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The Sixties: a Transition Period in the North

John Amagoalik

I felt I had to leave Resolute Bay. Resolute Bay at the time was not a very pleasant place, as I indicated earlier. It was a small community in a lot of pain. There was a lot of drinking, and it was not pleasant. I wanted to get away from that. I had a trail bike. I sold it, bought an airline ticket, and came down here with basically nowhere to go. A family took me with them. A few weeks later, I managed to find casual work with the territorial government. These days, Resolute Bay is a much happier place to live. The heavy drinking has gone down. The people, especially the children, are both physically and psychologically more healthy. The children and grandchildren of the original ‘High Arctic Exiles’ have taken over the leadership of the community. Along with Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay is now one of the most pleasant communities in Nunavut.
In Chapter Three, John covers all the changes that took place in the North during the 1960s: the coming of technology, the establishment of democracy and the electoral process, the founding of villages, the arrival of members to the Legislative Assembly, the creation of cooperatives, the changes in the type of housing for the Inuit, the establishment of the education system, and the coming of the snowmobile. All of these events were pivotal in the lives of the Inuit.

He recounts his first memories of Iqaluit and the gradual transformation of the town. He talks about the past and current quality of life in Resolute Bay. He speaks of his return to school in 1970. He tells us how his job with the territorial government prepared him for a position at Inuit Tapirisat of Canada to process land claims.

He returns to a tragic event—the slaughter of the sled dogs, the qimmit—that still has repercussions on people today. He explains the place dogs had in the lives of Inuit and how the slaughter brought about their separation from their natural environment.

He tells of the establishment of the first networks between Canada’s Inuit and of the founding of the first Inuit organizations. He explains the importance of the signing of North America’s first modern treaty with the Inuit by the Inupiat of Alaska and its consequences for Canadian Inuit, as well as the signature of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first modern agreement in Canada.