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Historians and Inuit: learning from the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, 2007-2010.


The recent past is a topic of urgent public interest to those who live in the Canadian Arctic. Efforts to explain various disruptions and transformations since 1950 are drawing on the lived experience of Elders and other community members, and also on printed and archival material. Past government promises in the areas of education, jobs, and housing are matters of daily concern, especially in Nunavut, the northern territory that until 1999 was part of the Northwest Territories. Recently, such concern has found expression through two major public inquiries into the Canadian government's relationship with Aboriginal people. These were the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which examined a wide range of contentious issues from 1991 to 1996, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian Residential Schools, which from 2008 to 2015 researched pre-1996 school records, listened to survivors of the schools, and ultimately concluded that the schools engaged in "cultural genocide". (2) Separate regional inquiries were carried out in the eastern Arctic--Nunavik (Arctic Quebec) and the Qikiqtaaluk (or "Qikiqtani") Region of Nunavut--triggered by the widespread killing of sled dogs, for a variety of reasons, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and others in authority, which occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.

The sled dog killings were documented at the time but for decades afterward, Inuit, especially men, found it difficult to talk about such painful matters. Eventually they started to disclose their losses and in 2005 the dog question was raised in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Two Inuit birthright organizations, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) (3) and the Makivik Corporation, brought witnesses to Ottawa. There, the standing committee heard them and recommended a judicial inquiry. Instead of complying, the government instructed the RCMP to review its own files and other sources to determine the truth of the reports. A preliminary report in 2005 and a more polished "final" one in 2006 both acknowledged that large numbers of dogs had been killed, but exonerated the force of wrong-doing, saying the dogs were either sick or dangerous. The 2006 report was based on a 721-page report consisting largely of transcribed archival documents and retired members' letters and emails. In 2007, both QIA and Makivik decided to mount their own inquiries, each hiring a retired judge as commissioner. (4) QIA used its own resources to engage retired Newfoundland and Labrador Judge Jim Igloliorte and send him to every community in the region at least twice. The other inquiry, co-sponsored by Makivik and the government of Quebec, was conducted by retired Justice Jean-Jacques Croteau. Both inquiries, but the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (QTC)'s in particular, studied the written historical record as well as testimony from those whose lives were most affected. This article will focus on one of these regional inquiries, the Qikiqtani Truth Commission of 2007 to 2010.

During those years, the QTC inquired into all aspects of the relationship between the federal government and Inuit, generating intense interest throughout the region. The commissioner collected statements, most of them given under oath, from over 300 Inuit and other witnesses. Some retired RCMP members followed the inquiry as it unfolded because they understood that their own conduct and the reputation of the force were being challenged. Both northern and southern media covered at least some of the thirteen community hearings. Those thirteen communities in the Qikiqtaaluk Region are themselves a legacy of the period the QTC studied, since their population had been previously dispersed in about 100 smaller groups. This sharp reduction of the number of settled places was driven mainly by pressure from the federal government, and had generally occurred without adequate consultation or planning. The "sedentarization" of a previously mobile population had many undesirable consequences, and the report of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission concluded that, even after making all allowances for the difficult position in which the police often found themselves, dog control measures were "ill-considered" and "inappropriate"; RCMP members had "responded to the perceived danger by shooting loose qimmiit, often without explanation or warning." (5) Commissioner Igloliorte put the killings in the context of the region's colonial situation. He pointed out that although "qimmiit are large and potentially dangerous animals, Inuit have successfully managed them for countless generations." However, he added, the territorial Ordinance Respecting Dogs imposed different standards. "[The] dog ordinance was completely consistent with standard government policy that Inuit must, at their own expense, accommodate newcomers' needs and wants. While the law was clear to those who enforced it, to hunters it was illogical, unnecessary and also harmful; in addition, it was not consistently or predictably applied." (6)

The "dog ordinance" referred to here was an enactment of the Northwest Territories Council in Ottawa that allowed police in settlements, in certain circumstances and after taking precautions to protect the rights of dog-owners, to dispose of loose or threatening sled dogs. The precautions were rarely followed and at least occasionally loose or even harnessed dogs were shot indiscriminately. (7) The Commission's final report did not call for either compensation or an apology, but closed with recommendations for addressing "the high rates of suicide, substance abuse, incarceration, and social dysfunction among Inuit [which] are in part symptoms of intergenerational trauma caused by historical wrongs." (8)

The QTC's and QIA's decision to work with a team of professional historians from the outset underlined the importance they saw in finding a balance in the collection and use of historical information. Witness statements were deployed alongside published and archival sources, in order to counter many of the prevailing government-focused narratives of the mid-century period. This resolve to situate current affairs in the region's broader history has continued. Draft reports were published in September 2013 and shared with government officials. In April 2014 QIA released twenty-three QTC reports to the public in two volumes. One contains Commissioner Igloliorte's final report, two special studies, and seven thematic reports. The other contains the thirteen community histories. These books are intended to be a staple resource for future readers and researchers, (9) and are available to the general public and schools in Nunavut. In 2015 QIA re-launched the QTC website, where reports can be downloaded individually as PDF files. (10)

At a time when Canada's troubled history with Aboriginal peoples is being studied through inquiries conducted in public, the QTC merits close attention. Drawing on the QTC's reports and the author's perspectives as one of the commission's historians, (11) this article surveys several key points for historians, untangling interwoven aspects of past, present, and future. First, it looks at how mid-twentieth-century events became a focus of later protest. Second, it describes the work of the QTC and its historians as facets of recent public history practice, particularly with regard to some of the roots of historical trauma. Third, in this final year of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the article uses the QTC experience as a point of departure to reflect briefly on future roles historians may play in reconciliation between Aboriginal peoples, governments, and the rest of society.


There are different versions of recent Inuit history, but by general consensus the twentieth century can be divided into stages of contact between Inuit and powerful external forces. About 1910, a rise in foreign markets for white fox pelts prompted certain changes in the distribution and mobility of people on the land. Sometimes the new commodity, fur, was not accessible at the same times or places as the old staples, seals and caribou. After 1922, the fur trade was dominated by the Hudson's Bay Company that, while closely watched by the Canadian government and a few Catholic and Anglican missions, provided Inuit with most of their access to imported goods. Significant developments in this period included universal adoption of firearms for hunting and an increase in the size of dog teams. A decline in fur prices in the 1930s was accompanied by rising incidence of tuberculosis, leading to great concern in the centres of decision-making in southern Canada, but scarcely any remedial action until after World War II. Significant changes inside the contact zone (12) can be traced to the institution of a universal program of Family Allowances in the late 1940s, and a growing Qallunaat (non-Inuit) presence at weather stations and airfields. These grew rapidly in number in the early 1950s. With the completion of the Distant Early Warning (dew) Line in 1957 (manned radar stations equipped to detect incoming Soviet bombers) the military or their civilian contractors occupied a band of settlement sites across the region. The year-round communities at Hall Beach, Iqaluit, and Qikiqtarjuaq owe their existence at their present locations almost entirely to military logistics.

The period 1910-1955 has been termed the "contact-traditional" era, reflecting a balance between change and continuity. However, by the late 1950s, the federal authorities, conscious of a growing inequality in material terms between southern and northern Canada, developed programs for Inuit health, housing, and schooling, all of which tended to pull people into a handful of government-commercial centres year-round. The transition from the "contact-traditional" era to this more "centralized" pattern put barriers between Inuit and the land on which they had always depended. Anthropologist David Damas, who studied these transitions over several decades, tied them to government policies that he termed "dispersal" and "the welfare state." (13) The QTC, reviewing the same events, inserted another phase of contact following "dispersal," calling it "disruption" or "sangussaqtauliqtilluta." By the late 1960s, an overwhelming majority of Qikiqtaaluk Inuit had, in various ways, experienced sangussaqtauliqtilluta. For their part, government officials did not see this as a disruption but as a necessary period of adjustment as Inuit slipped, it was hoped, into conventional North American roles as consumers.

