Reclaim Inuktut names, NTI encourages Nunavut hamlets

“It has to come from the community”

An intersection of road signs in Rankin Inlet. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is encouraging the territory’s English-language communities to switch back to their original Inuktut names, as one way to assert their Inuit language rights. (Photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

What’s in an Inuktut name?

The reclaiming of Inuit history and language, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says.

The Inuit birthright organization has encouraged 14 municipalities in the territory that still use English names to consider a switch to their original Inuktut names.

“With 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages, one of the things we’ve focused on is Inuktut-language rights,” said NTI president Aluki Kotierk, “and how to ensure that Inuit are able to receive essential public services in Inuktut.”

“I thought this would also signal to Canada and even beyond that Inuit were reclaiming and asserting their language rights.”

Many Nunavummiut already refer to their communities by their Inuktut names, Kotierk noted, but this is a way to make those traditional names official.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. sent out letters to 14 municipalities that still use their English names in March 2019, encouraging them to consider the change, and explaining the process.

Under the territory’s Hamlet Act, a council can make a request for a name change to the minister of Community and Government Services.

There are a number of examples of that happening, most recently in 2015, when Repulse Bay went through the process to re-name the municipality Naujaat.

A handful of other communities did the same through the 1980s and 1990s, before Nunavut was created, including Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay), Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Kimmirut (Lake Harbour), Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island) and Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay.)

Cape Dorset is one community considering the change. The Baffin municipality was named by a British captain after the fourth Earl of Dorset in the 1600s, but is commonly known by its Inuktut name, Kinngait.

Some residents also refer to the community as Sikusilaq, after the nearby inlet that remains ice-free throughout the year.

Over the last few months, the hamlet council has launched a discussion with community members over radio and social media, to gauge interest in renaming the hamlet.

Hamlet officials plan to include an informal ballot during the fall municipal elections, in which voters can indicate if they are for or against the name change.

Kotierk said she’s also heard interest from Coral Harbour’s hamlet council, as well as Cambridge Bay, which is consulting local elders about a potential name change.

“It has to come from the community,” she said.

The United Nations named 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, highlighting the need to preserve, revitalize and promote the use of the world’s estimated 7,000 Indigenous languages—2,680 of which are considered to be in danger.

Kotierk said NTI has used the occasion to “make a lot of noise” about the urgent need to protect and promote the use of Inuktut in Nunavut, pressing both the territorial and federal governments to implement safeguards.

In some cases, there are a number of different Inuktut names that are used in Nunavut communities; there is no official list of Inuktut names by which communities were once to referred to.

Below is a list of Nunavut communities that still use English names, along with their common Inuktut names:

  • Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktutiak)
  • Gjoa Haven (Uqsuqtuuq)
  • Hall Beach (Sanirajak)
  • Baker Lake (Qamaani’tuaq)
  • Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk)
  • Rankin Inlet (Kangiqliniq)
  • Whale Cove (Tikiraqjuaq)
  • Coral Harbour (Salliq)
  • Clyde River (Kaniqtugaapik)
  • Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik)
  • Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk or Tununirusiq)
  • Grise Fiord (Ausuittuq)
  • Resolute Bay (Qausuittuq)
  • Cape Dorset (Kinngait)
Share This Story

(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Peter on

    Some Inuit are colonized very well and prefer the English European names over their Inuktitut name.
    For those that have pride in their Inuktitut names and heritage changing the names to Inuktitut names is easy.

    • Posted by Really ? ? on

      So what are you saying ?
      What pride are you talking about ?
      I remember the old days with violence, incest, starvation and
      all the rest of it.
      If you wish to live the old traditional ways go for it.
      I think you like to hear your own B.S. ,of course you don’t have
      to believe it.

      • Posted by Peter on

        Inuit pride! You may have lost yours or never had it to begin with, like any other society there are bad people, some families were bad but majority were good kind people that helped each other, shared food and tools.

        We can have our tradition today, some people cannot understand that, when you cannot understand that you start saying stuff that do not represent or make any meaning.

        You seem to have a lot of anger and I wish you to have more understanding and peace.

        • Posted by PETER and REALLY ? ? on

          Like a lot of Nunavut families my family is a mix of blood from
          all the ends of the Earth, from the Inuit tundra, to the wet
          Scottish Highlands, and the lands of West Africa.
          All my ancestors have suffered, one way or another thru bad
          situations.
          I take pride in providing and working for my family.
          Let the communities decide what their towns will be named.
          GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  2. Posted by Inuinnaqtun on

    …focused on Inuktut language rights…
    What does the June 21 NTI draft say for the fate of Inuinnaqtun Aluki?

  3. Posted by What’s in a name on

    It is up to each community to change the name of their
    community if they so wish. All have a free vote.
    Call it LAS VEGAS if you wish! !
    N,T.I. brings this up every now &I again, calling it heritage and
    pride. A smoke screen trying to cover the social conditions of
    Nunavut. Who are they trying to kid ?
    Regardless of what people call their town, I wish N.T.I. would
    do some thing about the poor conditions of Nunavut.

    • Posted by Meaning of the names on

      For me I wish the GN would get their crap together and do something meaningful about the poor conditions in Nunavut, with so much money going into the GN each year the conditions never change.
      A review is in order to make changes to the GN, instead of trying to work like a government from southern Canada which is not working very well, we need a different model from contracting and other wasteful ways the GN spends our money.

