The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 3, June 2005

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Coming Together
F.I.D.O.: Ken Beattie
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part II
Fan Mail
In the News
Behavior Notebook: Life in the Pack
Book Review: Soldiers & Sled Dogs
Janice Howls: Preserving Nature's Standard
 IMHO: Tough Dogs, Tough Owners

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

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

ISDI home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at:

The Fan Hitch
welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
The following Brief is being presented in three parts. The second and third installments will appear in the June and September 2005 issues of The Fan Hitch. Please refer to "In the News" in the March issue of The Fan Hitch for additional information on this subject. - Ed.

Part II:


To the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs for the Government of Canada 
To the Ministre délégué aux Affaires autochtones for the Government of Québec

Regarding the Slaughtering of Nunavik "Qimmiit" (Inuit Dogs) 
from the mid-1950s  to the late 1960s

Photo: Masiu Ningiuruvik, circa 1960
From the private collection of Bernard Saladin d’Anglure,
 held in the Avataq Cultural Institute's archives



Makivik Corporation
January, 2005

This Submission is made on a without prejudice basis and under reserve of all the legal and other rights and recourses in this matter available to the Inuit of Québec.


[Appeared in our March issue]

I. Introduction

 A.   The Nunavik Territory and its inhabitants 
 B.  Makivik Corporation 

II. Nunavik Qimmiit Killings

 A.   Qimmiit 
  1.  Physical description and attributes 
  2.  Importance of Nunavik Qimmiit

 B.   Historical Context

[In this issue]

C. Government Activities Regarding Nunavik Qimmiit

 1.  Disease Control
 2.  Wandering Dogs

D. The Killings - Testimonies by Nunavik Inuit

[Coming in Part III]

E.   Consequences

III. Government's Responsibility for the Nunavik Qimmiit 
 Killings and Consequences

IV. Demands

V. Annexes 25 

C.  Government Activities Regarding Nunavik Qimmiit

Government activities regarding Qimmiit in northern Quebec almost exclusively dealt with the issue of disease control and the issue of loose dogs in communities. 

1.  Disease Control 

The Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources along with the RCMP and, to a lesser extent, the Federal Department of Agriculture played a role in dealing with disease control among Nunavik Qimmiit.24

Specifically in terms of rabies, the federal authorities were responsible for controlling outbreaks and epidemics relating to the disease.25 The Federal Department of Agriculture supplied the necessary serums for anti-rabies injections for the Qimmiit in Nunavik.26

During the take-over of the region's administration by the Québec government, it appears that there was a lapse of time during which the vaccination program was unimplemented. An exchange of correspondence in February and March 1966 between the Sûreté Provinciale du Québec, the Ministry of Justice and DIAND addresses the subject of rabies encountered among the dog populations in Fort-Chimo (now Kuujjuaq) and Poste-de-la-Baleine (now Kuujjuaraapik).  This exchange of correspondence demonstrates that the lack of action by the government led to a situation where there was no other alternative but to kill the dogs in Poste-de-la-Baleine.  This is one example of the insensitive approach of government towards the importance of dogs in the way of life of the Nunavik population.  A translation of an extract of a letter addressed by Sureté du Québec officer Richard Dubé is self-explanatory:

"In September 1965 I made a request to Mr. Edmond Bernier, Engineer at the Department of Natural Resources, in order to obtain injections against rabies. He stated to me that he would take care of it as soon as he returned to Quebec City. In November 1965, I phoned Mr. Bernier to remind him of the importance of obtaining injections against rabies for Great-Whale-River. Both these requests have, to date, remained unanswered, and today in Great-Whale-River we have many cases of rabies. It should be mentioned that none of the Departments in Great-Whale-River have taken steps to obtain injections. At this stage, the only remedy being used is to kill the dogs." 27
2.  Wandering Dogs

Both Canada and Québec enforced sections 11 and 12 of the Québec Agricultural Abuses Act, R.S.Q. 1941, c. 139 (hereinafter the Act).  This law was entirely inappropriate for application in Nunavik.

The relevant sections of the Act, unchanged to date, state: 

"11.  Every owner, possessor or custodian of a dog, is forbidden to allow it to wander in territory which is not organized, between the first of May and the fifteenth of December."

