During the summer months of the 1950s, several Inuit families were relocated to the High Arctic by the Government of Canada. Families from Pond Inlet and Inukjuak, known as Port Harrison at the time, on the Hudson coast of northern Quebec, were moved and formed the communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord.
The Government of Canada’s promises of the new land were many: game, resources, and new equipment, all of which was waiting for the families when they arrived. The families were also promised if they were unhappy, they could return home after two years.
The first years in the High Arctic were a desperate time for families. Despite the government’s promises, resources were not plentiful, and even as Inuit were starving, the families were not allowed to return home.
Recognizing this hardship and wishing to commemorate it, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. commissioned two monuments in April, 2008. Two and a half years later, after much planning, the monuments were unveiled on September 8 and 10, 2010.
NTI commissioned two of Nunavut’s leading carvers to create the monuments, Simeonie Amagoalik of Resolute Bay, and Looty Pijimani of Grise Fiord. Using local stone, Amagoalik created a carving of a man in Resolute Bay. Pijamini created a granite carving of a woman and child in Grise Fiord. The monuments depict how families were separated during the relocations. Each artist mentored a younger carver during the process.
The monuments are dedicated to the families who were relocated, rejoicing their perseverance and the importance of family and community in overcoming the many dire hardships families faced during the High Arctic relocations of the 1950s.
The unveiling of the monuments was an important step in helping Inuit find closure and healing from these terrible events. The month before NTI’s unveiling, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan issued an official apology on behalf of the federal government for forcing Inuit to relocate. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also offered a personal apology to surviving original relocatees during a visit to Resolute Bay.
Many dignitaries joined NTI and Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord community members for the events, including Minister Duncan who again delivered an apology in each community on behalf of the Government of Canada for the relocations the families experienced. Healing circles were held in both communities following the unveiling.
The wounds are deep and decades old, but the unveiling of the monuments, and the apology from the Government of Canada, will allow Inuit the opportunity to remember, grieve and heal.