Broken Promises
September 9, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

High Arctic Relocation. In the 1950s several Inuit families were relocated from the relatively balmy Inukjuak, in northern Quebec, to settlements in what are now called Grise Fiord and Resolute in the far north of Canada with few resources to survive the extremely harsh climate.

Ostensibly to reduce pressure on resources in Inukjuak, it has been suggested that the Canadian government wanted to establish settlements, concerned about sovereignty of the Arctic during the cold war.

Last year, the government formally apologized. Shortly thereafter, two monuments were unveiled.

YouTube excerpt of a 1995 documentary, Broken Promises.
posted by dabug (24 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am not sure that balmy is that relative a term that it can be used to descripe Inukjuak.

There is a 10 million dollar trust fund created by the government to compensate the families (87 people were initially relocated).

Canadian history about how it treated various First Nations people is just terrible, and the improvements are moving at a snail's pace at best.
posted by jeather at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not sure that balmy is that relative a term that it can be used to describe Inukjuak.

Compared to Grise Fiord and Resolute, Inujuak is balmy.

The Canadian government took people from a land-based, coastal area and dropped them off on a cold, rocky island. Inukjuak had a wide variety of sea and land animals as well as vegetation and berries for people to hunt and gather. Grise Fiord (the Inuktitut name translated to English as "place that never thaws") and Resolute offered them only sea animals that they had to blindly hunt. For instance, they had to wait until the ice thawed so they could hunt seal as they couldn't navigate their kayaks for all the icebergs.

Martha of the North documents one person's view of the forced relocation. It was deeply moving as I know Martha and feel that I understand her a bit better now.
posted by KathyK at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is there a single colonial government anywhere that did not mistreat the local people?

All I can think of is the Scots, but that's only because they were too busy dying of tropical Central American diseases.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Flaherty did not attempt to help the families, most likely as he had died in 1951, prior to the relocation."
Thanks, Wikipedia.
posted by Flunkie at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is there a single colonial government anywhere that did not mistreat the local people?

The difference is that to this very day the Canadian government ( and the ones before it) doesn't honour even the shitty promises made in the past or the many of the ones made in the present. There are still communities in Ontario that were relocated for WWII and haven't gotten their land back. It has only been half a century. So basically we even steal reservations from natives.
posted by srboisvert at 10:46 AM on September 9, 2011


Is it an Anglosphere thing? The U.S. doesn't do much for Native Americans, the Australians have been harsh to aborigines, etc. The Maori were able to get good treatment because they militarily defeated the New Zealand settlers.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2011


Is there a single colonial government anywhere that did not mistreat the local people?

When I was in college I took a course on the history of the settlement of the United States from an Indian perspective. It was taught by a professor who was a Chickasaw and a fiercely rigorous historian; he never had to appeal to emotion or invoke white guilt because he just methodically presented us with the facts of the broken treaties, massacres, and misunderstandings until everybody was ready to run out and join A.I.M. And whenever he would make a generalization about bad-faith negotiations with Native people by North American colonizers, he would always add the caveat "except the Swedish." So that may be the answer to your question.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Harvey Kilobit - do you remember anything more? Was your professor speaking of colonists in New Sweden?
posted by bonecrusher at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2011


That's the trouble, he never elaborated on it, and I never did the research to find out what he was talking about!

On the subject of the original article: I had heard the story of the Grise Fjord relocation, but I always wondered whether the main issue was that the land was inhospitable to everyone -- would Polar Eskimos (Inughuit) from far northern Greenland have had the same problems? -- or the ignorant Canadian government taking the attitude "an Eskimo is an Eskimo" and relocating people with no high-Arctic experience to an unfamiliar environment without adequate supplies and preparation.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2011


For instance, they had to wait until the ice thawed so they could hunt seal as they couldn't navigate their kayaks for all the icebergs.