12.  Any person may destroy a dog found wandering in violation of the provisions of the previous section."

Some government representatives working in Nunavik recognized the inappropriateness of enforcing the Act in the region. W.G. Kerr, a Northern Service Officer in 1960 criticized the application of the Act in Nunavik and stated that "...I personally do not think that "wandering" dogs create any greater hazard than does the normal automobile traffic of southern Canada.  In the south we warn our children of the necessary safe-guards and there is no reason why we can't do the same in the North.  It is also my experience that a tied up dog, if approached by children, is more dangerous than a "wandering" one." 28

Local administrators' opinions do not seem to have been taken into account.  The loose dog issue was such an important concern to the federal administration during its presence in Nunavik that in November 1958, Alvin Hamilton, then Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, wrote to the then Premier of the Province of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis to request “consideration to the amendment of the Agricultural Abuses Act to permit the shooting of dogs wandering at large in unorganized territory of Québec at any time of the year, rather than from May 1st to December 15th only." 29

The Québec police force also seems to have taken a narrow approach to the issue of loose dogs, as evidenced by a 1964 internal Surete du Quebec correspondence in which the Chief Inspector recommended that the only solution to the issue of loose dogs in Port Harrison (now Inukjuaq) was the enforcement of the Act. 30

The governments at the time failed to secure Nunavik Inuit understanding, cooperation and consent in addressing what it perceived to be a problem with wandering dogs.  In addition, in attempting to simply enforce the Act, the governments and their representatives did not fully understand the nature of the alleged problem of roaming dogs. 

Many of the individuals interviewed stated their traditional belief that tying up Qimmiit was unhealthy and caused the dogs to become vicious.  Tying up dogs thus resulted in endangering people.  There is a need for dogs, especially Qimmiit, to be socialized. Tying up dogs, especially young dogs, caused a lack of appropriate human-dog socialisation, which in turn caused the dogs to become more aggressive.  If, in addition to the lack of socialization allowing the dogs to accept humans as dominant, the dogs were hungry, the danger posed by the dogs to humans increased significantly.  The government's misunderstanding of the situation led to a serious problem. 

Ken MacRury confirms that the "Inuit dog seems to require earlier and more intensive socializing than other breeds to develop its emotional attachment to humans."  Many of the elders interviewed noted that as children, they had spent much time playing with puppies.  According to MacRury, if the pups were left until even eight weeks of age without human handling, they will be wild and unmanageable dogs exhibiting strong "fear aggression". 31

"When dogs are used to being tied up they will tire more easily and will be more dangerous.  They will become more dangerous when their interaction with people is reduced."  (Davidee Niviaxie, Umiujaq)

"There was never any need to tie them up and we avoided that.  [If they were tied up] they would have been more dangerous and tire more easily and not run as fast [as they normally would]... Today's dogs are more dangerous than in the past as they are being kept tied and they are not around children as much as they had in the past.  Our dogs used to be gentle to our children as they recognized them as part of the family." (David Oouvaut, Quaqtaq)

"The governments tried to eliminate us by eliminating the dogs we depended on for survival but fortunately the Inuit are able to withstand hardships.  When we owned dog teams, we never used to keep them tied up, once you tie up your dogs, you limit their ability and they would get weak and lose weight.  The dogs used to keep the community clean too by eating leftovers."  (Issacie Padlayat, Salluit)

" our customs there were a lot of regulations, though it seems typical that the Inuit don't have regulations, but in spite of that assumption, we did have a lot of regulations. For example, in raising dog team, while they're still puppies we had to stretch the legs, and rub their underarms, tickle them in order for them to get used to the harnesses, we did that during summer.  While they're becoming adolescent dogs, we would have to take them for walks with their harnesses on. If they are not tamed that way, they cannot become anything. I mentioned about tickling, because when they are harnessed they are irritated if they were not tamed in this way while they're still puppies, and they are not comfortable to run if they are not used to being stretched on their forepaws while they're puppies, doing all kinds of stretching on the paws, and feeding them with soup, making sure that they don't get into the habit of being hungry (...) that was how it was. It seemed that there was no less work for them even during summer.  We would make them run with their harnesses on, in order to keep them fit.  If the Qimmiit are not tamed that way they cannot be part of a dog team, they would not know how to run appropriately, they would be stubborn. We trained a lead dogs from the beginning, while they're puppies." (Papikattuq Sakiagaq, Salluit)

For the above-mentioned reasons, many Inuit refused to comply with the orders to tie up their dogs.  Those who did attempt to comply faced logistical problems due to a lack of materials strong enough to restrain a Qimmik.

