Racist” at some poor Inuk (who I have known for 25 years and he is neither a drinker nor a gas bag trouble maker) waiting quietly for a cab to load his groceries into who has had his cultural identity stolen, his livelihood and language misappropriated and his future sold out for some industrial diamonds and gold ore by the Canadian Federal government for generations of his “race’s” past. Someone please answer how an Inuk should react when a black skinned cab driver refuses to take his grand mother to the church in Apex because “He doesn’t go to Apex…” (an accusation that has been described to me by several elders in Iqaluit)?

#26. Posted by No Excuse on August 09, 2018

There is no excuse for this behaviour. Even if you have been on the receiving end of racist slurs, this does not give you right to behave that way towards others. I for one, am sick of going to the Northmart and having to pass through a gauntlet of drunk, drug dealing, money bumming, foul mouthed hang arounds.  Clear that place out Northmart.

#27. Posted by Northern Eskimo on August 09, 2018

#15 - Most Inuktitut words are descriptive, hence the traditional words such as qalunaat - prominent brow bones; illiq - darkened skin. In Eskimo times,  occasionally Inuit would get so suntanned, that they were called illiruqtuq. We first knew African descended peoples up here as “Illiit” meaning permanently sun tanned.
The comment prior showed where puatiki originated from. It used to be peculiar to South Baffin (post-whaling era) until the movie “White Dawn”. Then many Inuit, being too ostracized by colonialization to learn their own history and language, adopted slang words and made-up words when no history was known.
Practically every race Inuit have met are named after some kind of physical trait common to their peoples. I could go on, but anyhow, most Inuit have experienced racism, usually are quite accepting of others and tend to defend newcomers.
Like western knowledge or “QQ” says - “every barrel of apples has a few rotten ones”.
My $0.05…no more pennies these days.

#28. Posted by Traditional knowledge on August 09, 2018

Being black, i was never concern about the word portegee. However the N word is used a lot when inuit are unhappy with black. How ironic Go learn to speak English is another one. Go back to where you come from is onther one. Blacks deep in their hearts do have an affinity for the Inuit people so most of this is ignore. Nunuvut might be tough on black people but it is a lot better that other places. There are many extreme qualified black in Nunavut who are not given fair job opportunities. Almost every single black person in Nunavut report to a superior who is less qualifed.

#29. Posted by Look What Colonialism Did on August 10, 2018

The article said- “Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in Section 6, gives all Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to move to, and live in, any province or territory. They may also look for work or set up a business there.”  This is indeed right, however, I want to add that anyone who chooses to live on or benefit from Indigenous land MUST acknowledge that this land that we are all on belonged to Inuit and was wrongfully taken away from them and Inuit people do not get to benefit from their own land while other groups do. There is still a lot of pain and anger about what colonialism did to Inuit people. This, however, DOES NOT justify using racial slurs against another person. Black people are committed to advocating for the betterment of Inuit people because as a people, Black people have shared history of oppression and marginalization although not entirely similar.

#30. Posted by Let's Talk About White Privilege on August 10, 2018

The only way the people of Iqaluit or Nunavut in general can have a respectful dialogue about Nunavut becoming increasingly multicultural society is to start talking about White Privilege. Many White Southerners in Nunavut experience a lot of benefits in Nunavut not because they have earned it but simply because they are white- many Inuit, people of colour, and Black people will never experience the same benefits they do.

Most White Southerners in Nunavut have a hard time acknowledging their White privilege and colonial way of thinking. Instead, they become defensive, minimize or start to feel guilty when challenged about their racial bias because Southeners have a hard time accepting they can be racist…instead they point the finger and say “You are just pulling the race card.” No, you are just being racist.

This is not only happening outside the community but also in the workplace. I have been told Blacks and Inuit are treated the worst in the Government of Nunavut .

#31. Posted by Whitish on August 10, 2018

#30, it’s sort of a different (but not totally) discussion to talk about white privilege, in my opinion.
That said, I am white, and I know deep down, and if I’m being honest with myself, not so deep down, that your comments about colonialism and white privilege are correct. You certainly did not create the problems that have resulted from colonialism and white privilege, and it is not your responsibility to fix what you did not cause, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for someone like myself who has lived in Nunavut for ten years, so that I can be better. I ask only because you hit the nail on the head.