Despite general consensus on the importance of certain events, there are profound disagreements about the meanings of some of them, and especially the interplay of government coercion versus Inuit choice in the rapid sedentarization of a mobile population. (14) In the Qikiqtaaluk Region alone, about a hundred multi-family hunting groups were once dispersed in permanent or semi-permanent hunting settlements. After 1950, they were drawn together into just thirteen much larger communities. This was not a culturally neutral process, but one that undermined the people's relationship with their land and with each other. As a former settlement manager, Keith Crowe, observed in 1969, the new northern settlements had all begun as service centres for a dispersed population. But with sedentarization, they became more than simply places for people to live; indeed, they were quickly transformed into "tutelage centres for a nodal population." (15) Researcher Jack Hicks, formerly Director of Implementation for the Nunavut Implementation Commission, put the failure of this "tutelage" in a circumpolar context in 2005, noting an upward trend in the suicide rate among Inuit from Alaska to Greenland. The increase occurred everywhere about one generation after "the processes of 'active colonialism at the community level' ... [when] the colonial powers had ... attempted to substantially reorganize Inuit society." (16)

Among social scientists inside the contact zone, criticism of the way Canada was handling the transition began to emerge almost at once. (17) More attention has been paid since 1990. Historian Shelagh Grant, filmmaker Alan Marcus and the people of Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay opened up disturbing perspectives on the High Arctic relocations of the mid-1950s. Their conclusions were accepted by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. (18) Peter Kulchyski and Frank Tester put this period into a broader Canadian historical context with two books, one on relocations entitled Tammarniit (Mistakes), and another on game laws entitled Kiumajut (Talking Back). (19) Their avowed purpose was to join the criticism of the post-war welfare state as a system incapable of achieving its stated goal of equality, "a regime which, because of its structures and biases, has often discriminated against ... marginal groups." They went on:

  In the case of ... aboriginal peoples, the racism inherent in the
  welfare state takes an assimilationist form but has been couched,
  historically, in liberal humanitarian language. Thus, those
  developing and delivering services ... argued, as was consistent
  with liberal discourse on rights, that they were committed to
  extending the privilege of citizenship ... to all Canadians. It was
  argued that aboriginal peoples were entitled to the same levels of
  schooling, social security, and health care as other Canadians.
  These commitments were genuine and consistent with what was seen to
  be the dominant and progressive discourse of the day. But this
  discourse was also about nation-building --about creating a
  country of shared values, in the belief that the end result would
  be social harmony, as well as proficiency and efficiency in the
  capitalist development of Canada's economic base. (20)

The approach that some have termed "welfare colonialism" (21) is very old in Canada. Hugh Shewell's work on Indian Welfare in Canada (22) traces a long thread of seemingly contradictory performance (involving, by turns, the protection, exclusion, and assimilation of Indigenous peoples) back into the 1840s. This kind of manipulation characterized Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's western policy after 1878, the abortive proposals for reform in Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's White Paper on "Indian Policy" in 1969, and the approaches of the federal government led by conservative Stephen Harper until 2015. Fitting the Inuit policies of the 1950s and 1960s under Prime Ministers Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, and Lester Pearson--the era covered in this article--into this pattern needs to be part of any counter-narrative about the North. Since 1970, new voices have been added as Inuit commented on public policy, (23) asserted their Aboriginal rights, settled land claims, and participated in re-examinations of history like the ones dealing with High Arctic relocations and residential schools. The result is a more fragmented, nuanced, and critical view of how colonialism works within Canada.

In this context, many Canadians and others would be surprised to learn that sled dogs--qimmiit to their owners--had a central place in the sangussaqtauliqtilluta. For Inuit, memories of maladministration, deception and even cruelty challenge the positive view many Canadians hold concerning change in the North. Inuit have always understood that while government programs introduced in that era were meant to confer material benefits, they also functioned as instruments of social control, undermined traditional ties to the land, and disrupted the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. The loss of Inuit autonomy coincided with the elimination of sled dogs from the major centres. Qimmiit had been essential to the seasonal rounds of Inuit life. They were the only means of transportation on land and over ice, and without interruption until the 1960s, the training and feeding of dogs continued to be intimately connected with the economic well-being of all generations of Inuit.

The 1950s brought increasing numbers of semi-permanent Qallunaat residents to the Arctic, including women and children. They created a small but influential population with no traditional knowledge of how to behave around qimmiit. Attacks by dogs became more common. (24) Between the mid-fifties and 1970 virtually all teams were shot or otherwise eliminated, some by dew Line personnel but many by the RCMP or on their orders. In many cases the dogs were running at large, especially around garbage dumps, and as the population of government-commercial centres grew, larger concentrations of dogs, most of them unfamiliar with each other, created new levels of anxiety among the white population and a greater determination among the RCMP to reduce the numbers of loose dogs. Chains and pounds were tried, with little improvement. (25) Some teams were slaughtered or reduced when the owners were visiting trading posts, when families were on the point of relocating to centralized settlements, or after they had done so. Many Inuit lost their dogs in these ways before snowmobiles provided a viable replacement, and many could not afford those machines when they did become available. The economic loss made many traditional skills redundant and fed a widespread and enduring sense of disempowerment. (26)

Beginning in 1999, Inuit in both the Qikiqtaaluk Region and Nunavik began to break the silence surrounding the dog killings. That year, the establishment of a new RCMP Division for Nunavut prompted the force to hold public meetings there. A gathering in Iqaluit stirred controversy when an Elder from Pangnirtung reminded the force that its members arrived in the region uninvited. He and other speakers drew attention to the use of force or intimidation by police to enforce social policies (as well as the criminal law) and after the meeting the new commanding officer was quoted in the local weekly newspaper:

"They saw us as shooting the dogs in some communities to prevent them from going out on the land," Nunavut's commanding officer, Chris Bothe said. "They perceived that as preventing them from going out on the land and living off the land and forcing them into accepting social assistance The general feeling was that there were certain actions that were taken by us, whether they were government policy or not, that were wrong, in their eyes, and we have to address that." (27)

The reporter added that the "RCMP have a sordid past with the Inuit of Nunavut and that past is still a vivid memory." The phrase spread widely and outraged the large, dispersed community of retired RCMP members. They adamantly rejected the idea that the force had any reason to apologize, and argued instead that their good service to Inuit communities was a neglected chapter in a creditable history. (28) Senior RCMP officials backed away from the apparent offer to apologize and soon the national police force and its retired members were locked in an acrimonious debate with Inuit about something that happened almost half a century before. Inuit leaders, deducing the motives of the police from their behaviour and its results, argued that the RCMP must have been following a national policy of eliminating dogs to coerce Inuit into large settlements. The police responded that the charges were groundless, the dogs they shot were either sick or dangerous, and that Inuit seemed to be motivated solely by desire for compensation. In this view, the RCMP apologists went on to say that Inuit leaders must have been muzzling their constituents who, almost without exception, would not come forward to help the RCMP investigate itself. Both sides in this acrimonious argument felt their considerable sacrifices in the past were being misrepresented to Canadians at large, and each publicly invoked the past to recover lost ground.

For Inuit, the qimmiit question was one of many contentious aspects of their past relationship with the federal government. Their search for a usable past expressed their desire to refute hostile generalizations about Inuit culture and history; to confirm the importance of healing through the recounting of difficult experiences, especially by older men who felt ashamed about having been unable to protect their families; and to seek healing through disclosure of unpleasant truths, ultimately leading toward reconciliation with old adversaries. To the RCMP, the reputation of the force was under attack. The force and its veterans felt a loss of respect for what they accomplished when they were the only federal authority serving in much of the region. In trying to recover a usable past, they wished to refute reports that the RCMP had a "sordid past" in Nunavut; to reaffirm a longstanding belief that RCMP personnel had the good of Inuit at heart more than other federal employees did at mid-century; and to discredit the Inuit leadership.

