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North meets South

The deployment of military installations in the Arctic changed the face of the land as never before. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Arctic immediately assumed importance in the eyes of US military strategists. As early as 1940, construction of meteorological stations started and, over time, indigenous populations became the minority with the arrival of tens of thousands of American workers and military personnel from Alaska to Greenland. All of the military bases were in fact intended to be linked by efficient telecommunications networks, and served by suitable sea, air and, if possible, land transportation. Many of the towns in the North such as Kuujjuak, Iqaluit and Hall Beach owe their existence to the presence of US military bases. The Cold War and the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line in the mid-50s heightened the transformation of the northern habitat and increasingly opened the Inuit microcosm to both positive and less positive influences from the rest of the world.

Inuit Voices in the Making of Nunavut

Tomassie Naglingniq
What I'm going to talk about took place before 1944, when we were still here in 1941, when we lived at what is now the National Park in Qaummarviit. My grandparents saw two ships that belonged to the Americans. They paddled over to where those two ships were. The boats were big. In the Pangniqtuuq dialect they call alliraq, those boats that can hold a lot of people inside. All our family members decided to go and see. We had two boats with the whole family in them. When we went close to the ships, the Americans came to us on two small boats with motors. When they got close to us, we realized they were qallunaat wearing red life jackets. They put something on top of their boat and everybody got scared, because we had never seen anything like that. We thought it was a cannon. My family thought the Americans were going to shoot them, so they started crying. My grandfather Tigullagaq decided to do something. Apparently he had an HBC flag, which he had obtained at Iqalugaarjuk, which is sixty miles away from Iqaluit. He told someone to tie it on to the end of an oar. When the Americans saw it, they realized we were Canadians. That thing they put on top of their boat, the one that looked like a cannon, had rope inside. They threw the rope to our boat. It was so long that the end landed behind us. It was to tow our boat. My grandfather's boat did not have a motor and when they started towing us, the boat seemed like it was going so fast that it was making a whistling sound. Maybe because I was so young it seemed like we were going so fast. Looking back now, we were going slowly. Sometimes I think about that day and what their boat sounded like. It sounded different than the present day diesel engines. The sound of the motor went "tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk". Because diesel powered engines aren't that fast, maybe it wasn't moving quickly.

When we were towed to Mialigaqtaliminiq, we saw two big ships. The ships were wooden, and not metal. There were a lot of Americans. There was one American that was able to speak Inuktitut, which he learned in Labrador. He was talking to us through a megaphone.

Inuit Recollections on the Military Presence in Iqaluit, Chapter 2, page 2.