"We used any type of rope, and seal skin ropes, at that time there were no chains." (Urpigaq Ilimasaut, Kangiqsujuaq) 

"Since my dogs were not used to being tied up it was difficult to try to keep them under control as at that time we did not have available means (...) such as collars and chains." (Eli Elijasiapik, Inukjuak)

"They were loose because the stores didn't offer any collars and chains for sale and the police didn't have any of those themselves.  When we came to this community, we used to camp just outside of it and we would try to have our dogs tied up with rope.  They would become loose especially at night so we ended up having to get up at night checking if our dogs got loose."  (Daniel Inukpuk, Inukjuak)

D.  The Killings - Testimonies by Nunavik Inuit (Nunavimmiut)

Reports from and interviews held with over 100 Nunavik residents indicate that during the period 1955 to 1969, government representatives and police forces undertook a massive killing of Qimmiit throughout Nunavik.  Not only did Nunavimmiut not consent to this extermination program, they were never even properly consulted as to the necessity or appropriateness for such a program.

The interviews and reports suggest that the manner in which the massive dog killing was executed was arbitrary, abusive, at times done in a negligent and dangerous manner and unnecessarily cruel vis-à-vis the Inuit owners of the Qimmiit.

The interviews were conducted men and women who had witnessed or been affected by the sled dog killings.  Many interviews indicate that a very large number, if not all, dogs were killed in most Nunavik communities.  Due to the passage of time, it was difficult for interviewees to pinpoint the exact date the dog killings occurred in their communities.

Taamusi Qumaq provided the following account in an article entitled "L'avenir de l'inuktitut" (as translated by Louis-Jacques Dorais): 

"In 1968, the Qimmiit were shot with rifles; it was an order from the Sûreté du Québec. At the time, there were only two or three snowmobiles in each village.  In some, however, there were none. We learned that a Quebec regulation ordered the killing of the dogs. Inuit who did not yet have a snowmobile found that regulation difficult to accept since they were being asked to shoot dogs that were not restrained and that represented their only means to obtain food… The problem must be considered in the following way: who wouldn't be angry if ordered to eliminate their only means of transportation, their only means of obtaining food in winter? 

In those days, the Inuit had a hard time making money. Indeed, without their dogs they had to devote much effort, in winter, to obtain country food and products to exchange for money, such as fox pelts and soapstone sculptures."32

Nearly every report indicates that the orders for the killings were given by the police or by other government representatives in the communities.  For example, the late Ittukutaaq Saviarjuk of Salluit stated: "the police were doing the killing presumably under orders from the government".  In Kangirsuk, Peter Nassak stated "I know of one Qallunaak (non-Inuk) who was a teacher who did most of the killing of the dogs, including mine. I believe he may have been ordered by both the provincial and federal governments as I can only presume that he wouldn't have done such a thing on his own."

"In February 1961 a policeman came into town. We asked: 'why did the dogs have to be slaughtered?' and their answer was that they attacked people. (…) I think half of the population of dogs were killed. Even though the men cherished their dogs, they tried picking the ones they cherished less than others and brought them down to the sea ice to be put to death.  They were being shot down there nearby the dump, because there used to be a dump on the sea ice. (…)

Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the policeman, he had moustache, he was a big man and he came from Kuujjuaq, saying that he was mandated to reduce the number of dogs, because there had been too many incidents of dogs attacking people (…) But they went too quick in taking action before consulting the Inuit.  Those communities where there were incidents of dogs attacking their residents were given the right solution of having the dogs killed, but those communities whose dogs were okay (…) were stripped of their property." (Lucasi Nappaluk, Kangiqsujuaq)

