Nunavut’s Nexus: Unveiling the Capital and Exploring Facts in a Comprehensive Guide

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Nunavut is Canada’s newly found province or territory, whose capital is Iqaluit.

Iqaluit was formerly called Frobisher Bay. It is located at the head of the Bay on the southeastern side of Baffin Island. Iqaluit is known to be the largest community in the eastern Arctic region of Canada.

1. A Little about Nunavut

Nunavut is the largest territory in northern Canada, given to the Inuit people by the territorial government. This was a part of the northwest territories known as a province.

On the 1st of April 1999, it became an independent Nunavut territory established under the Nunavut Act and Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act.

Canada is the second-largest country by area known in the world. Nunavut accounts for most of the north of Canada and the Arctic archipelago.

This occupancy of the vast territory makes Nunavut the fifth-largest subdivision of the country of Canada known to the world. It is also known as the second-largest region of North America after Greenland.

2. The Historical Background of Nunavut

2.1. Evolution of Nunavut

A view of nature with green grass, clear sky, and snow-peaked mountains at the back in Nunavut.
Photo by Damon On Road on Unsplash

Canada has ten provinces and three territories under its geographical framework. In 1867, a federal union was formed after the confederation of the three provinces of the British North America Act. This British North America Act was also called the Constitution Act of Canada.

The federal union was between the lands of Hudson’s Bay Company (also called Rupert’s Land), the northwestern territories of Canada (areas covering the northwestern edge of Canada), and the three Canadian territories (British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland).

In 1898, various parts of the northwest territories were prepared and organized to form a separate province or territory. The governing powers are delegated from the Canadian government to the territorial governments as a liberal government. The rule of the federal government came into power under Canadian sovereignty.

The eastern side of the northwest territories was made a separate Nunavut territory in 1993. It happened under the formulation of two acts proposed by the Parliament of Canada. The two acts are the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act, which came into power in April 1993.

A series of events and laws were formed and enforced to clear the debate around the question, Is Nunavut a Province? From being a province to becoming a Nunavut territory is a great chapter to be understood in the history of Canada. 

Let’s look into the history behind the territorial capital city:

2.2. The Early History of Nunavut

Initially, the people of Pre-Dorset culture inhabited the Canadian mainland of Nunavut. These people migrated from the Bering Strait region around 4500 years ago. About 2800 years ago, this culture was replaced by the Dorset culture.

Helluland explorers came from the Baffin region and visited in their Sagas of Islanders, as claimed by the explorers of Norse. However, the link between the Norse and Dorset people must be well-established in Canadian history.

In the 11th century, the people from Thule came migrating to the city of Alaska and started exploring the geographical areas of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

These Thule people were known as the ancestors of the modern Inuit. Most of the contemporary Nunavut was taken over by the Thule culture, leading to the extinction of the Dorset era.

2.3. History of Iqaluit

Nunavut was known as Frobisher Bay from 1942 to 1987. Frobisher Bay came from the US and Canadian authorities because of the body of water surrounding it. In 1993, the boundaries were formed, marking the newest found territory and the capital of Canada.

To this newly found territory of Canada, the question lies in what the capital of Nunavut is. Until 1987, the city was known by its traditional name of Inuktitut. This name was renamed Iqaluit after the former name of Frobisher Bay, which means “a place of many fish.”

The city of Nunavut was previously known as the fishing hub for the local people of the city. The city stretches over the Canadian Arctic and acquires a vast area in the northern region of Canada. In the native language, the Inuktitut, Nunavut, is often called “Our Land.”

Iqaluit is situated on Baffin Island at the end of Frobisher Bay, near the mouth of the Sylvia Grinnell River. Several other islands encircle the territory of Nunavut, like Ellesmere Island, Victoria Island, Akimiski Island, Islands of Hudson Bay, Ungava, and James. Some parts and portions of these islands have their boundaries connected with Nunavut.

