The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 2, March 2005

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Sirius Patrol, Canadian Style
F.I.D.O.: Allen Gordon
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part I
Pregnancy, Whelping and Pup Development in the ISD, Part II
Fan Mail
Tip for the Trail: Building a Dog Ramp
In the News
Behavior Notebook
Janice Howls: Transition to Primitive
 IMHO: Change

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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The Fan Hitch home page

ISDI home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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In the News....

Naala Nappaluk, an elder from Kangiqsujuaq, 
reminisces  about his dogs 
Photo: Isabelle Dubois / Makivik Corporation

Dog Slaughter Inquiry Debated in Canadian Parliament

Back in the 1950s to late 60s and early 70s, the Canadian government ordered many dog teams killed. It has been suggested that up to 20,000 dogs were destroyed across what is known today as Nunavut and Nunavik. Inuit leaders allege that this was done in order to "encourage" families living [and sometimes starving] out on the land to settle in developing communities so the government could "take better care" of them. To this day that act, commonly referred to as "the dog slaughters" has remained a long-festering wound, the source of much bitterness and sadness. 

Makivik Corporation, established in 1978 to represent the political, social, and economic rights of the Nunavik Inuit, has been attempting to have the governments of Quebec and Canada address this action in the form of a public inquiry. In January 2005 a documentary film on the killings, "Echo of the Last Howl", produced by Makivik, premiered at a meeting in Kuujjuaq to an audience of Nunavik residents including elders whose dogs were slaughtered, regional organizations, Quebec and federal government officials and the media. This gathering was another attempt to get provincial and federal governments to undertake a formal inquiry into the extermination of a significant component of Nunavik Inuit traditions and identity.

In addition to the documentary, this latest Makivik attempt included the creation of a brief entitled "The Slaughtering of Nunavik Qimmiit" which was submitted to government officials. The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) received a copy of this twenty-seven page, ten-thousand word document and Makivik has granted permission to reproduce it in its entirety, roughly divided into three parts, appearing in this and in the next two issues of The Fan Hitch.

The reaction of the governments of Canada and the province of Quebec to repeated requests (since 1999) for a public inquiry had been to deny them.  It appears their response to this 2005 effort is different. A March 11, 2005 article in the Nunatisaq News  reports that the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Committee in Canada's parliament is discussing the issue. While the Director-general of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's aboriginal police services branch, Kevin Vickers, was willing to apologize if the RCMP did anything wrong, he said there was no evidence of any systematic slaughtering of sled dogs and that, according to the article, "The killing of Inuit sled dogs was a legitimate part of the RCMP's job, meant to protect communities from [ravaging dog] disease and danger."  Vickers’ testimony was said to have been based on interviews of six RCMP officers who were in the North during the dog slaughter era. However, other police paperwork from northern detachments at that time has been destroyed. The article went on to say that Vickers "admitted that his presentation was based on incomplete records."

Men remember the old days and their dogs... 
Photo: Isabelle Dubois / Makivik Corporation

On March 11th, Bernard Cleary, Bloc Québecois critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and Member of Parliament for Louis-Saint-Laurent, called for the establishment of a formal hearing, making good on his promise to do so during his attendance at the Makivik hosted meeting in Kuujjuaq back in January. In this committee meeting, his motion, passed by a margin of 6 to 4, reads as follows: 

"Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development undertook a study on the slaughtering of Inuit sled dogs in the North between 1950 and 1970. To get to the bottom of the matter, the Committee requests that the government appoint, before April 15, 2005, a superior court judge to inquire into the matter; and that this individual submit a report to the government, the Committee and the Speaker of the House of Commons three (3) months following his/her appointment."

The government can choose to ignore this latest request for an official inquiry, as it did in the past. However, if it is denied this time, Makivik President Pita Aatami and others are determined to use other avenues to see to it that the issue is formally addressed.

Inuit Dog Owner "Wins" the Iditarod!

ISDI enthusiast Ove Nygaard is fiercely opposed to racing with Inuit Dogs. But it hasn't stopped him from becoming seriously involved with that segment of dog-powered sports… and enormously successful. This past season Ove has been busier than Santa in his workshop, building sleds which were used by fellow Norwegian mushers to win major events in both Europe and North America. In Norway Nygaard sleds came in first, second and third in the February  Femund race, and in early March his sleds were across the line first in both long races at the Finnmarksløpet event. Earlier this month in Alaska, Norwegian Robert Sørlie won the 1,688-kilometer (1,049 miles) Iditarod while about seventy-one minutes later his nephew, Bjørnar Andersen, earned a fourth place finish and Rookie of the Year honors, both men cruising into Nome on Nygaard-built sleds.  While, Sørlie intends to skip the 2006 Iditarod, Andersen plans to return to the starting line next year and to cross the finish line ahead of everyone else.

The demand for Ove's craftsmanship hasn't stopped with the racing crowd. He's been asked to make two wooden sleds, six meters long each, for an alpine ski resort in Japan. These freighters will be used to pull tourists up a mountain so they can ski down it. Ove says the sleds will look like the very first sleds used by Nansen and Amundsen, only built strong enough to carry ten people each.

Inuit Dog Thesis Donation

Each community in Nunavik will soon have its own copy of The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History. The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) has donated seventeen copies of Ken MacRury's master's thesis to the Katavik School Board which will distribute one to a school in every hamlet.  Non-students will have access to the thesis as well. 

With the thesis supplementing valuable knowledge of elders, it is the ISDI's hope there will be a better understanding of what the pure Inuit Sled Dog is and a renewed interest in restoring the breed to Nunavik.

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