Inukjuak hosts exiles commemoration this week
Monument to be unveiled Sept. 30
Residents and visitors in Inukjuak are taking part in a commemorative event this week to remember the families affected by the High Arctic relocations.
Some participants are Inuit leaders, others distant relatives or descendants of the original 19 Inukjuak families who were relocated by the federal government to Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord in 1953 and 1955.
This week, one year after the government issued an apology to the survivors and descendants of the relocatees, Inukjuammiut have hosted healing workshops and a community feast leading up to the unveiling of the community’s new commemorative monument Sept. 30.
It’s been an emotional week, said Sarah Idlout, daughter of two relocatees and a member of Inukjuak’s commemorative committee.
“Everyone is reuniting and it’s been amazingly exciting,” Idlout said. “We’re going through tremendous events. This is very important for us.”
Idlout’s own story illustrates the impact of those relocations.
Although Idlout has always called Inukjuak home, her mother, a native Inukjuamiuq, boarded the C.D Howe in 1953, bound for Resolute Bay.
That’s where she met Idlout’s father, who was relocated from Pond Inlet.
The couple returned to Inukjuak together, where the family remained.
But while Idlout’s father has taken part in this week’s events, her mother passed away Sept. 9, just weeks shy of seeing a monument installed in memory of the many families torn apart.
The monument, which will be unveiled Sept. 30, is a bronze and granite statue of an Inuk man holding a staff and peering out into the distance.
Some say it’s of a man who went on to the C.D.Howe and looked back at the community of Inukjuak until it disappeared, others say the statue represents a man who is left behind as his family members sailed away to unknown destination.
The monument, designed by Inukjuak committee member Siasi Smiler, will be installed and unveiled at the community’s port, where the original relocatees would have left their village 60 years ago.
Idlout said the planning committee invited 30 original relocatees to be part of the unveiling, some of whom stayed in Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord; others who now live in Sanikiluaq, Iqaluit and Ottawa.
Idlout said representatives from several Inuit organizations should also be in attendance for the monument’s unveiling, including Makivik Corp., the Kativik Regional Government and Avataq Cultural Institute.
The federal government moved 19 Inukjuak families to help establish the new communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord in the High Arctic in 1953 and 1955.
To help the Inukjuammiut cope with the High Arctic climate, federal officials also moved three families from Pond Inlet to the same areas.
But the relocatees suffered hardship as a result of the relocations, having to adapt to a more severe climate that was plunged into total darkness during the winter months.
Access to wildlife was limited and the temperatures were on average 20 degrees colder than the families’ home communities. Despite this, the relocated families spent their first winter in the High Arctic in tents with little food and few supplies.
Although the government promised the families that they could return to Inukjuak when they wanted, the promise wasn’t honoured until many years later, when some families decided to move back to Nunavik.
In March 1996, based on a number of recommendations from commissions and reports on the relocation, the federal government entered into an agreement with Makivik Corp. to establish a $10 million trust fund on behalf of the relocatees.
However, no formal apology was offered until Aug. 18, 2010, when John Duncan, the minister of aboriginal affairs, offered an apology from Canada.