The area of Nunavut was known to be Canada’s remote and isolated city. The city depended on costly imported supplies as there was no mode of transportation by road or railway. The only mode of transportation connecting Nunavut to Canada is by waterways.

2.4. Historical Timeline

The historical timeline depicts the history.

Martin Frobisher and the Northwest Passage 1576-77-78 Elizabethan seaman, adventurer & explorer

  • In 1576, Martin Frobisher, an English explorer, came sailing into the waters of North America called the Frobisher Bay. He believed this route to be the way to China.
  • Charles Francis Hall, an American, came and stopped at the Sylvia Grinnell River in 1861. He named the water body Koojesse Inlet after his Inuit guide. This Koojesse guide informed him that the Frobisher Bay was not the fabled northwest passage but a long bay.
  • From 1870 to early 1900, whaling crews frequently explored Frobisher Bay, which marked the beginning of the fur trade. Soon, the whaling expeditions finished out, and the fur trade began.
  • Hudson’s Bay Company established the trading post at the ward inlet. This called for the arrival of the Royal Canadian mounted police.
  • From here on, the American military made the Koojesse inlet the major airbase during the Second World War between the United Kingdom and Europe as selected by the United States Army Air Forces. This is an important turnover happening in the historical timeline.
  • Soon, Hudson’s Bay Company moved its base from the South Baffin inlet area to the apex area, made it its trading post, and utilized the air base area. All these events took place between the years 1920 and 1949.
  • From 1955, the United States/ Canada Distant Early Warning Line (DEW) construction operations made Frobisher Bay the central operational area. This brought most Inuit families to settle as permanent communities. Bell Canada established Telephone exchange services in the city.
  • Soon, with time, a decline in the population was seen in the city due to the moving out of the military force of the United States. The population of Frobisher Bay came to around 900, and the first community council was established. Until 1974, Frobisher Bay was claimed as an official settlement area and was recognized as a village. By 1980, the area of Frobisher Bay was recognized as a town.
  • In 1976, the Federal government was presented with a proposal to make Nunavut an independent territory by the Inuit population. By 1982, the Canadian government accepted the proposal to make Nunavut a separate territory. Bryan Pearson was elected as the first mayor of the Nunavut territory in 1979.
  • In 1987, the Iqaluit name was given to Frobisher Bay. It is the traditional name of Inuktitut, which means “place of many fish.” The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act was enforced in Iqaluit in 1993.
  • Finally, the Nunavut residents selected Iqaluit as the new capital of the newly formed territory in 1995.
  • On the 1st of April 1999, Nunavut was officially established as a territory. On the 19th of April 2001, Iqaluit was recognized as a city.
  • The first Arctic Winter Games were hosted in collaboration with Greenland, Nuuk, and Iqaluit in 2002. Iqaluit was designated for the first finance meeting by the Government of Canada as a part of the group of seven summits 2010 on the 5th of February, 2010.
A view of a red boat sailing on an icy waterbody in Greenland.
Image by SarahNic from Pixabay

3. List of 6 Known Facts about Iqaluit

3.1. Iqaluit’s Population Density

The total land mass occupied by the Nunavut territory is 1,877,787 square km. The estimated Nunavut population is around 39,589, mainly consisting of the Inuit and the non-Inuit people.

The capital of Iqaluit has a total population of 7429 people, occupying 2708 of 3,297 privately built houses. It occupies a total land mass of 51.58 km square and has a population surge of 144.0/km square, according to the Canadian Census 2021, which Statistics Canada recorded.

Iqaluit holds the record of having the lowest population of people than any other capital city in the continent of Canada. The Inuit families dwelling in Canada are called Iqalummiut (Singularly called Iqalummiuq).

The population of the capital city accounts for the majority of the younger age group. The median value of this age group’s population is around ten years younger than the national rate. In the case of the older group, the median value is 30.1 years old compared to the 40.6 years old.

There is no particular language favored as the mother tongue of the city. The majority of Inuit residents speak English. In contrast, the Inuit language, Inuktitut, is spoken by most people, mostly in Nunavut, followed by French. Most of the population preaches Christianity as their religion, accounting for most of the population.

