Interviews on Building Nunavut's Climate Resilience


Nuka Olsen-Hakongak is a 23 year old from Cambridge Bay who just finished her Social Services diploma and recently has been accepted into the Law program at Nunavut Arctic College. In winter 2017, she interviewed knowledge holders from her hometown to gather information about Our Changing Land, Our Changing People: Building Nunavut’s Climate Resiliency. In her interviews, she gathered important information on the experiences of change from the past to today.


The Interviews

I interviewed a few people in my home community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. I used the meeting preparation package I received from Aaju Peter, which had three questions along with sub questions on each one. I wanted input from my community, as I had never attended a conference like this before. I have learned so much from my interviews and hearing from other Nunavummiut during my one day at the conference which I am very grateful for. Each interview is typed in the first person. As they participants were asked the questions I jotted down their thoughts in the first person. 


John Nanegoak, Ikey Nanegoak and Mary Taipana - Bathurst Inlet early 1970's

Interview #1 with Ruth Oyukuluk. Ruth is from Arctic Bay, Nunavut.

Ruth and I attend the Social Services Worker Program together in Cambridge Bay. We are in second year of the two-year diploma program.

1) They’re pretty strong because they moved from place to place according to the animals. From doing that to their dogs taken away and replaced with skidoos and they never said no – they just agreed because they were scared. They adapted to it pretty quickly – that showed resilience. Inuit had to buy gas, skidoos, parts and oil and they had no jobs because Inuit relied on catch like fox fur and seal pelts in the cold climates as their income. Most of them were born in iglus in the harsh climate and still survived. Inuit hunted and lived off the land, there were no grocery stores and they didn’t say “we’re poor” and they were happy with what they had. They had no doctors and used their own methods to help each other. Some Inuit can still tell their stories because of that. This is the way I see their strength, which is extraordinary.

Where I’m from our language is strong. Most of the people speak Inuktitut and when I came here I saw people wanting and eager to learn because they lost their language. I saw a lot of strength. Most of the people here (Cambridge Bay) bounced back even though they lost their language. It’s coming back slowly. Elder’s can speak perfectly in Inuinnaqtun – this really stood out.

1a) My grandpa Oyukuluk would always tell stories to me about how they lived when there was no material goods. He told me that this lady had a baby in the winter and when the baby was born they used rabbit fur to bundle the baby and they kept very warm. There was no pampers back then so when the baby really moved around in the back they knew when to let the baby urinate or excrete.

1b) Losing their dogs was a rapid change and they had to adapt to a different way of travelling.

Dog team pulling into Bay Chimo early 1970's, HBC trading post in the background.

Interview #3 with Haomik Joy.

Haomik is from Cambridge Bay but was born on Jenny Lynd Island, which is between here and Gjoa Haven.

1a) I remember growing up in an iglu and there was kullik (source of heat, stove, cooking our meals and drying our clothes). Everybody worked together – no matter how small you were. There was no choice of what you ate. Life was so pure. There was no influence from qallunaaq. Everything was shared. Men had two wives, women had two husbands and there was no conflict. Life was so happy – everyone just got along. There was no violence. If you wanted something people asked or if you knew they needed it you just gave it. If a hunter caught meat it was always shared. Today there is violence, there’s no trust, not like families back then. If a child lost family members another family took in the child with no questions asked. They just take the child in. There is so much difference from when I was a little child to now. We used hides as insolation. I remember my uncle digging six feet underground at Anderson Bay and he lined it with cellophane and made a freezer. He covered the top with a board and covered the board with nuna and made it camouflage. First thing in the morning, right after supper we couldn’t wait to go use our kakivaks to fish at the river – the one right next to our cabin.

1b) We just go along with the flow. You’re not going to change things, we don’t like protests. For me, there’s nothing you can do, you just got with the flow. Barriers are setting in that elder’s noticed. For example, paperwork to get your SIN card to work – “in order to be a number”. There’s so many restrictions now, so many policies, so many politics to go through to get anything done. We looked up to one leader – a good hunter, good sewer – those were the traits we looked for. If you didn’t allow your child to go to school they wouldn’t pay the child allowance.

1c) We all worked together in those days. We coped. Today it’s like you got so much technology in order to keep up with families, co- workers, and friends. Today you’re working your life away to survive, own a home, food that is so expensive, you have to buy gas to go out on the land to hunt. Pay for power, heat and water phones etc. Back then there was no money you traded skins, tools or you sewed. You sewed for your families and at Christmas the dogs wore bells so you could hear when someone was coming to visit from another camp. Celebrations were different – there was no alcohol. Everyone was always busy from morning to night preparing for the next hunt or warmth.

2) We’re trying to get the language back. A lot of young girls are learning how to sew and hunt. Survival skills. I wish they would have taught that in residential school, we would have been stronger, cope to survive and if we could speak our own language then we would not have this ‘Keeping our Language’ issue today.

