The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 4, September 2005

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

In This Issue...

Editorial: Building Bridges
F.I.D.O.: Marit Holm
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part III
Greenland Dog / Inuit Dog, The Same Dog
Differences in Mushing: Greenland and Arctic Canada, Part I
Fan Mail
Behavior Notebook: The Human Role
Book Review: Frozen Horizons
Product Review: Wheel Dog Harness
Tip for the Trail: Pack a Pruning Saw
 IMHO: The System
Annual Index for Volume 7

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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The following is the final section of our three part serialization of Makivik’s January 2005 Brief on the Slaughter of Inuit Dogs. Please refer to “In the News” in the March Fan Hitch for additional information on this subject. - Ed.

Part III:


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 and June issues]

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

 C. Government Activities Regarding Nunavik Qimmiit
  1.  Disease Control
  2.  Wandering Dogs

 D. The Killings - Testimonies by Nunavik Inuit

[In this issue]

E.   Consequences

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

IV. Demands

 V. Annexes

E.   Consequences 

The emotional, socio-economic and cultural impacts resulting from the execution of dogsled teams was tremendous and although the true extent of the impact cannot be known, the following includes some aspects: destruction of a whole traditional way of life revolving around the Qimmiit; loss of a large part of Inuit culture, acceleration of the transition towards a non-Inuit lifestyle; loss of a means to obtain a livelihood; loss of the only means of transportation, especially detrimental to a nomadic society in a harsh environment which depended and still depends on hunting for a large part of its sustenance; hunger and increased physical hardships; emotional distress; interference with and distressful to the lives of the individuals involved; and increased injuries and deaths due to the unreliability of snowmobiles as compared with dogsled teams.

Emotional Impacts

The killing of the Nunavik Qimmiit had a profound significance on the lives of many Nunavimmiut.  It is unsettling how deeply emotional the question of the killing of the Qimmiit is even today. 

By destroying the Qimmiit the authorities severed the mobility of the hunters and their independence, with ravaging results on their self worth.  In some cases, individuals have attributed alcohol and criminal problems to the depression caused by the loss of their dogs.35 Some Elders have recounted remembering the pitiful images of husbands who would sit for hours gazing out windows, longing to be on the land but without the means to do so.36

"When my dogs were gone and not having a regular job that would allow me to buy me a snowmobile and not knowing where I could get assistance, I was left with nothing to do."  (Paulusie Cookie, Umiujaq)

"We had all six of our dogs killed.  When our dogs were killed it was like as if our loved ones passed away from us.  The dogs to us were like human beings; as they were our only means to get something.  It seemed as if we became little children." (Kaudjak Tarkirk, Salluit)

"The Inuit only blamed themselves whenever their Qimmiit got killed.  We realized only later that we were letting the Qallunaat be superior over us." (Davidee Niviaxie, Umiujaq)

Tension and bitterness toward Qallunaat

The elimination of Qimmiit in Nunavik has been a source of tension and resentment towards Qallunaat.  These feelings persist to date.  Many elders feel that Qallunaat treated them without respect.

Effects on Livelihood

Sled dog teams were the only means of transportation, until the arrival of the snowmobile, allowing harvesting activities. They were also used for other tasks such as the transportation of equipment, food, firewood or water. 

With the loss of the Qimmiit, the ability to find food, materials for clothing, the ability to change camp and to travel disappeared instantly.  Many hunters recall that after the slaughtering of Qimmiit, their only means of transportation to go hunting was by foot. 
"After our Qimmiit had been killed we didn’t know how we were going to survive or to go hunting.  We were left without any choice but to go by foot to go hunting.  We had to walk long distances to go hunting for food (...) We became destitute when our dogs were gone." (Kaudjak Tarkirk, Salluit)

 "At that time, I did not own a snowmobile and when my Qimmiit were gone I had nothing left to go hunting with." (Simionie Simonie, Kangirsuk)

"I regretted of losing them, we all did, and I know that my father was very regretful. He used to say: ‘how am I going to survive now, without the dogs?’   I don’t remember travelling after the dogs were killed." (Nappaaluk Arnaituq Kangiqsujuaq)

"We became hungry for country food (...) we were getting short on our food supplies as our Co-op didn't offer real food at that time." (David Etok, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

"All I remember was that the only transportation were the dog teams, they were the only way to go out hunting (...) And no wonder after our dogs were slaughtered, food provision became scarce, because the only means of transportation was wiped out." (Lizzie Najummi Qissiq, Kangiqsujuaq )

"Having our dogs exterminated meant that we not only lost our personal property but also our means of travelling and survival since time began.  This is unacceptable and what has replaced them are now very expensive to buy and whenever they break down the parts are just as expensive." (Jimmy Arnamitsaq, Inukjuak)

Families had no choice but to move closer to permanent settlements or posts established by southerners in search of wage employment or, where there was no wage employment, in search of relief. Being unable to continue to gain their life off the land many Inuit who lost their dog teams moved into settlements where welfare measures were available and thus became more dependent on southern help and assistance. 

The advent of the snowmobile and its limited and tardy availability did not replace dog teams in the 1960s.  Even today, the advantages of a dog team over a snowmobile are considerable.  Snowmobiles were and continue to be less reliable and many families even today cannot afford to purchase one.

Cultural Impacts

Inuit knew the land on which they lived and had developed a lifestyle in accordance with it. The disappearance of Qimmiit from their lives has increased dependency on southern assistance.  Inuit have lost, especially for the younger generation, an important part of their culture, a culture that allowed them sustain themselves for decades without foreign help or assistance. 