3.2. Iqaluit’s Geography

The capital city is located in the Everett mountains from the Frobisher Bay inlet bordering the Baffin island on the southeastern region, Hudson Bay covering the northeast and eastern parts of Nunavut’s mainland.

Iqaluit is situated well outside the Arctic Circle but has a climate typical of the Arctic islands. It is surrounded all over by treeless tundra vegetation. It has long, freezing winters with cooler summer months.

Most of the Arctic archipelago is covered with ice and snow, and most of the territory is inside the North American Arctic Circle, making Nunavut the world’s top region for cold-weather testing.

The annual precipitation in the area is recorded to be around 400 mm. This record is found to be much wetter than any other region located in the Arctic Archipelago. The summers are seen to be the wettest of all the seasons.

The highest temperature recorded in the area is around 26.7 degrees Celsius, and the lowest temperatures are found to be -45.6 degrees Celsius. Twenty-four hours of sunshine is generally reported to be in the late June and early months of July.

From December to March, the average temperature range is around -30 to -35 degrees Celsius, the cold testing window for Iqaluit. The city generally witnesses the northern lights from October to April.

jonatan pie EvKBHBGgaUo unsplash
By Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

3.3. Arts and Culture

Nunavut is known for its great cultural heritage and wonderful traditional Inuit art. This city has many famous musicians, filmmakers, and Inuit artists who have contributed to the promotion of keeping this heritage alive.

The modern city of Iqaluit is also rich in the traditional Inuit culture, which is the central inhabitant area for many Inuit.

The people are involved in making traditional things like jewelry, hand weaving and printings on clothes, and stone carvings. These are sold in the local markets as a source of wage economy for the local people.

The city even offers a great museum and Unikkaarvik Visitor Center, which showcases the incredible history and heritage of its land and Inuit culture.

3.4. Wildlife and attractions

The city offers a variety of wildlife suitable to the area’s temperature and weather conditions. The animals like arctic foxes, hares, and lemmings are pretty commonly seen.

Caribou are generally seen in the farthermost part of the region. Its location near the coastal waters makes it favorable for animals like polar bears, walruses, and seals, which are more prominently seen when the sea ice breaks up.

The surrounding Arctic waters even show the presence of many species of whales.

The famous activities in the Canadian cities of Nunavut are snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and cross-country skiing. The activities famous in Iqaluit are river rafting, boating, kayaking, canoeing, tobogganing, and kite skiing.

Fishing, hunting, hiking, and berry-picking activities are always inviting sports carried out by the local people in the summer and winter months. The Sylvia Grinnell River is an important Arctic Char location for fishing in Iqaluit.

Many parks and tourist spots in Iqaluit provide permits for these activities. The Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park by the Sylvia Grinnell River, Katannilik Territorial Park, and the Soper Valley are great attractions to visit during springtime.

Wildlife animals like the polar bear and arctic foxes are prominently seen in these national parks. These are great places to continue sledding activities and have a great day.

3.4.1. Mineral exploration

The northern side of Canada is known for its rich mineral resources and reserves. The Iqaluit City is rich in diamond, gold, zinc, lead, silver, copper, bismuth, and uranium reserves.

The Nunavut territory is mainly known and explored for its diamond, zinc, and lead reserves. The mining industry in Nunavut is a great resource-driven and economy-generating source for its people.

This is one of the sources of employment and income for the local people or the daily wage earners visiting the city.

3.5. Neighbourhoods

Some great neighborhood places in Iqaluit provide great dwellings for those inhabiting the place. It offers spaces for both residential and commercial areas.

