For centuries people in the area lived in small nomadic groups around the bay. The first confirmed contact with outsiders was with the English explorer Martin FROBISHER who made 3 trips to the bay between 1576 and 1578 and believed it might be a strait leading to Asia. In 1861 an American, Charles Francis HALL, explored the region further and discovered that it was indeed a bay. In 1914 the Hudson's Bay Co established the first of several trading stores in the area, but despite the visits by explorers, traders, missionaries and police the Inuit still managed to retain a fairly independent lifestyle in their camps.
Change began in 1942 when the United States began building a huge airbase at the head of the bay as part of a planned transportation link to the war in Europe. Inuit took on seasonal work and some began to stay in the area. The airbase, greatly under-used during the war, was later bought back by Ottawa. It sprang to life during the Cold War with the former USSR when it became the transportation and communications centre for the building of EARLY-WARNING RADAR stations (known as the DEW Line) throughout the eastern Arctic.
In 1963 the community (then called Frobisher Bay) began to grow when the federal government made it the headquarters for operations in the Baffin region. By 1971 it had a high-rise complex, new schools and the now famous igloo-shaped Anglican cathedral, initiated by Queen Elizabeth. In 1987 its residents decided to change the name from Frobisher Bay to Iqaluit, thus reverting to its original Inuktitut name meaning "many fish."
The Nunavut Final Agreement between the federal government and Inuit leaders was signed in 1993, setting the direction for the creation of the new territory of Nunavut in 1999. Two years later, Iqaluit was chosen to be the territorial capital. This brought rapid change: construction and employment opportunities boomed, with a corresponding population increase (47% between 1991 and 2001). Today over one half of the population is Inuit.
By northern standards, the city is a hub of political activity. As the capital it houses the legislative assembly and the headquarters of all government departments as well as being the home for many Inuit birthright organizations. It is thus the linchpin of the 3 Nunavut regions of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin), Kivalliq and Kitikmeot. Five kilometres east of Iqaluit lies the small satellite community of Apex. Nestled around an old-style Hudson's Bay Co store, it came into being in the 1950s as a model village for the Inuit, built by the Canadian government.
The local economy is still largely government based, but a private sector is developing in areas such as construction, retail, tourism and arts and crafts. Wages are relatively high compared with southern Canada but equally so is the cost of living. However, employment levels among Inuit are disproportionately low, a factor that government and Inuit organizations are working to reduce through offering training courses and preferential hiring and contract work.
A City of Contrasts
As the administrative, transportation and communications centre for Nunavut, Iqaluit provides air links with southern Canada, YELLOWKNIFE and all Nunavut communities. It has a modern airport with daily flights to and from the South. In summer, despite its high tides, the city also becomes a port, handling the annual sealift of heavy supplies. Rapid growth of the city has seen the advent of more vehicles and the start of southern-style trappings such as street names and public transit.
Iqaluit has the full range of services, such as a hospital, banks and schools, as in more southerly cities. The main campus of Nunavut Arctic College is located here. There is also a museum, a visitors' centre, art galleries, satellite communications and an up-to-date computer network. The city is also home to CBC North radio and television, delivered in both English and Inuktitut, as well as supporting local radio stations and weekly newspapers.
Much of the flavour of Iqaluit lies in its cross-cultural contrasts: Inuktitut, English and French are heard in daily use; men in caribou parkas go hunting while jet planes fly overhead; and sealskins are scraped and cleaned in homes that house a television and perhaps a computer. Carvers can often be seen working outside their homes and native arts and crafts can be bought in most stores and hotels. Displays of Inuit drama, music, dance, song and fashion juxtapose comfortably with more southern events such as sports competitions. Toonik Tyme, the end-of-winter festival held in April, captures both traditional and modern aspects of the North such as snowmobile races and igloo building.
It is still the strength of the land that dominates life in Iqaluit and the Arctic. Although a host of indoor programs, often sport oriented, are offered during the winter, many recreational pastimes - snowmobiling, camping, hunting, boating and hiking - are linked to the land. Three nearby territorial parks (Qaummaarviit, KATANNILIK and Sylvia Grinnell) are accessible through local outfitters via boat, snowmobile or dogteam.
Iqaluit has become the gateway to the eastern Arctic both logistically and culturally. It has successfully blended modern facilities and technology with long-time Inuit traditions.
See also ARCTIC SOVEREIGNTY.
Author NICK NEWBERY
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Sirmilik National Park
This illustrated Parks Canada website offers information about the ecology, geography, and history of Sirmilik National Park.
City of Iqaluit
This is the website for the City of Iqaluit, the Capital City of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut.
The Spatial and Historical Evolution of Iqaluit
Explore the history and development of Iqaluit in this interesting multimedia website from Natural Resources Canada. Check out the many cartographic visualization features and the Historical Research section, which includes an interactive tutorial about the history of the Iqaluit region. Requires Adobe Shockwave Player.
Plan your next Arctic adventure at this Nunavut Tourism website. Offers information about local communities, history and culture, recreational opportunities, and much more.
Nunavut Arctic College
The website for Nunavut Arctic College, a major contributor to the development of Nunavut and the premiere provider of quality adult learning opportunities for all Nunavummiut. A PDF file.
The trials of Nunavut: Lament for an Arctic nation
This feature probes pressing social, economic, and cultural challenges currently facing Nunavut communities and their residents. From theglobeandmail.com website.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...