A new owner, a contest, and Nunatsiaq News was born
Originally a newsletter called Inukshuk, newspaper marks 50 years covering the North in 2023
It all started with Alootook Ipellie’s idea.
It was Ipellie who, back in July 1976, won 50 bucks and a lifetime subscription to this newspaper by submitting the winning entry in a contest to rename Inukshuk, the newsletter that had been started three years earlier to report the news from what is now Nunavut territory.
You’ve probably guessed that Ipellie’s winning suggestion, selected from more than 40 entries, was to rename the paper Nunatsiaq News.
The name stuck, and so did the newspaper: Nunatsiaq News has grown a lot from its days as a newsletter that was printed on a photocopier out of a tiny office in Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit.
This year, the paper is celebrating 50 years in business.
The contest judges made a wise choice back then: As they noted on June 30, 1976, in a front page story announcing the new title would come into effect a week later, on July 7: “Nunatsiaq (pronounced Noo-nat-see-ak) means ‘Beautiful Land’ and is used to describe the area of the Northwest Territories above the treeline.”
“Nunatsiaq was what the North was called. It means beautiful land. It sure is,” said Monica Connolly, who was the first editor of the newly named Nunatsiaq News, in an interview earlier this week.
Connolly worked as a reporter for the original Inukshuk newsletter, which was formed in 1973. She led the formation of a private company, Frobisher Press Ltd., that bought the newsletter in 1976.
However, the outgoing volunteer community board that operated Inukshuk wanted a clean break between it and the new owners, so Frobisher Press agreed to rename it.
And through the contest, it became Nunatsiaq News.
Back then, the dream of creating a new territory from the eastern side of Northwest Territories was still just that, a dream, however the name Nunavut was catching on in the 1970s, Connolly remembers.
“Nunatsiaq was less political and very attractive,” she said, plus it was “highly complimentary” to the land, which the Oshawa, Ont., woman had grown to love.
“It indicated we were in favour of the split, but we weren’t a paper that was tied to the split,” she said.
Frobisher Press Ltd. held onto the paper for another nine years before selling it to what’s now Nortext Publishing Corp., which continues to operate Nunatsiaq News today.
“By the time we acquired Nunatsiaq News in 1985, the name had been used for almost a decade,” said publisher Michael Roberts.
“And we didn’t consider naming it after Nunavut as we were already considering expanding coverage and distribution into Nunavik.”
Do a Google search of the word ‘Nunatsiaq’ and pretty much all that comes up is a link to the Nunatsiaq News website and social media pages. Roberts said “it has become a household brand in the North, where the paper is usually called Nunatsiaq, not Nunatsiaq News.”
In Inuktitut, the word Nunatsiaq was also used to describe the land even before Nunavut was officially created in 1999.
“Yes, Nunatsiaq used to be used as Inuktut for then-N.W.T.,” said Paul Quassa, a member of Iqaluit city council. “The word actually means, the beautiful land, or a beautiful place to camp.
“As Inuit, we still use the term nunatsiaq when referring to a place where it is good for camping.”
— With files from Corey Larocque
I remember, as a child, delivering the Inukshuk newspaper. The office was a tiny matchbox type of building.
Monica C. had a unique, hairy English Sheepdog, too.
I would sale the paper for 25 cents! and 75 cents tip! best days. Canvas bag full of Nunatsiaq! fun days!