#32. Posted by Oh Ima on August 10, 2018

#1 I am not condoning the behavior of those two idiots, but how can Nunavut teach people to feel welcome when Inuit don’t even feel welcome in their own homeland, especially in Iqaluit by non-Inuit from the south? 
A lot of people feel powerlessness that why they take it out on others! Nunavut has to confront racism especially institutional racism towards Inuit.  I feel for the family and I hope that they understand that action of those two are not representative of Inuit of Iqaluit and Nunavut.

#33. Posted by Thorstein Veblen on August 10, 2018

For #30 and #31, there is no doubt that white privilege is a real thing and some white people, even if they are unaware of it, have received preferential treatment on account of being Caucasian.

But there is a big catch, there are hundreds, if not thousands of “Inuit” who also benefit from white privilege.

Look around you. Iqaluit is a mixed race society, with hundreds of mixed Inuit-Qallunaat families. Everybody lives together and the majority of the population is becoming biracial, a mixture of the two cultures. This is why so many prominent Inuit actually come from families where either the father or mother was white.

This includes some well-known Inuit women in the arts world with at least one parent who was a wealthy white professional. It’s totally hypocritical of them to complain about white privilege when they have benefitted from it themselves.

#34. Posted by Black lives matter too on August 10, 2018

i had a very similar experience when some group of individuals (i mean locals) called me “N” as i walking down the street in Iqaluit. I was deeply cut and saddened by this experience and the only thing i want to say in the forum is that people should never be judged by their skin-colour, how they look, or speak (accent) but by the quality of their character. Blacks are increasingly becoming targets for racial slurs/stereotypes in Nunavut and it should never be this way. Please educate yourself and teach your kids/family that blacks are not “bad” people but are integral part of the multiultural society that Iqaluit has now become. Most of the blacks that live in Iqaluit and in other Nunavut communities are educated and well-mannered individuals, let say NO to racism.

#35. Posted by iRoll on August 10, 2018

#30 This story is about racism against black people in Nunavut.

Must you appropriate this discussion to exorcise the personal self doubt and unearned guilt that so many mentally afflicted ‘white folks’ endure?

I’m white, let’s say I have this privilege. If so, great. I like it, keep it coming.

Maybe you could save the literary tropes for another thread?

#36. Posted by Darn eh on August 10, 2018

Its sad to see Inuit that have been assimilated. Well educated, financially stable and yet yearn to experience their culture.
Sad to see the ones who did not conform to assimilation yet struggle to fit in in either worlds. Lost, angry, always in deff. mode, substance abuse. This is where that hate comes from. Emotional chaos that manifests itself in this type of behavior. Education, empathy and a willingness to be open (from both/ all parties) will help bring positive change.

I know Canada is seen as a leader in ‘kindness’. I think that on the surface, law makers and leaders who made laws, made them apply to the multitude of settlers/ colonialists. They did not realize that what they were preaching applied to the indigenous groups that they displaced. Social pressures to ‘behave’ today, some people adopt this belief of equality. Now with world leaders openly discriminating minorities, the social pressures are off, it feels like now its okay to say your true, personal feelings publi

#37. Posted by Ask a Moe on August 10, 2018

I’m white and have children with an Inuk. She has disowned her family due to the abuse she suffered while growing up. When I spoke to her about this article and the disturbing nature of it’s message she merely shook her head and confirmed to me that this type of situation is commonplace among Inuit. She says that there are more Inuit that are racist than other races. I’m not shocked. So my message to the letter writer would be: Do not take this assault personally.

#38. Posted by we are one on August 10, 2018

#30, you hit the nail on the head. 

I want to say it saddens me when I see Inuk’s very upset with us black people and say we are here to take their jobs, etc.  To be honest if there is a group of people who can understand and sympathize with their struggles it’s us black people.  We know what it’s like to be marginalized and what slavery did to our ancestors.  We sympathize with you, we are not your enemies.  We can work together and be great!

#39. Posted by Inuktitut is key to a healthy Iqaluit on August 10, 2018

The key to creating a healthy Iqaluit is to get to the point where everyone (Inuk, black, Qablunaaq etc) speaks Inuktitut.

