Hall Beach History

Thule (named after Thule, Greenland) is the name given by archaeologists to the ancestors of the modern Inuit. The word Inuit means “the people”. Historians believe that the Thule people entered northwest Canada about a thousand years ago, spreading across the continent all the way to Greenland in a century or so. They travelled by sled on the sea ice in winter and by skin boat in the summer.

Thule people subsisted on sea mammals and caribou, making weapons such as harpoons and arrows, and distinctive housing, the remains of which can still be seen today. The Thule developed half-buried stone, whalebone and driftwood dwellings, but also built igloos on the sea ice.

Historically, the survival of Inuit depended solely on the land and waters and the wildlife that they provide. The relationship between the Inuit and the land was one. Inuit lived as nomads, moving from place to place in order to follow the migration routes of caribou, seals, fish and birds. The land also offered shelter from freezing winter temperatures of -30° C to -40° C with igluit (igloos) built from snow, or from summer rains by way of caribou-skin tents or huts constructed either from stone, or stone and dirt. By Brian Aglukark

Picture courtesy of Rankin Inlet.ca

Most parts of an animal were used, either for food or for some other purpose. Caribou, for example meant much more than just food. The Inuit made tools out of the caribou antlers and bones. They made thread or string out of the muscle sinew. They made summer tents from the skins or hides. Like the caribou, every part of the whale was also used. The large rib-bones made good ribs for boats or rafters for houses to hold up the skin roves. The blubber could be burned in the soapstone lamps and the food itself helped supply several families with food for the winter. These animals – polar bear, whales, musk-oxen, caribou, seals, walruses – have always been very important for the survival of the Inuit of the far north. By David F. Pelly

One of the reasons for the success of the Inuit to live in the Arctic was their ability to adapt to their environment. They learned to survive by living in close harmony with the land and the sea. All of this is evident in the way they built their shelters (By using the materials and animals found in their environment, they were able to adapt to the harsh climates of the Arctic). How they moved from place to place to hunt and fish (inland for caribou and musk-oxen and to the shore for fish, whale, seal and walrus). The Inuit clothing is another example of how the people were able to adapt their lifestyle to the environment. They used the materials at hand to make themselves as comfortable as possible. They used animals skins (caribou fur was the warmest) to make parkas, pants and mitts. In winter, a double layer was worn to keep warm: the inner layer with the fur against the body, and the outer layer with the fur turned out to repel the snow and the wind. Women’s coats were designed with a baby-carrying pouch called an amauti sewn into the back. Waterproof boots were made of sealskin. The Inuit women were excellent at sewing. They were also experts at sewing the waterproof covering over the boats and they never leaked

Picture courtesy of Greenland Tourism

The seasonal arrival of whalers from Europe and America, beginning in the early 1800s, brought with it a different kind of trade, and radical changes to the lives of many coastal Inuit. The Europeans brought foreign objects — guns, bullets, tea, cloth — that made life easier, yet which also brought a dependence on the white man’s return. It was once again a mixed blessing for the Inuit that independent traders quickly filled the void when bowhead stocks declined in the late 1800s. By Kenn Harper

Whales were useful for their oil and baleen. Oil was used in lamps in Europe and baleen was used for umbrella staves, and ribs for women’s corsets. Inuit men worked for the whalers as hunters, guides, and boats’ crews. The Inuit women often made winter clothing for the whalers. The Inuit began to collect around the whaling stations. It was easier to get supplies from the whaling stations than it was to get food, shelter and clothing they needed from the land and the ocean. I was no longer necessary to move from camp to camp. Whaling stations were a good place to set up permanent camps. By the early 1900s the whalers stopped coming because the number of whales had been drastically reduced. But the whalers had created a dependency by the Inuit for American and European goods.

Just as the whaling industry declined, the demand for furs in Europe rose in the early 1900s.  Traders, mostly from the Hudson Bay Company, moved in to set up posts where they could be close to the Inuit. Furs – mostly fox – were traded for food supplies. Generally speaking, the traders dealt with the Inuit in a better way than had the whalers. The traders usually stayed longer among the Inuit than the whalers had. They realized that they were creating a dependency and they encouraged the Inuit to go back to the land to hunt and trap, rather than stay around the trading posts.

The first contact that most Inuit had with the government was through the Northwest Mounted Police, known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) today. In the early 1900s, the police established posts in several corners of the North. By the 1920s, they were making regular patrols into some of the remotest regions. The first police to go north were sent there by the government to claim the region for Canada. For the Inuit, this was their first introduction to the laws of Canada. By David F. Pelly

In the early 1940s, Inuit had to be counted and identified for government records so that parents or guardians could receive family allowance. So the Inuit were given numbers by the Canadian Government. E stood for east and W stood for west. Many Inuit disliked the number system. By the late 1960s, Simonie Michael, the first elected Inuk member of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, stated that he no longer wanted to be known as his E7-number. Thus, Project Surname was created. Abe Okpik, a respected Inuk from the western Arctic, headed the project. Between 1968 and 1970, Abe visited every Inuit home and asked the families to choose a name. The head of the family picked a surname – often a relative’s given name – and the Inuit were no longer known by numbers. By Ann Meekitjuk Hanson

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the arrival of the Canadian and US military in Nunavut. The military bought with it wage labor and increased dependence on southern goods when it created numerous Distant Early Warning (DEW) line stations across the north.

Picture courtesy of Vincent K. Chan

Hall Beach was created when the Cold War triggered the establishment of a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line site in the area in 1957 to help monitor Canadian air space in the Far North. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Inuit moved from surrounding camps to take advantage of government housing programs, health care and opportunities for education and for work around the DEW Line site and the community of Hall Beach was born. In 1953, no one lived in the area on a permanent basis. By 1960, there were 300 qallunaat (white people) living on the site and about 260 Inuit were beginning to settle in the area. Now, Hall Beach counts around 785 residents with the majority being Inuit

On April 1st, 1999, a dream that was put first put forth on paper in 1976 became a reality. The Government of Nunavut was formed and separated from the Northwest Territories. The boundaries were set in 1993 via the Nunavut Act and Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act. This was an outstanding accomplishment for the people of Nunavut. It made Nunavut Canada’s newest and largest territory and the fourth largest country sub-division in the world.

In August 2008, hunters from Hall Beach harvested a 15-metre bowhead whale in northern Foxe Basin. Bowhead whales used to swim in nearby waters thousands of years ago and formed the basis for Thule Culture. The Thule people used whalebone and stone for their houses. However, a cooling trend in the early 1600s dramatically affected the Thule way of life, because whales no longer migrated as far into the Arctic.

From the almost total isolation from the outside world to the computer space age where the world is now at your fingertips