These conflicting views warranted a public re-examination of the motives and results of government actions, taking account of the actual experiences of those who were meant to benefit from them. The QTC therefore devoted considerable attention to studying federal government policy and performance far from the contact zone. There were two reasons for this interest: first, the commission's mandate was not limited to qimmiit. Second, officials in Ottawa differed as to the pace and direction of change they wanted, and their internal debates were instructive. (29) And third, the QTC needed to get to the bottom of the RCMP veterans' argument that there could not have been a plot to drive Inuit into settlements by killing their dogs, because police were known to vaccinate qimmiit to protect the teams. There was some truth to this. Until the early 1960s, the RCMP had been strong advocates of the policy of dispersal, encouraging Inuit to remain on the land with only intermittent contact with traders, missionaries, and the very few social services then in place. However, while constables in the field monitored the dispersed population where they lived and hunted, police also undermined the traditional economy by killing sled dogs around the growing government-commercial centres. While part of settlement growth was due to an influx of teachers and welfare officers, defence establishments in particular became larger and more numerous after 1955. These affected the six present communities of Resolute Bay, Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq, Hall Beach, Sanikiluaq, and above all, Iqaluit. Although the incomers were partially segregated, especially through policies of "nonfraternization" with Inuit women, they hired Inuit men seasonally as labourers and they generated a wave of voluntary migrations; as Elder Naki Ekho in Iqaluit told anthropologist Ann McElroy in 1999, "I came here by dog team from upland with the whole family [in 1957] .... The reason we came here was when someone finds plentiful amounts of something, like work or food, they come to get it. They planned to stay only a year." Police killed their dogs, and they never returned north. (30) This was not an untypical experience. And yet, as the retired Mounties claimed after 1999, their detachments continued until 1968 to use sled dogs and to immunize Inuit dogs. These inconsistent practices could in fact be reconciled within overall federal policy. Policy evolved rapidly from a stance, before the dew Line, that encouraged Inuit to remain on the land to a view generally held by officials by 1970 that Inuit ought to cluster around schools and nursing stations and go out on the land only if they could afford snowmobiles and fuel. While this transition was occurring, during the period the QTC's writers called "the disruptions" or "sangussaqtauliqtilluta," administration was based on an Ottawa-centric view of adapting flexibly to local conditions.

In the QTC period, various federal bodies exercised Canadian authority in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, although other entities such as the Pentagon, the Federal Electric Company of New Jersey, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the Catholic and Anglican churches, were powerful in their particular spheres. The government presence was fragmented: the departments of National Health and Welfare, National Defence, and Transport all had significant parts to play. The RCMP had some welfare responsibilities, especially in the High Arctic settlements of Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, but police were not seen in most places except when on patrol. (There were only five detachments in the region in 1953.) For all but a few summer months the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources (NANR) handled the rest of the government's business inside the contact zone. (31) NANR is best understood as a municipal level of government, overseeing schools, welfare, local utilities, and housing. It also had important provincial-type powers over game regulations and land-use planning. In the North, the successor in 2015 of NANR is not Indigenous and Northern Affairs, as one might imagine, but the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. (32)

The movement of federal policy away from dispersal is well expressed in three documents from the heart of the Arctic administration in Ottawa. A speech written for the director (Bent Sivertz) in 1934 noted that "Bringing education to [Inuit] is a formidable task;" southerners expected that schools would be in settlements, "but if the [Inuit] are brought together in settlements they will starve unless the government provides food, clothing and shelter--and extreme paternalism of this kind would destroy the people." (33) By the end of 1956, the encroachment of dew, Mid-Canada, and Pine Tree line facilities--three overlapping manned lines of radar installations--had created a sense of urgency in some places though not in others, leading to a selective regional approach to assimilation. As a government report noted in 1957:

   Where primitive [Inuit] in remote areas are relatively free from
   contact with white civilization, it is planned to leave their
   present economy as undisturbed as possible. In those areas where
   there is already permanent contact, integration with the white
   economy will be encouraged. Between these two extremes employment
   of [Inuit] will be encouraged, provided it does not interfere
   unduly with their normal life. It is also planned to diversify the
   Eskimo economy and to continue to transfer families from
   unproductive areas to regions where game is more abundant or
   employment is available. (34)

In practice, the middle stage of managed assimilation was impossible to implement. In 1961, Sivertz spoke of the Inuit future at the well-attended Resources for Tomorrozv conference in Montreal: in the new North, he explained, the federal government would not tolerate an economic system that "requires the full time of the entire family." In practice, this would mean teaching children in centralized communities where their parents could only visit them on average once or twice a month. "Small hostels" were constructed at these schools but parents understood that a traditional lifestyle on the land without children was not a traditional lifestyle at all. Around each of the new communities, quite suddenly, existing patterns of seasonal mobility crumbled. (35) Government officials supposedly wanted Inuit to have a choice between wage work and hunting, but in practice this did not seem like a choice at all. Nor were some of the underlying premises realistic. For both material and psychological reasons, the government's aspirations for Inuit social development demanded something close to full employment, and this, in the intervening half century, has not been attained. Instead, people were pressured or persuaded to move first and then try to work out the details of their future lives afterward.

This is a very short overview of fluctuations in central planning. In the contact zone, these policies probably appeared even more contradictory than they were, and this was certainly true with respect to qimmiit. These were essential working animals on the land, but they proved impossible to keep in large centres where seal meat and other country food were in short supply, even for people. Until the early 1950s, Inuit sled dogs had not been of much interest except to their owners. (36) Then, at strategic defence centres like Iqaluit [then Frobisher Bay], airmen, their food storage practices, and especially their garbage dumps were not prepared for loose sled dogs. This problem spread to the half dozen dew Line sites created in the region in the mid-fifties. As Iqaluit developed into a military and civilian logistical centre, white people, Inuit, and dogs gathered there in growing numbers, provoking the killings of hundreds of dogs. This trend probably peaked in 1958. A strikingly different experience occurred in Cumberland Sound during 1961-62 when the RCMP reacted--and probably over-reacted--to an epidemic of distemper or canine hepatitis. Families were split up and dwellings were abandoned. Contrary to Inuit practice, the authorities also shot healthy dogs on the assumption that all would become ill. They pressured all Inuit to relocate temporarily to Pangnirtung, which was not ready to provide country food, shelter, or useful employment. The attack on dogs next occurred at other government-commercial centres that had neither military personnel nor epidemic disease.

By 1962, most of the thirteen government-commercial communities had schools; consequently, parents of school-aged children moved, swapping their way of life for unreliable jobs and what was often shoddy housing. (37) When they brought their qimmiit to town they were usually shot, closing off the hunter's option of returning to the land. The rationale that motivated these shootings varied with time, place, and person but as time went on, the pressure on dogs--whether loose or presumed likely to get loose--became stronger and stronger. Generally, once a family moved to trading centres (now known as hamlets) they were expected to get rid of their dogs and in some cases were instructed to destroy their own animals before being allowed to enter the hamlet to settle. The QTC final report had this to say:

   As the QTC analysis of the RCMP report notes, Inuit had no access
   to decision-makers and limited access to local officials. As a
   result, in many cases Inuit were not given any reasons why their
   dogs were shot, and when explanations were provided they were
   likely to be incomplete and / or badly translated. It was therefore
   quite reasonable for Inuit to draw a connection between the killing
   of their sled dogs and the detrimental effects of centralization,
   namely the loss of their ability to move back to the land;
   increasing reliance on a cash economy; and the exclusive
   concentration of services in settlements. (38)

Certain incidents stand out. In 1960, a turning point for the whole eastern Arctic was reached at Arviat, then known as Eskimo Point, in the Kivalliq Region. A missionary's wife kept a female sled dog with pups as a pet. While she was entertaining another white woman, the "pet" savaged her small son, who barely survived. Senior Mounted Police officers in Ottawa turned this tragedy into an indictment of sled dogs and of Inuit in general. The superintendent commanding "G" Division, the Eastern Arctic, instructed every member under his command:

   I should like each man to very seriously consider his
   responsibilities in relation to the enforcement of the Dog
   Ordinance. We should never, under any circumstances, permit
   individuals to allow dogs to run at large and should in every
   single instance where it comes to our attention that husky dogs are
   loose, take action at once.

   I look for better enforcement of the Dog Ordinance and I feel that
   I cannot stress too strongly the need for action on our part
   because should we fail to take action and should the results next
   year be as they are this year, we will certainly have criticism
   levelled at us for our lack of sense of responsibility in this
   connection. (39)

The hazards grew with increasing immigration. About 1960, at Apex, a translator's son was killed by dogs while sliding on a hill, HBC manager Gordon Rennie told the QTC in 2008: "I had to go on the coroner's inquest after that as a witness, and look at the body. It was scary. My love affair with dogs ended then." (40) As Dr. Milton Freeman observed, dog attacks on people were of low incidence, but high impact. (41)

An underlying problem, as Inuit saw it, was the creation by ill-informed people of a regulatory regime that was harsh, illogical, and illegitimate. Anthropologist Toshio Yatsushiro's informants in Iqaluit asked him rhetorically if the police were going to start shooting Inuit when there were no dogs left to kill. (42) And when Simon Idlout of Resolute insisted to the QTC in 2008 that the health and well-being of sled dogs required them to be loose when not in harness, he drew clear political lessons about the illegitimacy of the Dog Ordinance:

   That was the law of the Inuit. We get new laws from the federal
   government and because it doesn't make any sense, we don't agree
   with it but we have to follow it.