That way, Inuit culture will be dominant even as the racial make-up changes.

Quebec is a model for a healthy multicultural society. They never said “well, because the racial makeup is changing and multiculturalism is increasing, we’re going to let English take over”.

Rather, they require all members of the community, all races, to learn French.

#40. Posted by respect goes 2 ways on August 10, 2018

#27, don’t complain about being an eskimo then, nobody meant any harm with that outdated term either.  For me, in my language, the name for us is “people”.  Please use it when you speak about me.  You can keep being an eskimo if you want, and I respect that.

Dividing people up by race is stupid though, and race-based funding and benefits are unjust.  Nunavut is structured on injustice and institutionalized open racism, and people are surprised when it erupts among the common folk?

ALL the racism in Nunavut needs addressing.  The DNA is all mingling anyway as another commenter pointed out.  Race-based preferential treatment doesn’t work anyway, and needs to end.

#41. Posted by inuk lady on August 10, 2018

so sorry to hear this happened to you. as an Inuk woman, i myself have experienced racism as well. i feel your pain. i was at a gas bar with couple people behind the line. i have accidently dropped something and this guy yelled at me “why don’t you go home and toke and get drunk!!!” one, i dont toke or smoke anything, two i do not get drunk or never wish to. it was heart breaking. i didn’t do anything as i didnt want anything else to worsen. i think they are just merely bullies at heart. just sad and pathetic until they come to their senses.

#42. Posted by IQ first solutions on August 10, 2018

I think the bigger issue from my long experience in Nunavut. The big issue is Whites European with some Inuit heritage. Black people suffered the most from them, not from the ordinary Inuit people. These people used their white privileges to fill most of the high positions even though they are not qualified. Blacks end up reporting to these people who call themselves Inuit but are essentially white European. Colonization has been inbred within the Inuit culture with the rise if the inuitgablunaat.

#43. Posted by You are not the only people! on August 10, 2018

I walk down that road almost every day, I am inuk and I feel that the people who causes the troubles are targeting anybody that pass them! You are not the only one, I myself and my son have felt it first hand, but only with remarks and criticism. Being an inuk and facing them, I can ignore them but to someone who get the first degree! sorry for That!

They are after anybody!

#44. Posted by Travis Cooper on August 10, 2018

Please don’t let the actions of the few be a reflection of the many.
Some of our people are hurt, they are socially and physically displaced. Those feelings of helplessness turn to an outwardly negative display on trying to find fault in others for what the system has failed for them. A target is needed, by and large, that target becomes the people from outside of the community that have been able to access what they wish they had but have for many socio-economic reasons, been unable to attain. There are so many layers of pain and frustration that some delve into drinking and/or narcotics to escape.
I’ve been targetted as well. Sometimes it’s anyone around.

Being part Portuguese also, what I can tell you, “Puatiki” is the term used for dark skinned people. Portuguese came in the 70s from Montreal and many were dark skinned. That carried over to anyone dark skinned. Depending on the usage and inflection of the word, it can be descriptive or derogatory. Same as the usage of Jew.

#45. Posted by Pagan on August 10, 2018

Today’s youth assume the “N” word is okay to use because of hip-hop/rap or even movies and don’t think it’s derogatory unlike rest of the society because we as parents or family don’t teach them enough about racism.. I have berated youth for using the “N” word, made them realize that Inuit or First Nations are treated just as badly in urban areas because of stereotypes and institutional racism.

#46. Posted by olaf on August 10, 2018

What Inuit did NOT know at the time they heard the word Portagee is that this was the word the white whalers used to separate themselves from their black crew mates.
It was a put-down of blacks and the Inuit just picked up and used it, not knowing how bad it was.
The Kivalliq and Kitikmeot do not use it; they must have had better whalers!
This writer of the article is right; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it a CRIME to discriminate against people because of their ethnicity (race).
So, let’s lose that word, like the other 2 regions and just call them ‘black’ like they they do and NOT Portagee.
Please!!!
The N-word is also said by losers only and haters and racists, so let’s lose that one too! It says bad things about the person saying it, not the person they are saying it too.
Thanks.