Erm, they had to wait until the ice froze, not thawed.
posted by KathyK at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2011


Oh Canada .
posted by buzzman at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


My impression of the relocation was that the government wasn't unaware that they were lying to the people they were resettling and that they were promising things they had no intention of delivering. (The lies about splitting them up are part of why I think so.)

Compared to Grise Fiord and Resolute, Inujuak is balmy.
I was joking. Inujuak has much warmer weather than Resolute, yes, but it's really cold there anyhow.

posted by jeather at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apocryphon - french speaking nations weren't exactly nice either. (Or one of us is misunderstanding the meaning of Anglosphere).
posted by k5.user at 12:02 PM on September 9, 2011


Is it an Anglosphere thing?

*cough*Belgium*cough*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:22 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


And don't even get to close to old Spain record on the matter, the stench will kill you on your feet. Closer to our times, the record of South American governments of all political or legitimacy varieties hasn't been good at all. If they are lucky, the natives just get forgotten along the way. If not, they get all manner of "helpful state attention" as in other places, with miserable reservations, no land rights, pathetic social services and the occasional hypocritical lip service to the "national values" inspired by the native cultures or some such bullshit.
posted by Iosephus at 12:43 PM on September 9, 2011


Is there a single colonial government anywhere that did not mistreat the local people?
All I can think of is the Scots...


The Scots didn't treat their own poor people (crofters) too well - Highland Clearances:

The consternation and confusion were extreme. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach them; next, struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted at the same time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene that completely baffles description — it required to be seen to be believed.

A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far out to sea. At night an awfully grand but terrific scene presented itself — all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which I personally knew, but whose present condition — whether in or out of the flames — I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the flames.

posted by 445supermag at 12:59 PM on September 9, 2011


Is it an Anglosphere thing?

You're kidding, right?
posted by spitbull at 2:32 PM on September 9, 2011


Not to derail, but I feel compelled to point out that the Meusebach–Comanche Treaty made by the German settlers in the Hill Country of Texas was never broken.
posted by Xoebe at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2011


It's true, the Germans are renowned for never breaking treaties.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:12 PM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I recently told my American spouse about Davis Inlet, as just one example of how the Canadian government fucked over Amerindians. In a less dramatic way than the American government, but with equally devastating effects.

Aftermath of Davis Inlet.

Thanks for the post. I wasn't familiar with this story. I'll fwd it on to my spouse.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:44 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're kidding, right?

No, I mean as far as the Anglosphere nations go they seem to be the ones who have continued to mistreat aboriginal peoples post-WWII into the latter 20th century. Though perhaps the old Hispanic-Indian feuds in Latin America simply get less press. And, well, it's not as if there are French- or German-descended settler states who currently exist and have native peoples to be mistreated. (Not when the home nations already have enough immigrants to create ethnic tensions.)

It's a quirk of history that the British and the Spanish/Portuguese were the ones to colonize the Americas, I suppose. And also a quirk that outside of the Americas and Australia, no settler states remain.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:21 PM on September 9, 2011


And also a quirk that outside of the Americas and Australia, no settler states remain.


And New Zealand (whose residents dislike being constantly lumped together with the Aussies, despite their continued close ties; the backgrounds of the original settlers there was quite different from the Aussies: middle class for the most part, not "transported" underclass), not to mention South Africa in its own way. Also, Hawai'i, although nominally/politically part of North America, as a US state, deserves to be considered separately, as a settler state with its own unique history, with its origins in a banana-republic-like overthrow of a constitutional monarchy.
posted by Philofacts at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2011


except the Swedish

Might be a reference to the Sami people, who are also Arctic indigenous people.
posted by zadcat at 8:03 PM on September 11, 2011


And also a quirk that outside of the Americas and Australia, no settler states remain.

Well, the former Soviet Union/Russian Empire was made up of a few that I think could count as settler states, at least for the purposes of a discussion highlighting the mistreatment of native people by white settlers. In short, it's not just an anglo thing.
posted by ob at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2011


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