   That law is not coming from the community, it is southern law. This
   law is not right in Nunavut. These laws were made down South. It is
   very different in Nunavut ... Am I going to follow that law from
   [England] in the High Arctic, is that right? No it is not right! It
   should be made in the Arctic. (43)

In a short time, almost every team in the region was gone. Some were shot by RCMP members including Inuit special constables, or by dew Line personnel. Some were shot by their owners on orders from the police, so as not to abandon them during relocations, (44) or after the purchase of a snowmobile. Some died of disease. They had been much more than a means of transportation; dogs had individual names and identities, closely related to those of their owners. Children learned to handle dogs as one of their first adult skills. The actual number eliminated is in dispute but from the community point of view what mattered was the proportion of the population that was affected. In most communities this approached 100%. Occurring alongside numerous other losses and disillusionments in this period, the elimination of the sled dogs was profoundly harmful to morale in ways that are still felt today.


The QTC pursued its goal of a balanced history of sedentarization through a methodology of its own design, important to consider when looking at the QTC as an example of a "truth commission." It took a systematic approach to collecting witness accounts, kept a small team of historians close to the commission and its work, sent several of them to community hearings in Nunavut, published a significant amount of their historical work in both English and Inuktitut in a format suitable for general audience, and created a legacy of collected documents with the intention of making them available eventually to all beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. (This was the "modern treaty" between Inuit in Nunavut and the Crown in 1993 by which "Inuit exchanged Aboriginal title to all their traditional land in the Nunavut Settlement Area for rights and benefits" (45) that were defined in the Agreement.) The QTC began operations late in 2007 with an ambitious agenda to examine most government programs in the pre-1980 Qikiqtaaluk region. That date was quickly adjusted to 1975 as sedentarization was almost complete then. Once hearings began, the witnesses were asked to describe their experiences in key areas, which gave direction to the commission's research plan. The main topics were schooling; housing; employment; dogs and relations with the RCMP; relocations; and health care. In addition, the research team was charged with producing an overview of the "official mind" of Canadian colonialism in the Arctic, and an extended analysis of the RCMP's own 721-page report. Despite earlier tension between retirees and the Inuit Elders, after 2007 RCMP Commissioner William J.S. Elliott and the National Contract Policing Branch met with Judge Igloliorte and QTC staff, and shared information. Relations between the QTC and the RCMP were much more cordial than they had been in previous exchanges.

The QTC understood from the outset that it needed consultant historians and that archival research would be important, both for the review of research done by others and for the re-examination of larger themes at regional and community levels. Primary sources, printed materials, and the interviews were all to be shared among the commission's staff and the research and writing team, who worked in widely separated places and on different digital platforms. (46) Eventually, the database or parts of it will be needed in schools and elsewhere for long-term QIA goals.

Community hearings and document collecting had to proceed together, as Commissioner Igloliorte asked for local histories before his community hearings. Comparable inquiries in Canada tend to privilege the oral, partly because sharing memories can have healing value, and partly because many commissions are set up with both a deadline for reporting and an inflexible time frame for document collection. By contrast, document collection preoccupied the QTC from the outset. The archival strategy was straight-forward: key fonds at Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) were prioritized on the basis of the research team's existing knowledge, footnotes in secondary sources, and searches in LAC's ArchiviaNet. Archival file lists were reviewed line by line to reduce the impact of errors in the archival tools. This search covered all federal departments with responsibilities in the North. A similar procedure was followed for the Northwest Territories Archives, which holds significant private papers and federal public records that were transferred to Yellowknife, the capital, in 1967. (47) (Thus the main federal file on the Ordinance Respecting Dogs passed out of federal control even before qimmiit were completely eliminated.) Documentation was found in unexpected places by Internet searches on the names of authors of significant articles. McGill anthropologist Toshio Yatsushiro, for example, documented the killing of dogs in Iqaluit around 1960; his field notes were located in Los Angeles. (48) Better-known repositories were also researched, notably the Hudson's Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg and the Anglican Archives in Toronto. Other researchers made significant contributions, including David King, an expert in Inuit education history, Frank Tester, who provided reports from the University of British Columbia's Nunavut Social History Database, and Francis Levesque, anthropological advisor to the Croteau Commission.

As the selection and copying of documents progressed, a QTC cover sheet was prepared for each item, with a QTC document ID number, archival citation, information on authorship, intended recipient, file title, affected community, and subject terms. The subjects were based on the intended list of QTC thematic reports, with a "comments" field to capture other keywords. Each document, with its cover sheet, was then scanned. The database was segmented into archival, bibliographical, and interview sections. Researchers used desktop software such as Microsoft Access to complete any other filtering and sorting. Those who indexed the documents all had university degrees in relevant disciplines, and the QTC's writers found the standard of description highly satisfactory. For a database of this size, it seems likely that all intended users will be able to search it with software that they already possess.

The actual writing of community histories and thematic reports proceeded quite smoothly, as did the process of providing historians' input to the commissioner's report. The problems encountered were those common to any large undertaking in public history, including the decision--despite some reluctance--to drop the detailed study of a few topics that were not absolutely central to the inquiry, following review of budgets and deadlines. Discussion of past actions by government agents had to be frank but also respectful. On the core issue there was no disagreement. The QTC had committed to producing an accurate history of the period, so the client's stake in the integrity of the reports was as high as the consultants'. All agreed that the commission's work needed to counter the RCMP's narrowly forensic approach with a broader approach to the history of cross-cultural encounters. On one key point, the commission agreed with the RCMP: no evidence was found of a deliberate policy, conceived in Ottawa and executed by the police, to force Inuit into settlements by shooting their dogs. Rather, many teams were eliminated after their owners had moved to a hamlet. Coercion, however, did occur: compulsory schooling, backed up by the authority officials possessed to withhold family allowance payments, was a central factor in sedentarization, as retired HBC Manager Gordon Rennie said. Though he received no clear written directive, at Iqaluit "there was sort of an unspoken indication that if these people didn't follow directions well then they could have their family allowance rescinded." (49) If they later wanted to return to the land, the elimination of dog teams had generally made this impossible.

In Qikiqtaaluk the commission and its historians found abundant evidence that Inuit did not fully understand the government's actions, trusted its promises too much, and often felt powerless to resist. Commissioner Igloliorte drew attention in Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq to the kind of fear that is represented by the Inuktitut term Ilira. One Inuit leader, Rosemary Kuptana, has defined this word as "a great fear or awe." Anaviapik of Pond Inlet explained it to anthropologist Hugh Brody as different from physical fear. He offered examples: "ghosts, domineering and unkind fathers, people who are strong but unreasonable, whites from the south." All are "[pjeople or things that make you feel vulnerable, and to which you are vulnerable." (50) Ultimately, the dog issue could only be understood and explained in the context of a severe imbalance of power and the dispiriting experience of sedentarization.

One challenge for the research team was to decolonize our own use of language. An obvious area for discretion was names, which are especially important to Inuit character, identity, and sense of place. (51) We used standardized official versions of place names, approved for use by the Government of Nunavut. Personal names were checked whenever possible with knowledgeable Inuit, though variant spellings are common and standardization is not. We learned the Nunavut conventions with regard to capitalizing certain terms of particular historical or cultural interest to Inuit, notably "Elders" and "Qallunaat."

We found it problematic to use the racialized terms "camps" and "settlements" to describe the two contrasting forms of human communities that existed in the area before sedentarization. It seemed illogical that in government usage six white people living in wooden buildings constituted a "settlement" while eighty Inuit living together year-round at one place under canvas merely formed a "camp." These terms are generally still used today when people write in English about the period before 1970. At a language workshop in May 2010, the QIA recommended the term "ilagiit nunagivaktangat," which better conveys the nuances of the composition and purpose of what the government called "camps." The linguistic problem changes once the white enclaves became Inuit settlements; thus for the period after 1970, we used other terms such as "community" or the legislated term, "hamlet."