#47. Posted by this must stop on August 11, 2018

Please Nunavut community - educate your children and family members on the “N” word. Even if they hear it in rap music, it is NEVER okay to refer to a Black person as a “Nigger”. Not only is this unkind, it is ILLEGAL and you can be sued. It was used by White slave masters to put down Black slaves.

White Southerners - NEVER forget the pain you inflicted on Inuit community and continue to inflict on Inuit every day. Be culturally sensitive to the devastating impact of COLONIALISM on Nunavut people. Also CHECK YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE. Never forget that because of your Whiteness, you will still get better salary and job at the Government of Nunavut even if a racial minority is 10 times more educated and qualified than you. Never forget that you will always have better experiences with the police than an Inuit or Black person because of your Whiteness. Use your White Privilege to uplift and create opportunities for Inuit or minority people that don’t have the same equal access.

#48. Posted by be the change you want to see on August 11, 2018

#31 -Here are some ways that you can check your privilege and be a better White ally to racial minority groups- (I took these from an online article)

1- Just because you can’t see racism around you doesn’t mean it’s not happening
2- Avoid phrases like “But I have a Black or Inuit friend! I can’t be racist!” Yes, you can.
3- Don’t assume a racial minority group can’t speak English.
4- Don’t assume someone’s religion based on how they look. Not all South Asians and Middle Eastern people are Muslims, not all Black people are Christian, not all East Asian people are Buddhist.
5- Remember that having mixed race children is not a cure for racism or a way to live out racial fantasies.
6- Stop assuming. Not all Inuit drink. Not all Black people like rap. Not all Asians like Math.
7- Stop asking Black women to touch their hair. Stop asking Black women to explain their hair.
8- Look around the GN workplace—are there any Inuit or Black? If there are, are they in positions of leadership?

#49. Posted by Empty as IQ on August 11, 2018

The term ‘Portagee’ was obviously delivered as an insult in this context. Isn’t that obvious?

#42 It’s ironic that such a racist, ugly (and more than anything ‘jealous’) comment would be delivered by someone using the moniker ‘IQ first solutions’. If Tunnganarniq means anything, your comment is the exact opposite. Though I always suspected IQ principles were mostly aspirational and platitudinous.

#50. Posted by Colin on August 11, 2018

Sad story.

FYI, of itself the word Portagee is neutral, not disparaging, and it’s been one of the Inuktitut words for a black man (person) forever.

The word probably originated many centuries ago when ships from what’s now Portugal picked up Africans for their crews on ships visiting the Americas and traveled into arctic waters.

The Portuguese knew a lot about the Americas long before the voyages of Christopher Columbus. After his so-called discovery of America in 1492, the Spanish and the Portuguese asked the Pope for arbitrate the dividing meridian between their respective territories. The Portuguese pressed for the line to be just east of the Caribbean islands. The Spanish didn’t realize that by that result in 1494 they were giving up what’s now (Portuguese-speaking) Brazil. But Argentina, to the west, fell back into the Spanish area of interest.

#51. Posted by Isumatuq on August 11, 2018

I apologize to anyone who has been hurt by the words of some Inuit.
We are very ignorant up here; we never heard of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so we never knew it was an offence to go against people of a different race.
We do know now and for those who keep on using bad words against other races, we have to stop using them!
The N-word is perhaps the worst of all; hate is coming up from Donald Trump and it is allowing haters in Canada to come out and say things like that.  It is very wrong! 
We are NOT the U.S. and do not want to act like them.
We Inuit know what it is like to be forced to live under somebody else’s system and blacks do too, so we should not be dumping on them either.
We should be following our own values, being welcoming, open and accepting, that is thinking like an Inuk.
If they have come up to get jobs, it is because we have been too lazy to get an education to try for these jobs. That is not their fault, it is ours. Don’t blame them.

#52. Posted by BeingWhite on August 11, 2018

So many white people take offence at being called “White”.
They have rarely if ever heard it said before until lately or in coming here.
I was like that.  I grew up in a suburb where most people were like me.  If other people moved in, we talked about it and maybe ‘made allowances for their existence among us’.
I was born with white privilege, although I did not know it at the time.
Everything about my life would be easier, even if I had a hard time, now and then.
Doors would open for me, I had opportunities that minorities did not have, I had access that other groups would have to fight for. I sailed along, oblivious to my white privilege.
Then someone called me white and I had a fit! I kept saying silly things like, no we are all Canadians! He kept saying, “no, you are white” and I kept resisting, saying more silly things. It was a hard title to assume, since I had never thought about it before and had always moved in my own circle, unaware of how heavily we trod over other people.

