28 Nov 2010, 2:12pm
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Abandoned in a Dead Land

By Monique Polak, The Montreal Gazette, November 27, 2023 [here]

Note: Monique Polak is a teacher, journalist, and author of a dozen books including What World Is Left (2008) and The Middle of Everywhere (2009) [here].

Inukjuak, Nunavik, Canada — The rumble of a snowmobile, children shouting in the schoolyard, dogs barking, the gusting wind. These are the sounds of Nunavik, the northernmost part of Quebec and homeland of the province’s Inuit.

But on the western edge of Nunavik, on the shores of Hudson Bay, the town of Inukjuak seems even quieter than the rest. That’s not only because it is, like all of Nunavik, inaccessible by road, but also because some of its inhabitants have been keeping their harrowing stories of survival secret for more than half a century.

“I don’t talk much about it to my kids. It happened a long, long time ago. Less talk is better,” said Markoosie Patsauq, 69.

In the 1950s, Patsauq’s family, along with 18 other families from the Inukjuak area, then known as Port Harrison, were plucked from their hunting camps and relocated to the High Arctic — some 1,200 kilometres farther north in what was then the Northwest Territories, now Nunavut. Some were dropped off at Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, others at Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island, the most northerly island in Canada.

Lonely and lost, the newcomers were overwhelmed by conditions that were even harsher than the ones they had known.

Patsauq was 12 when, in 1953, he and his family made the long journey by boat from Port Harrison to Resolute Bay. They went because they were promised a better life by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

Only instead of discovering paradise, they found a kind of hell on Earth. Cornwallis Island was barren. From November through January, there was total darkness, something the newcomers had never experienced. Unaccustomed to hunting in the dark, it was weeks before they could feed themselves. “It was like being a blind person,” recalled Patsauq.

What they didn’t know — and wouldn’t learn for some 20 years — was that they were being used as human flagpoles. Their relocation was part of a Cold War plan to establish a Canadian presence in the High Arctic and to assert sovereignty.

It was not until last August that the Canadian government officially apologized for what happened. … [more]

Thanks for the news tip to Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here, here]

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