Problematic terms affected the interpretation of data, too. We could not rely on census publications of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics whose tables reported on "settlements." This omitted the majority of people, dispersed as they were in the surrounding districts. Furthermore, large numbers of single white men living in barracks simply were not reported, even in districts where their numbers rivalled the whole Inuit population. These transients, although officially segregated from contact with Inuit around them, were important vectors of acculturation and the failure to report their numbers transparently made Inuit appear more isolated and the government more in control than was the case.

Use of the word "modern" to describe government intentions was curtailed when we grasped that in colloquial Canadian speech its opposite can be a pejorative term like "primitive" or "backward." The search for alternatives opened a productive discussion of how the QIA viewed the periods of contact in the North. Since each community experienced change at a different pace, time periods could not be delineated by dates but rather required terms that reflected the changing patterns of intercultural relations and economic production across the contact zone, QIA reviewed these and offered new terminology. In the community histories, the chronological sections previously entitled "Living on the Land' were renamed "Taissumani Nunamiutautilluta," meaning 'when we lived on the land.' The turbulent periods when the majority of Inuit relocated had been called "Disruptions"; these became "Sangussaqtauliqtilluta," signifying 'the time when we started to be actively persuaded (or made to) detour (or switch modes).' And the post-sedentarization phase formerly termed the "Modern Era" became "Nunalinnguqtitauliqtilluta," which means 'the time when we were actively (by outside force) formed into communities." The terms are explained in the introductory essay in the printed volume of each of the thirteen community histories.

To sum up, the dispute between the Mounties and the Inuit had begun with Inuit asserting as fact things which the police veterans were anxious to deny. Ironically, the original police position was that written records -or their absence--would refute the Inuit Elders. Ultimately, however, the police drew heavily on the collective memory of their own retired members, which had been volunteered by telephone, e-mail, and written submissions. Meanwhile, the QIA and QTC began by asserting the validity of memory as a source, and then amassed almost ten thousand documents, finding in them much corroboration for their memories, and casting serious doubts on the RCMP's interpretation of events. Explaining these circumstances in a way that was respectful to both contending parties--and thus more likely to encourage reconciliation than rancour--was and remains a professional challenge.


This article follows by twenty-five years the first publication of Jim Miller's Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. This anniversary invites an investigation of how historians treat Inuit history in light of the insights suggested by his work. A cornerstone of Miller's approach is that in cross-cultural economic, social, and political exchanges, the nature of the relationship is determined by the reasons for interacting in the first place. One challenge to historians is the difficulty of interpreting such relationships from both sides when one culture is radically different from the historian's own. Not surprisingly, therefore, while Inuit make several appearances throughout Skyscrapers, Miller's strongest account of their history in the book covers the later periods, when Inuit were speaking for themselves in English and on the public record. Their greatest successes--ratification and constitutional entrenchment of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993 and the establishment of Nunavut in 1999--appeared in Skyscrapers only in its third edition in 2000. (52) At the same time, a growing legal respect in Canada for the orally-transmitted knowledge of Indigenous peoples (53) helped give impetus to various inquiries and movements for redress, of which the Qikiqtani Truth Commission has been one. Such inquiries have brought into the light a wider range of sources, encouraging historians to re-interpret past cross-cultural exchanges.

The past is generally thought of as the particular domain of historians, but people with degrees and teaching appointments in other disciplines dominate the small community of professional researchers in the south who write knowledgeably about twentieth-century Arctic history. How much does this matter, provided evidence is gathered and interpreted with care? Historians are increasingly open to interdisciplinarity, and need to be cautious about staking out research boundaries. But historians should care about addressing areas of the past that the discipline neglects, for a number of reasons. The ability to interpret fragmentary or contradictory evidence from the past is a distinctive part of the historian's skill set. So is archival research. And the best of current research on our national history of internal colonialism ought to be available to history students when taking courses in their own departments. All of these considerations are especially relevant to cases of widespread historical trauma. The low engagement by historians in the social history of Nunavut has unfortunate implications for the discipline, but this is rooted in the way social research is conducted in the North.

The dominant paradigm in present-day Inuit historiography stresses the experience of individual communities. The federal government led the way, half a century ago, commissioning area economic surveys, "urgent ethnology" to document endangered languages and traditions, and the sociological inquiries that led to John and Irma Honigmann's rich depiction of Iqaluit in 1963. (54) Community-based research received another boost from air travel and sedentarization, as researchers could fly into a single settlement and meet the majority of the people who knew and had used the area. This research pattern was reinforced by the Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project, the mapping and oral history project in 1973-76 which strengthened Inuit claims to land and resources. (55) Many of those writings became standard sources for historians writing today.

Community involvement in documenting Qikiqtaaluk's past is not merely a trend but increasingly a requirement. Governments have a long record of monitoring research in Nunavut, beginning with the Scientists and Explorers' Ordinance of 1925, which established a permit system for entry into the Northwest Territories to do fieldwork. In the 1970s, Ottawa ceded the authority to licence research to the Government of the Northwest Territories, which soon delegated it to community bodies. Social research, especially when it involves trips onto the land, makes considerable demands on community resources including boat hires, guides, translators, and Inuit experts. Recognizing this, southern researchers developed standards to discourage careless or irresponsible research. These included the Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Research in the North promulgated by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies in 1982. (56) Three Canadian granting bodies have jointly issued a policy statement on ethical conduct for research that involves human beings. The current version of this policy covers "historical, genealogical or analytic research based on public records or other data which researchers may access." It notes that findings of such research may affect "the identity or heritage of persons or communities" and urges researchers to "seek culturally informed advice before use of such data to determine if harms may result and if other considerations such as sharing of the research results should be explored with the original source community." (57)

Northern bodies also develop procedures and standards. In 2007, the Government of Nunavut and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami published a general guide to ethical and practical concerns for community-based research, significantly including the word "relationships" in its title. (58) At one time, federal bodies such as the Archaeological Survey of Canada and Parks Canada considered themselves exempt from territorial licensing regulations, but the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement stiffened the regulatory process and committed Parks Canada, in particular, to a number of obligations to consult. The Parks Canada historian who works with Auyuittuq National Park's Inuit Knowledge Working Group now does so with a Nunavut Research Licence. (59) Productive partnerships arise within this regulatory and consultative framework. For example, archaeologist Natasha Lyons argues persuasively that in her work on nineteenth-century Arviat, the oral, archival, and archaeological evidence reinforce each other and, moreover, her research relationship with Elders adds "a fundamental layer to our understanding of the realities of Inuit life, past and present." (60)

A few recent monographs about the Qikiqtaaluk region by historians have made significant use of community sources of information while mainly working in older traditions rooted in archives. Two that deserve mention are Shelagh Grant's Arctic justice which examines a murder trial at Pond Inlet in 1923 (61) and Lyle Dick's Muskox Land, (62) a history of the mainly uninhabited Ellesmere Island "in the Age of Contact." Each added depth and context to a mostly Qallunaat story by gathering and integrating information from Inuit experts. Muskox Land achieved this goal partly because early support from Parks Canada carried an obligation to coordinate research with the communities nearest its national parks, in this case the hamlet of Grise Fiord and Quttinirpaaq National Park. Apart from these examples, very few historians' names and projects appear among the annual lists of applications for Nunavut research licences. Although some historians are likely participating in projects led by scholars in other disciplines, the strong inference is that leadership in this historical field resides elsewhere. (63)

Some historians who lack the resources or inclination for community-based research relationships are nevertheless contributing to Canadians' understanding of this country's relationships with the North and with other Arctic nations. Noteworthy contributions in the past few decades include those of Shelagh Grant, Ken S. Coates, P. Whitney Lackenbauer, Janice Cavell, and their co-authors and collaborators. (64) In addition, some historians study past representations of the northern "other," (65) and some survey how southern authorities have reimagined or tried to remake the North. (66) This kind of work continues to illuminate the character of southern society and its institutions, while prudently avoiding generalizations about Inuit experience.