#53. Posted by Snow White on August 13, 2018

#52 I am white and have never once in my life heard of another white person being offended by the term.

Though, the idea that you’d have a fit and need to “resist” being called ‘white’ does show what a small little world you’ve grown up in, I’ll give you that.

#54. Posted by Kenn Harper on August 13, 2018

There are a number of misconceptions about the origin of the word Portagee (or Puatugi) in the comments above.
The word did not originate “many centuries ago when ships from what’s now Portugal picked up Africans for their crews on ships visiting… arctic waters.” Nor does the word come from black Portuguese sailors marooned in the Arctic when their ships broke down “and they ended up living up here for ever.”
One comment points out that the word was used by white whalers to differentiate themselves from black crew members. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it a “put-down” as the writer claims. The words Inuit, Eskimo, white and Qallunaaq are also used to differentiate people without being put-downs.

#55. Posted by Inuk on August 13, 2018

I was told, “Puatugi” Means Portuguese and not “Black” person. Puatugi Even sounds more like Portuguese if you really think about it. Portuguese sailors have came to Canada ages ago, before black people arrived here. I believe in modern day time people confuse “Puatugi” with Black person.

#56. Posted by Kenn Harper on August 13, 2018

The word Portagee or Puatugi is not a derogatory term. It is a historic term used for well over 100 years in parts of the eastern Arctic to describe black people. It was used by whalers out of New Bedford to describe black crewmembers from the Cape Verde Islands who were nominally Portuguese citizens, and therefore referred to as Portuguese. Inuit pronounced this word in their own way, giving it the pronunciation Portagee or Puatugi.

The word was used in places where American whalers worked in the Arctic. Scottish whalers did not have black crew members. It was primarily a South Baffin word. There were black crew members on Captain Comer’s ships in the Fullerton area of the Kivalliq and the word was known there, although may not be used today. The word was also used at Herschel Island in the western Arctic. It was not used in the Kitikmeot because there was no commercial whaling there.

It is an Inuit word, definitely not a derogatory term and should not be abandoned.

#57. Posted by eskimo joe on August 13, 2018

this is a reality in nunavut experienced by the majority, i guess you lift the corner of the rug, and a lot of this is swept under the rug by the minority who hold 85% of the $$$ and power. some nunavut leader had to do “long walk home” and soon.

#58. Posted by What ever on August 13, 2018

Kenn Harper, it is not for you to say Portugaa or whatever is not derogatory. It is not relevant where or how the word originated.  What is relevant is that a fair number of blacks think it is derogatory. I myself may does not share that the word is derogatory, because i do not care what i am called,  but Kenn you must not silenced the voices of black people who are perceiving this word as derogatory. In other places a derivation of the word is still use but I don’t it is encouraged or defended.

#59. Posted by Shamus on August 14, 2018

#59 Bang on. Kenn conceded that the word Portagee was used to describe Afro-Portugese crewmen, primarily from the Cape Verde Islands. It was a racial descriptor and make no mistake, it was not a term of endearment. Then again, he dismisses the word Eskimo as a descriptor and not a put-down, so there you go.

Would you call an African person living in Iqaluit today a Blackamoor? Just because it was used a few hundred years ago by Europeans and is an archaic term that no one knows anymore?

Puatiki is a borrowed word. A phonetic interpretation of Portagee, in Inuktitut.

#60. Posted by Kenn Harper on August 14, 2018

To #59. I conceded nothing. I pointed out the etymology of the word. Of course it was a racial descriptor. No-one has ever said otherwise. Portagee/Puatugi is a borrowed word - one of many borrowed words from the whaling era. You say it is an archaic term that no one knows anymore. Not so. It is a borrowed term that has become lexicalized as an Inuktitut word. To #58, thinking something without adequate information doesn’t make it so. It is not a derogatory term. There is no reason why people should not continue to use it in Inuktitut.