  4. Posted by Observer on

    Boy, good thing the number of significant problems and issues for Inuit in Nunavut is so low NTI has the spare time to deal with this critically important issue.

    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      To Observer – You make the mistake of assuming that NTI cannot tackle two issues at the same time. It takes very little time to have a discussion in an office and prepare a letter to the communities. It’s not like this is the only issue they are concerned with.

  5. Posted by Should Start Correctly on

    NTI and the Government of Nunavut should start correctly if they want make changes and encourage people speaking in Inuktitut. Inuktut is not a word to describe our language. Inuktut is an action, I have used Inuktut to describe my Inuktitut language but still in an action term, Inuktut Uqalagluti, speak like an Inuk person, or in most basic translation, like a person. This so called Inuktut language is so people, Inuit and non Inuit, can “learn” our language and claim they can speak Inuktitut. “Inuktut”, although claimed to describe all of the Inuit languages, it’s basically a bastardized version of the various Inuktitut dialects.

    That being said, I think there’s more issues with Inuit and our communities than having to “reclaim” our Inuktitut language. Our Inuktitut language is important but it has to start at home. Schools, organizations, governments cannot start the changing process, they plant a seed towards change, but it starts at home.

    • Posted by Peter on

      Inuktitut also is a action, do it like an Inuk, same think, but we know Inuktitut as a eastern central Inuit language that doesn’t represent the west and all of the other areas.
      Inuktut does this, it represent everyone.

  6. Posted by Priorities… on

    Changing names may actually hurt some communities; for example, in Pang: residents say the real name is Pangniqtuuq, which means “the place of many bull caribou”. In 2005, residents had actually voted against officially changing the name of the village to the native one, as Pangnirtung has achieved an international reputation. Nonetheless, Pangnirtung is still the bastardized version of the name.

    The same could be said about Cape Dorset, which has an international reputation for its arts. Renaming it Kinngait would likely cause confusion outside of Nunavut.

    Finally, Utqiagvik, AK (Formerly Barrow), bet you didnt even know they had changed the name. Larger than most communities in Nunavut, the Elders’ in Barrow were against the name change, whereas it was the youth who led the change. Nonetheless, it may take years, if ever, that the name gains traction.

    • Posted by The right way on

      Fear driven not to change, in time changing the names back to its original name will be known and accepted, places like Arviat in the beginning people were against it also to change it from Eskimo Point, today everyone knows it as Arviat now.
      Iqaluit same thing, it’s no longer Frobisher Bay, when you don’t want to make changes out of fear that’s not good, understanding more about it you will see it’s a good thing to reclaim the true name not the adopted one from somewhere else. Relearning your identity and understanding where you come from.
      Utqiagvik Is a good example, the older people got used to being colonized and it’s their understanding, with fear of change, the younger generation wanted to take back their pride, to learn more about themselves and learn where they come from by reclaiming their original name. A lot of us heard about it, it gives us pride when other places do this. It helps us not to be scared of changing back the names. It’s powerful.

  7. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    It should be a requirement of any name change that the name be spelled correctly in Roman orthography according to the orthography adopted a number of decades ago by ITK, the so-called Qaliujaaqpait orthography. I know that ITK has a current initiative to come up with a “new” orthography, but it is unlikely to differ much from the standard developed then. It is discouraging to see communities change their name to the Inuktitut/Inuktut word, and then spell it incorrectly. Someone above mentioned Pangnirtung should or shouldn’t be changed to Pangnirtuuq. What about Igloolik, which in correct Roman orthography should be Iglulik? And how about fixing “Taloyoak”.

    • Posted by Peter on

      I agree Kenn, places like Qugluktuq need to be corrected, k is a soft sound and it’s like a southerner saying it the way it’s spelled Kugluktuk,
      Using correct spelling is very important, it’s more meaningful.

      • Posted by Kitikmeot on

        …And make sure the spellers practice the pronunciation first.
        Kugluktuk is not Qugluktuq. Tuk is not as Igalaak pronounces as Tuktuuyaqtuq.
        Qurluqtuq (Kugluktuk)
        Tuktuuyaqtuuq (Tuk)
        Many other examples writers need to check first.

        • Posted by Janet on

          Also there is no y it should be a j Tuktuujaqtuq , qajaq not qayaq.

          I think the younger generation is learning this, it needs to be taught better in schools, Arctic college. But we are getting there. Younger generation like to learn about themselves and we older ones should help them as much as possible.

          • Posted by And Y? on

            Again, tuktuuyaqtuq, acted like a caribou or caught a dragon fly.
            If we are trying to improve spelling why is the y and j not being adopted? Perfectly good consonants for a total of 2 key strokes. JJ and j 3 keystrokes.
            Shouldn’t decision makers have good common sense and be adaptable?

  8. Posted by Aurelio schmitt on

    Nunavik que não é um território autónomo possui todos nomes de localidades na lingua inuktut. Acho estranho Grise Fjord , Resolute Bay e até. A base CFS de Alert ou mesmo Eureka com os nomes em inglês. Eu já conheço as 14 comunidades com o nome na lingua Inuktut.

Comments are closed.