Historians could drill deeper not only into some of the subjects handled in the QTC thematic reports, including education, (67) health care, and economic development planning, but also into some topics the QTC did not report on, such as family allowances. (68) On such topics, work without community partnerships would be of limited value. Studies of just one side of a cross-cultural exchange can reveal the values of the larger society and the institutional constraints placed on the smaller one, but historians usually try to do more than that. Insights into the other side of a cultural divide can be drawn, as Jim Miller noted, from the many other people who can help historians "achieve our investigative objectives." (69) In this context, sources for such help will include the QTC reports themselves, many Inuit speeches and writings, as well as what granting agencies have termed culturally informed advice. However, we ought to hope for a time when more historians bring their particular strengths of research methodology and comparative perspective into a closer partnership with the people whose history is at stake.

Such partnerships should embrace the current movements toward healing. Questions are already being asked about how historians should be involved in promoting the reconciliation of newcomers with Indigenous peoples, and some of the discussion has been aimed at, or pertinent to, the QTC. In 2010, historian Tina Loo questioned whether the QTC could be effective in bringing about reconciliation. In an opinion column in the magazine Canada's History, she focussed on one aspect of the QTC's work--the dog killings--and suggested that historians, including the QTC's, were not doing enough to seek out "other truths to be found in the past," stories "of cooperation rather than conflict, of understanding rather than ignorance." (70) Indeed, the QTC had already been mandated to do this, and pointed in its reports to examples of positive relationships and outcomes. In the case of health, despite many missteps, government services did make significant improvements, especially in the post-war fight against tuberculosis. Instances of some Inuit and Qallunaat working together can be found in the QTC thematic report on policing. The report on economic development and some of the community histories noted the successful introduction of co-operatives, and also the determination with which some Inuit took jobs in mines so they would have savings to invest in hunting equipment. (71) The QTC's work reaffirmed the importance, past and future, of reconciliation and positive cross-cultural relationships.

A different kind of call for more positive writing in Aboriginal history appeared in Ken Coates's recent online article "Second Thoughts about Residential Schools." (72) Coates did not directly frame his argument in terms of promoting reconciliation, but expressed strong feelings about how historians should be spending at least part of our time "understanding ... the many forces that impinged on Aboriginal community life and ... the very disruptive influences of the postwar era." He argued convincingly that the "passionate and intense" preoccupation with residential schools risks distorting Canadians' broader understanding of Native/newcomer relations because historians' skills, while needed for the "heart-wrenching and extremely powerful" aspects of our past, are also required elsewhere. "It is time that the conversation expand to incorporate three elements: the roots of Indigenous marginalization (including residential schools), contemporary social, economic and cultural challenges, and significant examples of Aboriginal people moving beyond the past." (73) In many ways the completed work of the QTC, with its focus on post-war sedentarization and Inuit resilience, illustrates each of these approaches.

Coates's essay drew a spirited reply from Ian Mosby and Crystal Fraser. (74) They argued that "there still remain so many unanswered questions about the residential school system itself" and "The narrative is neither complete nor fully understood.... And we are unsure how focusing on the positive stories of residential schools ... will change these realities of intergenerational historical trauma." They advocated more research on residential schools because the survivors want it, and because the federal government seemingly did not. These arguments support a view that residential schools are still a helpful point of departure for historians seeking to understand the past or foster reconciliation. In time, the TRC's National Record Centre at the University of Manitoba (75) may offer researchers outstanding opportunities to scrutinize Canadian colonialism through the window of the residential school experience. However, this will not rebut Coates's challenging insistence that "There are communities where few if Any ... youth attended residential schools and it is not at all clear that the social pathology in these settlements is much different from those where everyone went." (76)

There is a flaw in the Loo / Coates call for historians to engage with the past differently. The only place to learn for sure about examples of good cross-cultural relations in the past is to combine convincingly documented conventional evidence with community-based research. Such projects will not necessarily reveal or confirm any uplifting stories unless those are the stories that Elders choose to emphasize and that the documentary evidence can support. Of course historians are free to mine the past for examples of what they deem to be cross-cultural success, and those studies can have value within our own professional discourse, independent of direct input from partners. But if they do not incorporate information and views from living Aboriginal communities, it would be hard to see such writings as acts of reconciliation or even as convincing explanations of life inside the contact zone.

This point is particularly relevant to the Inuit regions. Research for the QTC highlights how comparatively lightly the residential school system weighed on the Qikiqtaaluk Region, and therefore raises questions about the harms done other than by residential schools. Qikiqtaaluk students did not begin to attend a residential school, a Catholic establishment outside their region, until 1954, and within sixteen years no child whose parents lived in any of the region's thirteen settlements needed to go away for school before Grade seven. (77) Granted, some Qikiqtaaluk pupils experienced a lot of misery during those years, and experiences beyond Grade six were not necessarily positive, but sedentarization put an early end to residential schooling for younger children. To government, this was an unexpected result of the 1950s plan for a northern version of residential schooling, centred on day schools in each community with small hostels nearby. It was expected that children could be educated at the centre where their fathers traded, and where a small minority of parents already lived. According to this plan, families were expected to gradually give up their life on the land and as they did so, hostels would close. Yet the impact was dramatically different, as both Inuit testimony and RCMP documentation explain. (78) Whole multi-family hunting groups flowed into the settlements, so that almost at once the small hostels stood empty or were converted to other purposes. (79) But none of this made schooling itself a significantly better experience for Qikiqtaaluk children than for their Indigenous counterparts elsewhere in Canada, for as adult educator Mick Mallon diagnosed in 1979:

   Our school system is alien not only because it has been developed
   and is being run by non-Inuit: it is alien because it is a system.
   There were no places in traditional Inuit culture where children
   were herded together for a set number of hours a day to learn how
   to become functioning adults; there was no sub-set of adults who
   devoted their lives to instruction--To put it as extremely as
   possible: the mere building of a school could be said to be an
   alien act of cultural aggression. (80)

While these insights support more exploration of cases where schooling was a factor in historical trauma, they also corroborate Ken Coates's view that residential schooling was only one of the disruptive elements in the colonial experience of Aboriginal people in Canada.


The QTC's hearings and research found a prolonged tightening of control over Inuit lives by federal bodies and their local agents. This incursion extended to how the Inuit used dogs, their only means of transportation. Inuit were allowed to manage dogs in their usual fashion only when living away from the government-commercial centres, but they were under strong pressure, especially from the school system, to relocate to those very centres. This history led to the establishment of the QTC in 2007. The treatment of the qimmiit, in other words, sparked a powerful counter-narrative to the usual ones of nation-building, and opened the door to a more nuanced, general inquiry. Among the many interpretations of the federal relationship with Inuit, a statement by Commissioner Igloliorte in Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq stands out:

   As also noted earlier, the original intention of government
   planners was to bring the standards of living of the South to the
   North. Many actions and policies were inadequately resourced and
   poorly planned. They were destructive of Inuit culture and they
   rarely achieved the more laudable goals of improving material and
   health conditions. (81)

This can be read alongside Jim Miller's frank prediction in 2000 that

   The accelerating rate of research ... ensures that next year, or
   next decade, Interpretations ... will have to be modified, if not
   rejected. In particular, the growing attention to Aboriginal
   sources, especially oral accounts, which has been such a noticeable
   development in the 1990s, has revised, as it will continue to do,
   many of the opinions reached by Euro-American scholars relying
   solely on sources developed by Europeans and their colonial
   descendants." (82)

There will doubtless be more inquiries comparable to the QTC, and they would do well to consider that the QTC had a number of advantages that favoured its historical program. These included access to published scholarly works on the recent past, though few of those were by historians. The QTC and QIA were also ready to invest in the hard work of strategically focused original archival research. Finally, the QIA allowed time for testimony gathered from witnesses to be incorporated into historical narratives and explanations, written both for scholarly and for broader audiences. The QTC was unusual for the close association of its team of historical researchers and writers with the conduct, findings, and legacy of the Commission. The legacy should continue to be part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region's efforts to find in its past some guidance in understanding the present and shaping the future.

doi: 10.3138/CJH.ACH.50.3.005

DR. PHILIP COLDRING is a public historian based in Ottawa. In a career spent mostly with Parks Canada, he specialized in the pre-Confederation prairie west, the Canadian Arctic, commemoration policy and heritage presentation. From 2008 to 2012 he was the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's senior historian, contributing to research strategy and to several of the Commission's historical reports.