#61. Posted by to kenn harper on August 14, 2018

no offence Kenn, but please allow the Inuit and Black community and their feelings and experiences around the use of the word to be the centre and focus of this conversation…not your personal opinionated views on how the word became lexicalized and how Black people should respond and feel to use of the word “Puatugi”.  How is this your place and do you not see how your dismissive stance on the issue contributes to this problem in Nunavut?

It is extremely dismissive and culturally insensitive to tell people how to react to the use of a word used to describe race especially when the word is often negatively used to demean, bully,  and put down Blacks in Nunavut. Even the historical context of the word indicates that the word was divisive. If someone does not feel okay with strangers yelling at them for no reason and mocking them by calling them “Puatigi Puatagi"or “Nigger” then you should respect that and not use the word. Simple.

#62. Posted by nunavut on August 14, 2018

If some Inuits do not like being called “Eskimo” .... and if some White Southerners do not like being called “white trash”, why is it hard for the Nunavut community to understand why some Blacks do not like being called “Nigger” or “Puatagi”? Why can’t this be respected and understood?

It’s clear that what is needed for Nunavut is mandatory cultural competence and sensitivity training on issues of diversity and colonialism on racialized people and can I add that if you are not an Inuit or a Black person or someone from a vulnerable minority group in Canada, then do not take up space in the conversation. You cannot be the expert on an experience you have never personally lived. That would be like an able bodied person trying to be “the expert” on disability and accessibility issues.  You can be an ally but you are not the expert on the topic.

Blacks have always considered Indigenous people brothers and sisters…let the healing and reconciliation begin & let’s all love each other!

#63. Posted by So White on August 14, 2018

It’s unfortunate to see an important conversation about race turned into a debate on the etymology of ‘puatugi’.

I accept Kenn Harper’s explanation, he probably knows better than any of us.

That said, the spirit in which it was used in this context obviously was an insult.

Can we accept that also; without suggesting the word is derogatory by nature and should no longer be used?

#64. Posted by White Person on August 14, 2018

it is funny how it is okay for the name PUATIKI or QABLOONA, etc and yet for some Inuit there is no room for ESKIMO “eater of raw meat”.

Enough of racism. I feel it each and every dsy.

#65. Posted by Alter Ego on August 14, 2018

How on earth did a discussion about an ignorant ill-informed Inuk insulting a thin-skinned Black man turn into a discussion of white privilege? Oh I see. Bad White people oppressed the Inuit (or that particular Inuk) so badly that they chose to lash out at all people, including Blacks. But let’s talk about privilege. How about Inuit privilege? Land claims benefits, free education, preferential hiring, topped-up health care. Who’s got the privilege? Black commenters have said that the Iqaluit black community is made up of mostly highly-educated professionals. Hmmm. That doesn’t match the national Black demographic. How did that happen? Could there have been some Black privilege going on? So enough with the White privilege nonsense. Most White people, Black people, Inuit - just working to pay the bills.

#66. Posted by black and tired on August 14, 2018

Kenn, this is not your call to make. You have already drawn your conclusion. However, if you think it is acceptable to go around calling all black people potegaa, then please free to do so - Not everyone will be so accepting. Black people in many areas of the world know exactly what potegaa means and its other derivation. In the Caribbean, it is more akin to calling light skin black people, mullatoes. I do not want to be at ad hominin with Kenn, but us blacks are not taking our moral guidance from him. If you were around long enough, this is the same guy who was against nutrition north until his company was included, once his company was included nutrition north was great. But great for whom? Kenn.

#67. Posted by Colin on August 14, 2018

Ives Goddard at the Smithsonian Institution, possibly the world’s greatest expert on Algonquian languages, totally failed to find any connection between the word Eskimo and anything in any “Indian” language.

In any case, there’s nothing disparaging about eating raw meat. Many people do that, and in smart restaurants it’s called steak tartare.

I believe the word Eskimo is a variation of the ancient Greek word Kimmeroi, used by the poet Homer 2,800 years ago to refer to mythical people who lived in a far northern land of perpetual darkness (in winter).

The word could then have been given by Europeans to the people they met on the western side of the Atlantic—-much as Europeans more recently gave the Greek/Latin name Thule to the base in Northwestern Greenland. Or indeed as Europeans applied the word “Indian” and gave the name Lachine to the place in Quebec when they thought they’d arrived in China.