"I believe we had eight of our dogs killed.  We were informed by the teachers and missionaries that all of the dogs had to be killed.  That was not comprehensible as we had no stores, we had no snowmobiles and our dogs had to be killed!  How were we to go on?  I had numerous small children to take care of and their father had no choice but to approve of the killing.  We heard that the police of whom we were 'iligasutuq' (intimidated by) were to do the killing.  We were informed that there was a small child attacked and killed in Kangirsuk and that was the reason for having to kill the dogs although no one was ever attacked by dogs in our community." (Susie Aloupa, Quaqtaq)

"Without providing any explanation to any of us, the Quebec Police would systematically start shooting the dogs that were loose around the community.  I can particularly recall a residential house that used to be shot at, with the occupants inside, when the dogs were hiding under it.  The walls were riddled with shotgun pellets that had penetrated inside.  It is regretful that this house doesn't exist anymore as it would be a testament to the incident that happened at that time."  (Cuniliusie Emudluk, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

"I believe it was the Police that arrived from Kuujjuaq. I can only recall that it was some intimidating white man that gave an order for the killing." (Charlie Okpik, Quaqtaq)

"The police or rather the Quebec government agents had given orders to shoot dogs that were going around loose.  All the dogs had to be tied up or risk getting shot if they got loose.  It came to a point where I couldn't even sleep at night trying to keep the dogs alive.  We used to watch out for each other's dogs and avoided getting them shot and killed and that was how we limited the killing of our dogs." (Eli Qumaaluk, Puvirnituq)

"I was angered when they started to kill my best lead dogs and when they killed the last of the breeding females (...) I couldn't speak the qallunaak language and there wasn't anyone available to interpret for me (...) It was ironic to see the dead dogs being pulled away on a sled by dogs to the place of cremation when the slaughter was still going on (...) we had to transport them (the four police officers) by dog team to the plane that was awaiting their departure."  (David Etok, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

"It seems that they don't comprehend how useful the dogs are to the Inuit.  Whenever they were angered by the dogs or if they were troubled by them they would just shoot them.  It was as if the qallunaat didn't understand their usefulness to our lives." (Markussie Ittuq, Kangirsuk)

According to reports in Kangiqsujuaq, the dogs were brought to the sea ice, shot and then the carcasses were burned.  Maata Tuniq remembers: "They were burned and left where they were, it became spring when they were still that way, so we use to see them dead down there. Even though they had been burned they were visible and the site had become a garbage dump right away after the event, down on the sea ice." 

The fact that the owners could not even skin their dogs for the fur indicates how insensitive the government representatives were to the Inuit way of life. 

"The fur was not given back, I don't understand why?!?" (Maata Tuniq, Kangiqsujuaq) 

"They were burned on the sea ice.  They were simultaneously burned as they were killed(...). The skins were not saved (...). Prior to this time they used to be saved for fur trimmings, and they should have saved the good quality dog skins for trimming." (Naala Napaaluk, Kangiqsujuaq)


Despite disagreeing with the decision to kill the Qimmiit, the individuals interviewed indicated feeling unable to object due to feeling "iligasutuq" toward the police or government representatives (roughly translated as "felt intimidated by/had much respect for"). 

Dr. Mitiarjuk Napaaluk of Kangiqsujuaq explained:

"The Inuit have always respected the Qallunaat every time they see them, and they could not oppose them.  That was the fact in those days (...) the men could not protest against the word of the white man because he was scary, revered, his word was the law". 

An excerpt from an interview with Kumakuluk Jaaka of Salluit explains why he did not object more strongly to the killings: "All of my dogs were killed.  It as if the dogs were not killed, we would have been killed or arrested instead.  The police at the time did not give us any choice.   It was the first time that we had to deal with their authority and the feeling we had was that they would do something to us if we didn't not comply with their demands."

David Pinguapik of Kangirsuk also explained "Since the Inuit at that time always complied with Qallunaat (Non-Inuit) requests, I believe the Qallunaat had ordered the dogs killed and the Inuit just consented."  An excerpt of an interview with Kusugaliniq Illimasaut of Kangiqsujuaq corroborates: "They did not inform the Inuit ahead of time, and came and said that they were here to kill, and were accepted just like that, because in those days the police force were scary and domineering."  Papikattuq Sakiagaq of Kangiqsujuaq also noted "In those days the Qallunaat had begun domineering our lives for a while.  It was in the 1960s that the Qallunaat had started manipulating the lives of the Inuit, at the same time they slaughtered our dogs and we were left without anything." 