(1) I owe a great deal to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission and its research team, including Jim Igloliorte and Madeleine Redfem (QTC), Julie Harris (Content-works), Ryan Shackleton and Alice Glaze; also the Qikiqtani Inuit Association's Jesse Mike and Bethany Scott. Since 1984, many Inuit as well as Qallunaat have been teaching me about cross-cultural research. The greatest obligation is to Inuit in all thirteen Qikiqtaaluk communities who shared experiences, including painful ones, with the QTC.

(2) "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada" websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3, accessed 8 October 2015.

(3) The Qikiqtani or (now officially) Qikiqtaaluk Region is the former Baffin Region, with ten communities around Baffin Island and Foxe Basin, two in the High Arctic, and Sanikiluaq in Hudson Bay.

(4) The Makivik inquiry is beyond the scope of this article; the report in translation is Final Report of the Honorable Jean-Jacques Croteau Retired Judge of the Superior Court Regarding the Allegations Concerning the Slaughter of Inuit Sled Dogs in Nunavik (1950-1970), Final%20Report.pdf, accessed 27 April 2015.

(5) Qikiqtani Truth Commission, Achieving Saimaqatingiiniq: Peace with Past Opponents (Iqaluit, 2010), pp. 22, 25, 27. The report is also available at http: //, accessed 5 September 2015.

(6) Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq, pp. 22, 25.

(7) For the online edition of the QTC's study of the sled dog issue, see Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Qikiqtani Truth Commission: Thematic Reports and Special Studies 1950-iqy^ (hereafter QTC Thematic Reports), "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs in Qikiqtaaluk," public/thematic_reports/thematic_reports_english_qimmiliriniq.pdf, accessed 5 September 2015, pp. 323-81.

(8) Achieving Saimaqatingiini, p. 45. For the section on "Killing of Qimmiit," see pp. 21-25.

(9) The QTC's work is finding other audiences, too. For example, APTN News recently featured an online graphic history by Toronto-based Ad Astra Comix, simply titled "Dogs." See /, accessed 30 April 2015; "Dogs" has since been posted on the qia website: http://www.QTCommission. ca/en/writings-about-QTC, accessed 4 September 2015.

(10) Bethany Scott, QIA, e-mail message to Philip Goldring, 11 May 2015. For downloads see, and communities, accessed 30 September 2015.

(11) Principal contributors are listed in Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Guide to the Community Histories and Special Studies of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (Iqaluit, 2015), pp. 53-56. The volume contains a full list of witnesses and a bibliography (pp. 57-127). For the online version, see http://www., accessed 5 September 2015.

(12) The term, familiar in post-colonial studies, was introduced and defined by Mary Louise Pratt as a space in which "disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination." See Pratt, "Arts of the Contact Zone," Profession (1991), pp. 33-40.

(13) D. Damas, Arctic Migrants I Arctic Villagers: The Transformation of Inuit Settlement in the Central Arctic (Montreal & Kingston, 2002).

(14) For overviews of government action, see Damas, Arctic Migrants, and R.Q. Duffy, The Road to Nunavut: The Progress of the Eastern Arctic Inuit Since the Second World War (Montreal & Kingston, 1988); Another contested issue concerns the viability of caribou and other game resources in this period. See P. Kulchyski and F.J. Tester, Kiumajut (Talking Back): Game Management and Inuit Rights 1900-70 (Vancouver, 2007).

(15) Keith Crowe, A Cultural Geography of Northern Foxe Basin, N.W.T. (Ottawa, 1970), P. xi.

(16) Jack Hicks, "The Social Determinants of Elevated Rates of Suicide among Inuit Youth." Indigenous Affairs (Copenhagen, April 2007), pp. 31-32. Also Allison Crawford, "'The trauma experienced by generations past having an effect in their descendants': Narrative and historical trauma among Inuit in Nunavut, Canada," Transcultural Psychiatry 51.3 (2014), pp. 339-69.

(17) R.G. Mayes, "The Creation of a Dependent People: The Inuit of Cumberland Sound, Northwest Territories" (PhD diss., Montreal, 1978); also Hugh Brody, The People's Land: Eskimos and Whites in the Eastern Arctic (Harmondsworth, 1975)

(18) Shelagh Grant, "A Case of Compounded Error: The Inuit Resettlement Project, 1953, and the Government Response, 1990," Canadian Arctic Resources Committee 19.1 (Spring 1991),, accessed 30 April 2015; Alan Marcus, Relocating Eden: The Image and Politics of Inuit Exile in the Canadian Arctic (Hanover, NH, 1995). Also Canada, Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocations (Ottawa, 1994).

(19) F.J. Tester and P. Kulchyski Tammarniit (Mistakes) Inuit Relocation in the Eastern Arctic, 1939-63 (Vancouver, 1994); and Kulchyski and Tester, Kiumajut (Talking Back).

(20) Tester and Kulchyski, Tammarniit (Mistakes), pp. xi-xii.

(21) Rarely used since the 1970s, the term "welfare colonialism" encapsulated the flaws of many government programs. See Robert Paine (ed.), The White Arctic: Anthropological Essays on Tutelage and Ethnicity, Newfoundland Social and Economic Papers, no. 7 (St. John's, 1977).

(22) Hugh Shewell, "Enough to Keep them Alive": Indian Welfare in Canada. 1873-1963 (Toronto, 2004), pp. 3-24.

(23) See Tagak Curley, "Inuit In Our Educational System: Part III," Inuit Today 5.2 (1976), pp. 19-25; and James Arvaluk, "James Arvaluk Talks About the North," Inuit Today 5.3 (1976), p. 18.

(24) Judge Croteau noted of Aupaluk, Nunavik, that "No Whites lived there. As a result, no disputes arose concerning stray dogs." Final Report, p. 81.

(25) See Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq, pp. 22-23.

(26) On disempowerment, see R.G. Mayes, "The Creation of a Dependent People."

(27) Annette Bourgeois, "Acknowledging History, the RCMP Resolves to do Better: Nunavut's Commanding Officer Chris Bothe Says the Force is Preparing an Apology for Actions Committed by Members in the Past," Nunatsiaq News, 26 February 1999, pp. 1-2.

(28) QTC Thematic Reports, "Paliisikkut: Policing in Qikiqtaaluk," http://www. reports_english_paliisikkut.pdf, accessed 5 September 2015. See also Ryan Shackleton, "'Not Just Givers of Welfare': The Changing Role of the RCMP in the Baffin Region, 1920-1970," Northern Revieiv 36 (Fall 2012), pp. 5-26; and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, The RCMP and the Inuit Sled Dogs (Nunavut and Northern Quebec: igyo-igyo), unpublished ms. (Ottawa, 2006).

(29) See especially QTC Thematic Reports, "The Official Mind of Canadian Colonialism" http:// / sites / default / files / public / thematic, reports / thematic_reports_english_official_mind.pdf, accessed 4 September 2015, pp. 20 and 64; see also Northwest Territories Archives, Yellowknife, Alexander Stevenson Fonds, N-1992-023, Box 17, File 8, J.B. Bergevin to John A. MacDonald, 22 Oct. 1969, re: cautionary advice from Graham Rowley.

(30) Ann McElroy, Nunavut Generations: Change and Continuity in Canadian Inuit Communities (Long Grove, Ill., 2008), p. 87.

(31) Its northern responsibilities were exercised by the Department of Resources and Development from 1950-53, and prior to that, by the Department of Mines and Resources.

(32) Ottawa has not devolved authority over land in Nunavut, although bodies created under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement can exert some influence.

(33) Northwest Territories Archives, Yellowknife. Alexander Stevenson fonds, Accession N-1992-023, Box 23, File 7, "Development of the North--Sociological Developments (speech by Mr. B.G. Sivertz)," 25 October 1954.

(34) Canada, Advisory Committee on Northern Development, Government Activities in the North, 1956 (Ottawa, 1957), p. 1, quoted in QTC Thematic Reports, "Pivalliajuliriniq: Economic Development in Qikiqtaaluk," /sites/default/files/public/thematic_reports/thematic_reports_english_pivalliajuliriniq.pdf, accessed 4 September 2015, p. 12.

(35) QTC Thematic Reports, "Illiniarniq: Schooling in Qikiqtaaluk," http://www. reports_english_illinniamiq.pdf, accessed 4 September 2015.

