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Inuit Recollections on the Military Presence in Iqaluit

Inuit were witnesses and in many cases participants in the military projects undertaken in Iqaluit and in the Eastern Arctic. It is thus considered important to explore, document, and record their recollections about the military presence on their land.

Most of the elders interviewed were children when the American military first arrived and occupied the base in the 1940s and then later came back in force during the Cold War in the 1950s. Many of them grew up near the base, while others visited the area with their families during the summer. These different backgrounds provide a wide perspective on the history of Iqaluit; at the same time they reveal common experiences and interpretations, as well as a shared memory.

This project initially began as Mélanie Gagnon’s Master’s degree research at Université Laval. The book itself is volume two of a three-volume series entitled Memory and History in Nunavut. It consists of interview excerpts edited into thirteen thematic chapters laid out in a question and answer format. Excerpts of archival documents as well as photographs and maps are also included to support, illustrate, and complement the elders' memories.

Peter Atsitaq
I'm going to tell you a story about the war. When I was a young man I remember clearly that there was a war going on. The radio operators went to Kimmirut, and we were told by the Americans that there was a war going on. Back then we used to live in separate camps behind Kimmirut; each family had its own camp. Getting back to the radio operators, we had heard from them that there was a war going on. All of a sudden all these airplanes started to fly over our camps, and we knew right then and there that we were going to die. The airplanes were big and small. The small ones were really fast. There was one big one I saw, and it was huge. It had some kind of pipe attached to the tail of the plane. We realized that they were refueling the airplanes from that huge plane while they were still flying. One plane would go under the huge plane to fuel up, and then another one would go. They were taking turns refueling. I think they were really clever because the pipe was hardly visible. At that time I was able to run fast, but the planes would disappear behind the hill. We had heard that they were going to bomb Kimmirut and Iqaluit. (Chapter 3)