‘It’s all very rich’: Former Nunatsiaq News editor’s work preserved in GN archives
Archivist says Jim Bell’s materials range from news stories, photos to poetry
Government of Nunavut archivist Edward Atkinson says he could not leave any of the 10 boxes of material on the North from Jim Bell out of the territorial archives.
“From box one to 10, it’s all very rich,” Atkinson said.
In November, 35 years’ worth of work and personal material from Bell, the longtime Nunatsiaq News editor and reporter, was donated to the Government of Nunavut archives.
That includes published stories, photos, copies of news bulletins, even poems.
Bell died from cancer in August 2021 at the age of 69.
In an interview, Atkinson said Bell represents Nunavut not only as an editor and reporter but also “just as a writer and composer of material.”
Bell’s writing and other items that were archived encompass four decades of eastern Arctic area history, with themes such as Inuit social justice and political development.
Specific documents or events covered in Bell’s archives include material on the early land-claims process, as well as the Government of Canada’s relocation of Inuit to the High Arctic in the 1950s.
Some of the stories Bell appeared to take a special interest in included the design of the Nunavut Court of Justice and Nunavut’s education system, Atkinson said.
Bell’s archived work also includes photos of important figures, including Peter Ittinuar, the first Inuk member of Parliament; Jose Kusugak, a teacher and broadcaster who played a role in the creation of Nunavut; and John Amagoalik, who was among the first politicians to call for the creation of Nunavut.
A popular figure among Bell’s photos was Bryan Pearson, the first mayor of Iqaluit, then known as Frobisher Bay.
“Pearson was a larger-than-life character,” Atkinson said.
Other photos show important political events, such as elections for Inuit birthright corporations.
There were also photos of Turquetil Hall, the residential school Inuit attended in Chesterfield Inlet, as well as photos from a reunion of students from that school, which was held in 2009.
Atkinson said a specific piece of Bell’s work that struck him was a large report on housing from 1991 titled Assignment to Nortext, which is the parent company of Nunatsiaq News.
Atkinson said the report traced how, before housing programs, Inuit used to own their homes, whether they were tents, qarmaqs or igloos.
It covered housing programs up until 1991, such as rent-to-own settlement era programs and the founding of the Northwest Territories Housing Corp.
That report is important, Atkinson said, because it documents the gradual evolution of housing administration in the land that became Nunavut.
The work archived from Bell not only includes reporting, there’s poetry as well. Bell also taught journalism at Nunavut Arctic College, and notes from his classes are included too.
Some of the archived works, such as his photos, are prints and are in the process of being digitized, Atkinson said.
He said Bell’s private collection of documents complement the historical files available from the Government of Nunavut.