(36) QTC Thematic Reports, "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs in Qikiqtaaluk," http:// / thematic_reports_english_qimmiliriniq.pdf, accessed 4 September 2015.

(37) See QTC Thematic Reports, "Illiniamiq: Schooling in Qikiqtaaluk." See also the community history of Pond Inlet in Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Qikiqtani Truth Commission: Community Histories 1950-1975, hereafter QTC Community Histories (Iqaluit, 2013), pp. 28-29. The impact of compulsory schooling on traditional life has been documented through witness statements, contemporary RCMP reports, and the settlement's Roman Catholic missionary. Judge Croteau found the same patterns in Nunavik; Final Report pp. 65-66.

(38) Achieving Saimaqatingiini, p. 25.

(39) Quoted in Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP and the Inuit Sled Dogs, pp. 326-28.

(40) Quoted in QTC Thematic Reports, "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs," p. 27. Up to and beyond 1960, the most influential dog mauling story recounted the death of a policeman's wife at Chesterfield Inlet as long ago as 1924. See "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs," p. 24.

(41) Dr. Milton Freeman, interview with QTC historian, Edmonton, Alberta, 2 June 2009.

(42) Toshio Yatsushiro, "The Changing Eskimo: A Study of Wage Employment and its Consequences among the Eskimos of Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island," The Beaver (Summer 1962), pp. 20-21. Yatsushiro concluded that "the R.C.M. Police detachment stationed in Frobisher Bay has been exterminating unleashed dogs owned by Eskimos, on the grounds that such animals constitute a menace to the community, especially the white residents."

(43) QTC Thematic Reports, "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs," p. 58.

(44) A number of instances are presented in QTC Thematic Reports, "Qimmiliriniq: Inuit Sled Dogs," including a detailed account from the Belcher Islands (pp. 51-53)

(45) This succinct definition is taken from the website of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, "About NTI,", accessed 22 Oct. 2015.

(46) Record-keeping technology followed a plan designed previously by Content-works principal Julie Harris. It suited the size of the team, the duration of its work, and its complicated working environment. File-sharing between Ottawa and Iqaluit proved impractical: then as now, bandwidth was limited and connections were not always reliable. Users' needs were addressed by the purchase of external hard drives. Each was loaded with a database, and as it grew, individual users swapped their hard drives for updated versions.

(47) Terry Cook, "Paper Trails: A Study in Northern Records and Northern Administration, 1898-1958," in K. Coates and W. Morrison (eds.), For Purposes of Dominion (Toronto, 1998), pp. 13-35.

(48) Autry National Center, Institute for the Study of the American West, Braun Research Library, Los Angeles, California, MS Collection 212.

(49) Gordon Rennie in QTC Thematic Reports, "Nuutauniq: Moves in Inuit Life, 1950-1975," http:// thematic_reports/thematic_reports_english_nuutauniq.pdf, accessed 30 September 2015, p. 34.

(50) Achieving Saimaqatingiiniq, p. 24. See Rosemarie Kuptana, "Ilira, or Why it was Unthinkable for Inuit to Challenge Qallunaat Authority," Inuit Art Quarterly 8.3 (1993), p. 7; Hugh Brody, Other Side of Eden, p. 43.

(51) J. Bennett and S. Rowley, Uqalurait: An Oral History of Nunavut (Montreal & Kingston, 2004), pp. 3-10; B. Collignon, Knowing Places: the Inuinnait, Landscapes, and the Environment (Edmonton, 2003).

(52) J.R. Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada, 3rd ed. (Toronto, 2000), pp. xii, 299-307, 370-72, 400. The 1989 preface is reprinted beginning at p. xii.

(53) J.R. Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens, p. 387.

(54) John and Irma Honigman, Eskimo Townsmen (Ottawa, 1965).

(55) Milton Freeman Research Limited, Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project, 3 vols. (Ottawa, 1976).

(56) The text was updated in 2003. See, accessed 28 April 2015.

(57) Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans 2014, http:// / eng / policy-politique / initiatives / tcps2eptc2/Default/, accessed 28 April 2015. The quoted passage has not changed since 2010.

(58) "Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit Communities, a Guide for Researchers,", accessed 28 April, 2015.

(59) K. Routledge to P. Goldring, e-mail message, 13 April 2015. Licenses are issued by the Nunavut Research Institute but the individual researcher is responsible for making all necessary contacts. According to the Nunavut Research Institute, "Social Science Research include] [s] society and culture, traditional knowledge, economic development, education, politics, art, and language." See, accessed 28 April 2015.

(60) Natasha Lyons, et al., "Person, Place, Memory, Thing: How Inuit Elders Are Informing Archaeological Practice in the Canadian North," Canadian Journal of Archaeology 34.1 (2010), p. 6.

(61) Arctic justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet, 1923 (Montreal & Kingston, 2002).

(62) Lyle Dick, Muskox Land: Ellesmere Island in the Age of Contact (Calgary, 2001).

(63) These applications are accessible as a Nunavut subset of the Arctic Science and Technology Information System. See nunavut/, accessed 31 August 2015. Karen Routledge's doctoral research on Pangnirtung and Whitney Lackenbauer's community-based work with the Kitikmeot Heritage Society are examples of historians' use of the permit system.

(64) Shelagh Grant, Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America (Vancouver, 2010); Ken S. Coates, P. Whitney Lackenbauer, et al., Arctic Front: Defending Canada in the Far North (Toronto, 2008); P. Whitney Lackenbauer, Matthew J. Farish, and Jennifer Arthur-Lackenbauer, The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line: A Bibliography and Documentary Resource List (Calgary, 2005); Matthew Farish and P. Whitney Lackenbauer, "High Modernism in the Arctic: Planning Frobisher Bay and Inuvik," Journal of Historical Geography 35.3 (2009), pp. 517-54; Janice Cavell and Jeffrey Noakes, Acts of Occupation: Canada and Arctic Sovereignty, 1918-25 (Vancouver, 2010).

(65) Peter Geller, Northern Exposure: Photographing and Filming the Canadian North, 1920-4.5 (Vancouver, 2004).

(66) For town planning, see Farish and Lackenbauer, "High Modernism in the Arctic."

(67) This article was prepared without access to the spring 2015 issue of Historical Studies in Education, a special northern issue with seven papers, mainly by teachers and administrators.

(68) But see C. Backhouse, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (Toronto, 1999).

(69) Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens, p. xi.

(70) Loo's column and others' responses appeared in Canada's History in April-May 2010 (pp. 49-50), August-September 2010 (pp. 7-9) and October-November 2010 (p. 7).

(71) QTC Thematic Reports, "Pivalliajuliriniq: Economic Development" and "Aaniajurlirniq: Health Care in Qikiqtaaluk," default/files/public/thematic_reports/thematic_reports_english_aaniajurlirniq.pdf, accessed 4 September 2015.

(72) Ken Coates, "Second Thoughts about Residential Schools," The Dorchester Review, 21 January 2015, second-thoughts-about-residential-school, accessed 7 April 2015.

(73) Ibid.

(74) Crystal Fraser and Ian Mosby, "Setting Canadian History Right?: A Response to Ken Coates' 'Second Thoughts about Residential Schools,"', accessed 7 April 2015.

(75), accessed 29 April 2015.

(76) Coates, "Second Thoughts."

(77) QTC Thematic Reports, "Illirtniarniq: Schooling," p. 42.

(78) See the QTC Community Histories, especially Clyde River and Pond Inlet, at, accessed 4 September 2015.

(79) Library and Archives of Canada, Gatineau: Indian Affairs and Northern Development Fonds, RG22, Vol. 1331, File 40-2-136, Pt. 5, Director of Education to Deputy Minister John Gordon, 15 February 1968, re: small hostel use.

(80) Quoted in Louis-Jacques Dorais, The Language of the Inuit: Syntax, Semantics, and Society in the Arctic (Montreal & Kingston, 2010), p. 195. Coates wrote in "Second Thoughts" about "This total immersion experience, this isolation from home and family and the submersion in a social world that bore no resemblance to anything out of school save for a prison..

(81) Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq, p. 45.

(82) Miller, Skycrapers Hide the Heavens, p. x.
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Author:Goldring, Philip
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1CNUN
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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