"They were asked about it even when they couldn't refuse as we used to be 'iligasutuq' of the police and the Qallunaat.  No one could refuse them even if they requested something undesirable." (Eli Qumaaluk, Puvirnituq)

"Prior to the killing I could not protest (...) as at that time we used to have a lot of respect for them (the police officers)." (David Etok, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

"People couldn't do anything about it and couldn't approach the police constables that had shot their dogs to complain, since the constables had acted with supreme authority.  At that time people were treating Qallunaat as if they were superior over us, which we later learned was not the case.  It is because of our attitude towards the Qallunaat that led to the slaughtering of the dogs." (Paulusie Cookie, Umiujaq)

"It was a great pleasure to travel by dog team but people don't own dogs these days.  All our dogs were killed by Qallunaat.  Dogs were necessary for our subsistence but Qallunaat didn't even bother giving us the slightest compensation for the loss of our dogs.  As soon as the Quebec government police arrived they started slaughtering our dogs.  They laughed and imitated people who were trying to stop them.  I know well about it and it was pretty disgusting.  Qallunaat were scary people, they still were a few years ago but today I wouldn't be afraid of any Qallunak." (Peter Stone, Kuujjuaraapik) 33

"... no person was about to say you can finish off my dogs, that's for sure.  I am sure they did not want their dogs to be killed, they were dominated and were not given a choice if they wanted to keep their dogs." (Eva Ilimasaut, Kangiqsujuaq)

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, in its Summary of Conclusions on the High Arctic Relocation found the following with respect to Inuit vulnerability toward non-Inuit in the 1950s:

"The High Arctic relocation took place in a cultural context where Inuit typically felt dependent upon non-Inuit and powerless in their dealings with them.  The power that non-Inuit held over Inuit was well understood by non-Inuit, and even the wishes of well-intentioned non-Inuit could be taken as orders by Inuit.  The government was present in the Arctic in the form of the RCMP, who were held in particular awe by the Inuit." 34


Reasons for the killing of the Qimmiit were occasionally provided government representatives to the Inuit owners of the Qimmiit: dog disease outbreaks (rabies, distemper, canine hepatitis), community public safety (dog attacks on children) and the perceived overall superfluous nature of large dog populations in the larger Nunavik communities.

However, there was a serious lack of communication during the time government officials decided to conduct the dog slaughters.  This lack of communication was exasperated by the lack of interpreters in many instances.

"The lack of having people to translate what the Qallunaat were doing also contributed to this incident.  We weren't even given any chance of having our say to this matter.  I am not able to describe the terrible feeling that we felt when the Qimmiit were being killed.  Since no one consulted us concerning this matter I think everybody had a pretty bad feeling about it." (Lucassie Ammaaq Ittuq, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

"We couldn't do anything as none of our Inuit members of the community could understand English and we had no such education.  And it happened at the time when the school was just starting and there weren't any interpreters at that time. "  (Peter Nassak, Kangirsuk)

24 Memo from A. Stevenson, Administrator of the Arctic (April 18 1963).
25 Memo from the Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources (December 17 1962).
26 Letter from C.M Boger, Nov. 3rd, 1960; Letter from K,F, Wells, Nov. 8th, 1960.
27 Letter dated February 10, 1966
28 Memo from W.G. Kerr, Northern Service Officer, to Mr. Stevenson, Northern Affairs (June 3 1960).
29 Letter from Alvin Hamilton to Maurice Duplessis dated November 17 1958.
30 Letter from F. de Miffonis, Inspecteur chef to Le Commandant, Subdivision de Hull, SQ (October 26 1964).
31 MacRury, supra note 5 at p. 25.
32 Qumaq, Taamusi, "L'avenir de l'inuktitut" 343 Les Langues autochtones du Québec.  Translated from Inuktitut by Louis-Jacques Dorais.
33 Interview compiled by Avataq Cultural Institute.
34 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, supra, note 18 at p. 135.

Return to top of page