#68. Posted by Genetic Fallacy Alert on August 14, 2018

# 62 your suggestion that people who do not identify with a particular group or issue are not allowed to “take up space in the conversation” might be well meaning; but it is also insidious and reflects a new and virulent form of leftist fascism.

It is not your place to decide who is allowed and who is not allowed to speak on an issue. Experienced or not we are all free to form opinions and to express them. Very often an outsiders opinion can be an enlightening one, and without the free flowing of ideas what we end up with are echo chambers and ideological silos. 

Silencing individuals based on race, social status, or identity of any kind should never be considered acceptable.

#69. Posted by Craw Craw. Iqaluit. on August 14, 2018

Regardless who and what our race and cultures are, we are all the
ruddy same.
I mean colonization, slaughter, slavery, and Lord knows what else, it
has been around as long as humanity has been on two legs.
Don’t some experts and advisors make a lot of money out of this ?
Going to meetings, so concerned, and doing nothing.
LOL

#70. Posted by black and tired on August 14, 2018

No one is excluding Kenn Harper from speaking. He has his motives. He does not have the standing speaking on behalf of black people. Well, not this black person. In my point of view, Kenn does not have the moral standing based on his duplicity on other issues in the public, notable nutrition north. I can name you thousands of white people from history and current that have earned the moral standing to speak on behalf of black people. Ironically, I have no problem with Inuit calling me Putugee, never had an issue. If Kenn does call me that, I will take exception to it, and most blacks will also. Blacks are not monolithic, but you got to still listen to the different views.

#71. Posted by Kenn Harper on August 14, 2018

#66. You have missed the point. I do not call Black people Puatugi when I am speaking English because it is no longer an English word. It (its meaning and its pronunciation) has been lexicalized into Inuktitut and it is an Inuktitut word. I use it when I speak Inuktitut.

Your dredging up of my former company’s (Arctic Ventures’) participation in the Nutrition North program is pathetic and laughable - it has nothing to do with the subject under discussion, not even by analogy. This type of logic, more correctly illogic, is how people (you) lose arguments; it detracts from the credibility of any other point you want to make. For the record, when I owned Arctic Ventures, I participated in the old Food Mail program and saw no reason to switch to the proposed Nutrition North program. When Food Mail was scrapped anyway, I had to join the Nutrition North program, and learned quickly how to make it work to my advantage. Did I benefit from it? You betcha! Was it great for me? Absolutely.

#72. Posted by Caledon, Rankin Inlet. on August 15, 2018

#71,
Well said Ken, I also used food mail back in the day and it was very
beneficial.
Nothing wrong with people making a fair profit from their endeavours.
I don’t know of anyone who works for nothing.

#73. Posted by Inuktitut is key to a healthy Iqaluit on August 15, 2018

Let’s try to be constructive.

If the black community isn’t comfortable with the word Putagi, then is it possible to use another Inuktitut word which everyone can agree on?

How about “illiq”, which basically means “a black person” or “a dark-skinned person”?

#74. Posted by Black lives matter too on August 16, 2018

I am a black resident and will take offense if anyone calls me or my kids Putagi. I have had to explain the meaning of this word to my kids as they were recently taunted with that word (Putagi) prior to this article.

All the black individuals including the kids that I know of who have being called Putagi in Iqaluit have all experienced this in extreme embarrassing situations and abusive context.  Why encourage the use of a word that is mainly used in embarrassing/abusive contexts, and deliberately utilized to inflict pain to a black person, or damage the self-esteem of a minority group (including their kids) and taunt them just because they don’t look like you, speak like you and are dark-skinned?

why encourage the use of a terminology or a word that we all know reinforces black stereotypes, breeds hatreds and division including racial discrimination among us, and evokes collective memories of slavery and cultural trauma that we black people want to move away from? BE SENSITIVE!

#75. Posted by My view on August 17, 2018

#74 racism is a product of ignorance, and if there is anything Nunavut has an abundance of then it must be ignorance among locals and southerners that failed elsewhere. Will this change? Unfortunately not anytime soon. So it is your call whether you prioritize your kids wellbeing or financial wellbeing. The high salaries come at a cost, hence many people of all races leave.

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