Some of the neighborhoods and their locations in Iqaluit are:

  • Happy Valley is located on the north side
  • Downtown in the central area
  • Lower base on the south side
  • Lake subdivision, which is a residential area located on the north side
  • Road to Nowhere is located on the north side
  • Tundra Valley, located on the west side
  • Lower Iqaluit is located on the southeast side
  • Plateau subdivision, which is a residential area located on the northwest side
  • North 40 on the northwest side, which is located on the northern side of the airport
  • West 40, which is a commercial area located on the southwest side

Tundra Ridge has a youth center and two of the city’s educational schools in the western part.

3.6. Infrastructure services

A yellow architecture of Iqaluit airport.
Photo by Chris Boyer on Unsplash

Many infrastructure services are provided in Iqaluit, including emergency services, transportation, sports facilities, education, and essential services.

3.6.1. Qikiatani General Hospital

Essential medical services are provided in the city in the form of dental clinics, hospitals, and family clinics. There is a family hospital named Qikiqtani General Hospital, which provides all the primary care facilities to the people.

Dental practitioners provide dental services; there are two clinics in the city. There are private family clinics with nurse practitioners providing essential services.

3.6.2. Emergency Services Niaqunngusiariaq

A single station in Niaqunngusiariaq provides the city’s emergency services. They are ambulance and fire services coming from a single source.

The emergency service vehicle consists of an engine, a ladder, three ambulances, and two vehicles for the staff. Iqaluit Airport with Fire Services

The emergency services present at the Iqaluit airport are responsible for providing fire services. The fire vehicles consisted of Waltek C-5500 ARFF and Oshkosh T3000 ARFF.

3.6.3. Police

The policing department contract comes under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Division V, covering the capital city and the rest of the Nunavut territory. The main headquarters of the division is located in Iqaluit.

3.6.4. Activities in Iqaluit

Some sporting activities are carried out in the Iqaluit. It is home to two sports arenas: the Arctic Winter Games Arena and the Iqaluit Aquaplex called the Arnaitok.

There is a skatepark, a shooting range, Frobisher Bay Inn Fitness Center, golf courses, basketball courts, soccer nets, and seasonal ice rinks for sports and leisure activities.

3.6.5. Airlines

The population of Iqaluit is the lowest among the other Canadian cities, and it is located on a remote island. It is one of the only cities not connected by a highway to other cities and is only accessible by an aircraft or a boat subjected to the ice conditions.

The airlines originating locally are Air Nunavut, Canadian Helicopters, Nunasi Helicopters, Air charters provided by Unaalik Aviation, and Keewatin Air, which are responsible for providing air ambulances.

3.6.6. Road Connections

Iqaluit City has local roads that only connect the nearby community of Apex to the territorial park of Sylvia Grinnell. No public transportation operates in the city, but taxi services cater to the city for traveling.

Depending on the weather conditions and during winter, specific all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles are used for everyday transportation. The road connections of Iqaluit are all within the city limits.


4. About Inuit Tapirisat

Inuit Tapirisat is a non-profit organization operating in Canada that represents around 65000 Inuit people in the areas of Inuit Nunangat and the rest of the Canadian continent.

This organization works for the rights and interests of the Inuit in Canada. The Inuit Tapirisat is also called the Eskimo Brotherhood of Canada.

It was established in 1971 by the Inuit leaders who worked as an organization to achieve goals favorable for many Inuit.

They accomplished negotiation of land claims negotiations, condemned people for violating their rights legally, promoted Inuit culture on television, and provided an improved education system to Inuit children.

The Inuit Tapirisat was initially called the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), which means “Inuit are united in Canada.” The organization has achieved its missions in support of either the Canadian government or the Canadian government in opposition. The efforts of ITK led to the official creation of Nunavut.

Final Note

So, the capital of Nunavut is Iqaluit.

Iqaluit provides a home to many Inuit; if more precisely quoted, it is a territory or city known where Inuit live. Iqaluit serves as the capital of Nunavut, a place of many fish, but also has excellent landscapes, waterfalls, geographical scenery, wildlife, and rivers to explore.

The rich culture, heritage sites, and sites depicting the Thule culture are good places to visit.

Last Updated on by Narayani Bhardwaj

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