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Carvers chosen for Arctic monuments

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 11, 2009

GRISE FIORD/RESOLUTE - Nunavut Tunngavik has commissioned two carvers, one from Grise Fiord and one from Resolute, to create monuments of the relocation of Inuit families from Quebec to the High Arctic in the 1950s.

James Etoolook, vice-president of NTI said Looty Pijimani of Grise Fiord and Simeonie Amagoalik of Resolute were chosen because of their excellent reputations as carvers and because they were both victims of the relocation.

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Looty Pijimani of Grise Fiord was chosen to carve the Arctic monument in Grise Fiord commemorating the relocation of families from northern Quebec to the High Arctic. - photo courtesy of Franco Buscemi

"We know they are well-known sculptors and carvers from those two communities," Eetoolook said. "They've been carving for years and years. They both have been involved on the relocation."

Pijimani said he found out he had been chosen to carve the monument when he received a phone call in January. The monument will be made of local granite.

"The (granite) is sort of an orange brown colour," Pijimani said.

"I'm going to carve a mother and child, she's going to be standing looking out to the ocean where the ships usually come and the child is going to be standing beside her and pointing out to where the sealift usually comes."

Eetoolook said the project could cost up to $400,000, but said NTI would be looking to the federal government and other groups to provide some of the funding.

"I think we're trying to use local material as much as possible," he said. "We don't have to fund the whole thing. We can always look for funding from other organizations involved.

"The Canadian government was involved in the relocation so we're surely going to look to them to pay part of it."

Grise Fiord Mayor Meeka Kiguktak said she is pleased the monuments will be carved.

"It's good that the community is finally being heard," she said. "This is the place where Canadian sovereignty began."

Grise Fiord resident Larry Audlaluk agreed. He said he was involved in trying to get a monument built since the 1980s to commemorate the families of the relocation.

The Canadian government had relocated his own family from Inukjuaq, Quebec with the promise that they could return to their home after two years in Grise Fiord.

"He was given to understand that he would be only gone for two years," Audlaluk said, referring to his father. "They felt betrayed, they felt violated, they felt that they had been talked into something that the government had no intention of following through."

He said living in both Grise Fiord and Resolute was horrific those first years.

"We lived in tents. We had no insulation except what was given to us by the RCMP," he said.

"The RCMP in Craig Harbour were really put to the test to make sure we didn't die of cold because we were just living in tents. There was no snow adequate enough to make iglus until April, so there was lack of snow because of the high mountains creating strong winds up here."

He said the snow conditions in Grise Fiord were very different than what his family was used to in northern Quebec.

"In Inukjuaq, there's an abundance of snow in September and they were able to go from tents to iglus," Audlaluk said.

Pijimani and Amagoalik could have their projects broadcast on Isuma TV when the carvings are complete.

"What we are talking with NTI is to do a live webcast of the events over the Internet on Isuma TV in September," Stephane Rituit, producer at Isuma productions said.

He said a cameraperson from Isuma TV would travel to the communities to teach a local resident how to use the camera.

Emily Woods, communications officer with NTI, said the broadcast depends on whether funding from the government of Nunavut will be approved.