Iqaluit man reflects on life after dog slaughter

Social problems plague Inuit because change in lifestyle was too abrupt, he says

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

SARA ARNATSIAQ

Long-time Iqaluit resident Asunaa Kilabuk says the federal government is telling lies when it says they killed dogs in the 1950s and ’60s because the dogs were sick. His father’s dogs were not sick when they were slaughtered, he says.

In the mid-1950s, when his family lived in the Ward Inlet area, Kilabuk says, they were very happy and they never seemed to experience bad things in their camp.

But when the RCMP came, the family was told to move to the community of Iqaluit.

Kilabuk remembers his father refusing to move to the community because of rumours that there was alcohol abuse, gambling and American men sexually assaulting Inuit women there.

A year later, about 1955 or 1956, the RCMP came back by boat asking the family to move into the community once again. Through an interpreter, the family was told that they would have housing and would never need to pay rent.

Kilabuk’s father was told that if he kept refusing to move, the monthly family allowance would be cut off and he might even go to jail.

It was then that Kilabuk’s father agreed to move to Iqaluit. Kilabuk himself started going to school.

Kilabuk remembers that his teacher was opposed to traditional education. He remembers his teacher scolding him because he had missed several days of school to go hunting with his father.

He cannot remember the exact words of the teacher, but the scolding was along the lines of: “You won’t amount to anything if you don’t have any education.”

At the same time, his father and uncles were saying, “You won’t be able to hunt by yourself or provide for others if you don’t learn to hunt.”

The family was eating lunch one day when they heard gunshots outside.

The family ran outside and found that all of their 13 dogs had been shot. All of them were dead.

His father and uncles were shocked and speechless. They had lost their means to travel. At that time, fox furs and sealskin pelts were a means of income for those with dog teams.

But with no means to travel, Kilabuk’s family couldn’t hunt for food. And they couldn’t afford the food available in the stores.

The pain in Kilabuk’s voice is evident when he starts saying that there was a period when the family experienced poverty.

Kilabuk remembers the family going to the dump to pick up food so they could eat. The RCMP didn’t offer any alternatives, and just left them to fend for themselves with almost nothing.

The corpses of the dogs were left on the ground to rot. It smelled really bad, Kilabuk recalls. They were everywhere, and so were the maggots. Coming back from the dump to pick up what little food they could find, they had to pass the corpses to go back to their house.

Kilabuk feels that there was an intent on the white man’s part to destroy their culture. RCMP officers took their hunting ways, and teachers forbade them from speaking their language in school. When students spoke Inuktitut in school, the teachers would hit them with rulers.

It is because of this abrupt change, Kilabuk says, that Inuit today suffer from social problems such as suicide, gambling, cheating, alcohol abuse, crime and violence.

Had this change been more gradual rather than sudden, he thinks that Inuit would have adapted and would have had an easier time changing their lifestyle.

“They had no right to do what they did,” he says. “They shouldn’t have done this to me.”

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