3a) More housing. A middle school for Cambridge Bay. I think where we are hurting is that grades 7, 8, 9 are not used to being in high school. Middle school is important to give them time to being in grade 7, 8 and 9. In Cambridge Bay the grade 7’s are still little kids and are mixed in with the peers who may be in higher level or lower level grade. Social passing I guess it is called now. It will help them integrate to high school. I know it helped me when I went to residential school. I was failed on some grades and I was grateful that because I graduated and got my diploma and have been with the GN for 21 years. Speak & write in my native tongue.

3b) Like channel 51 – having a channel with information. Telephone conversations.

3c) Radio – trade shows.

3d) Telehealth conferences because the expense of travel and high cost of travel is such a barrier.

Doctor’s residence Cambridge Bay 1970's.

Interview #4 with Naikak Hakongak.

Naikak was born in Cambridge Bay and grew up in Bay Chimo and Bathurst Inlet but most Bay Chimo. Naikak is also my father.

1a) It still feels a little melancholic going back home to Bay Chimo especially when I see our first match box home my father built for us, the roof is now buckling on it. I can talk about resiliency from travelling on the land and seeing tent rings and long houses. Inuit were able to adapt to each season according to the animals. In the warm times of the year Inuit spent their time in the land near good fishing. Our river here is a good example where you can find old caches and tent rings. The one thing in the winter is not being able to track where the Inuit lived in the wintertime because they lived in iglus on the ocean. It shows resiliency because of the strength it took to keep their lives going. My Mum and Dad were making a transition to that to this in ages lifestyle – permanent settlements and modern day housing. I think the adaptability was to take hand in hand and make hunting tools through implementing new things like copper to make harpoon heads, ulu and handles with muskox horn and wood. I think those kinds of times there was a real difference in how boys and girls were raised. Boys were raised to be good hunters and providers and girls were raised to sew as good as their mother and make clothes and sleeping bags and skin tents etc.

1b) Through their resiliency. First rapid change would be going from “no faith” to being introduced to the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. Shamanism went underground after modern Christianity came into play. My great grandfather Elatiak (maternal side) was a practicing shaman until he died (unknown decease date). That was one real change Inuit had to deal with and adapt to. I think this caused strife between family members and difference in beliefs after being introduced to modern faith. The Roman Catholics had a big presence in Bathurst in the 1930’s-1940’s – after the last missionary left the Anglican Church missionary stayed. Mostly predominantly Anglican in Bay Chimo and Bathurst Inlet. People dealt with it in a fact that they had to be a family unit no matter what. One of biggest things they had to adapt to was being good hunters and providers to moving into a community and relying on social assistance instead of traditional ways.

1c) Probably becoming a settlement council and evolving into a municipality and now a hamlet. Another aspect is that children are getting education and adapting into the modern day world around. There was no more going back into the old way – only moving forward into modern age.

2a) Ilavut center in Kugluktuk is the halfway home for inmates returning back and finishing their sentence. They offer on the land programs, cultural programs and helps reintegrate back into society. In the Wellness Centre here in Cambridge Bay I see the same people that work there. I see a blend of the older population mixed with the younger generation of Cambridge Bay to provide support and be of service to help Cambridge Bay be a better place. It’s really nice to see that.

3a) I wonder if the high school utilizes the cultural center to learn of the Inuit history to learn how they progressed into modern day society and keep culture alive.

3b) Holding some community gatherings at the elder’s palace, the hall or the cultural center. The cultural center or the elder’s palace would be the best sports.

3c) Local radio, weekly/biweekly gatherings, flyers, channel 51 – using the media.

3d) Internet – update the Internet system. Most communities are connected to cell service. Video conferencing. A lot of people like to meet face to face but logistically and financially it is expensive. Support from local hamlets, the social and cultural divisions in the KIA (Kitikmeot Inuit Association) and the NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated) to help with allowing this to take place.


Jacob Kudlak and May Hakongak homestead Bay Chimo.

Interview #5 with Attima Hadlari.

1) Inuit are adaptable because they lived on the land 24/7 and they didn’t have heated houses. They used natural clothing from wildlife. They were adaptable to any weather they had to face.

1a) I grew up with my grandfather who was born in the 1800’s. In the winter and harsh times they are dressed up to be outside or stay in the iglu which is a lot warmer then tents that are used today. Everything was natural.

1b) My grandfather said many times over that the earth is changing constantly. He knew from information that had been passed down of the ice age and there would be hardly any winter at all. They always prepared themselves for the worst and can adapt to the weather change. I thin we should be prepared as well for any drastic changes that will come our way, whatever the changes are.

1c) They have to be prepared for any drastic changes that may come and work together. Always prepared for the worst.

2) If we have no power in the community we are able to survive without heat in the house because I have knowledge from the past from my grandfather. I can make an iglu if I had to but I am not as speedy because I do not practice it as often.

3a) More architects from the north because we know how cold it is and there should be programs offered for architecture for the north. Use natural resources for heat, light etc. instead of relying on fuel.

3b) All of the communities and leaders should be consulted properly and look at what options they have from the federal government. More/constant communication between the communities and the federal government.

3c) Have a direct federal government authority consult with the communities instead of someone just passing the message on.

3d) Maybe the leaders need to be invited more and involved in decision making for the north.

Canso leaving Cambridge Bay in the late 1940's, looking toward "new town" site.
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