The repercussions of the slaughters on the Inuit culture are continuing to this date and are especially detrimental to the youth due to increased inactivity, the loss of a means to attain self-esteem and self-sufficiency and an amplified generation gap between themselves and their elders, with the entailing loss of traditional knowledge. 

"I know that people that would normally be camping weren’t going to their camps anymore.  There were many people who stopped going to camps as a result." (Itsik Kudluk, Tasiujaq)

"The owners of the dogs have lost that part of their culture that was related to the qimutsik.  They had used the dogs to go hunting for food such as seal and other animals.  When they were still using dogs, it was still their custom of equally sharing their catch, which then changed and people started to keep most of their catch for themselves."  (Marcusie Ittuq,  Kangirsuk)

"It seemed that my life went through a very sudden change when my hunting practices completely came to a halt and consequently I lived idly when I lost my dogs due to the killings.  We seemed to have nothing to do anymore and began to just sit around.  Our motivation to go hunting even diminished considerably. Our camping patterns were certainly changed, as we didn’t have the means to travel.  It seemed that we were stuck in the community.  Camping out in the land became rare and we mostly went out when the spring season finally came around.  Other than that we were mostly then living in the community with nothing much to do but sit around."  (Cuniliusie Emudluk, Kangiqsualujjuaq)

Nelson H. Graburn, an anthropologist who travelled the Hudson Strait in 1959, 1964 and 1968, published the results of his research in a book entitled Eskimos without Igloos, where he made the following observations:

"In spring, April to June, most of the families move out to Sugluk Island by sled, and a large tent camp is set up. 

It can be seen that in recent years there has been a trend toward a more static and concentrated population than ever before in the area.  For most of the year, the Eskimos live in the settlement crowded among the buildings of the white agencies.  Although the men go hunting as before, they generally leave their families in the settlement and since the coming of the school (1957) they have been supposed to leave the children in the settlement for nine months of the year. 

The first Eskimo owned ski-doo was bought in 1963 and by the winter of 1967-68 there were over twenty-five in Sugluk.  Conversely, the number of households owning dog teams dropped from thirty-five to one. 

This changeover has had very serious consequences.  Rarely are more than 70 percent of the vehicles in good repair so many men are unable to hunt as regularly, though two men often go on one vehicle.  Because of the high incidence of breakdown, usually two or three teams accompany each other on long trips.  Many men are financially insolvent through trying to pay for the parts to keep their machines going ? many in fact fail and the remains of machines are scattered around the settlement or are cannibalised for the few that remain.  The annual fall walrus hunt is no longer undertaken because there is no great need for supplies of dog food." 37

Disadvantages of snowmobiles compared to dog sleds

Despite certain advantages of snowmobiles over dog sleds, most of the individuals interviewed stated their preference for travel by dog sled.

"Ever since snowmobiles have become the main method of transportation in the North, many have died of exposure to cold.  Sometimes young people die when they go hunting.  This situation is of concern to us all." (Tamusi Qumaq)

"The snowmobiles are enjoyable, but are not comparable.   The Qimmiit would never get us lost because we used to travel in a very bad blizzards, so bad sometimes we were not able to see our dogs in front of us while traveling." (Nappaaluk Arnaituq Kangiqsujuaq) 

"They [the dogs] occasionally attacked people but I never had seen or heard of one in our community.  If you compare which has caused more death between the dogs and the snowmobile the latter would win out".  (Daniel Oweetaluktuk, Inukjuak)

However, as Elijah Grey of Kangirsuk notes, snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles have become the main tools for harvesting purposes today:

"Personally, I believe we can get the dog teams back if we try.  However we can never get back the same ways the dogs had at that time.  I think we would not be able to train the dogs properly as in today’s world I don’t think we can give them an undivided attention as we used to in the past.  I don’t believe the government will apologize and compensate.  That is why I have come to think that the snowmobile and these ATV’s that are considered recreational vehicles by government standards should be treated as tools for living purposes and therefore have their prices adjusted accordingly.  Even canoes should be treated they same way.  All of these recreational vehicles we use, the snowmobile, the ATV, outboard motors canoes, to get food with should be treated by the government as tools instead of recreational vehicles and therefore be taxed less.  They are expensive because they are taxed according to their status as recreational vehicles which we use as hunting equipment." 

Near-Extinction of purebred Nunavik Qimmik

The Nunavik purebred Qimmik is presently almost extinct. 

Although he does not hypothesize on the cause, according to Ken MacRury, "Working teams of Inuit dogs reached a low population point in Canada in the 1970s with only a few teams left in the Baffin administrative region."38   "In the 1990s, the Inuit dog is not found amongst the Inuit of Alaska; it is almost gone in Northern Canada... It is only in Greenland where substantial working populations survive."39

Some individuals managed to keep a number of dogs safe from the slaughters.  However, Peter Nassak of Kangirsuk explained "When a team loses that many members they will lose their motivation to pull sleds properly.  And when my dogs were killed by a Qallunaak it devastated my mind and weakened my spirit as they were the only things I was working with."

"The Qimmiit were healthy at the time they were killed whereas today’s dogs will tire after running for 2 to 3 miles, which did not happen to our dogs.  At that time the dogs would not tire easily as they were real sled Qimmiit." (David Oouvaut, Quaqtaq)


The Inuit of Nunavik have undertaken steps to mitigate the problem of the near extinction of the pure bred Qimmik.  In particular, since 2001, Makivik Corporation has sponsored an annual dog sled race, the Ivakkak, to promote the traditional way of dog sledding and the return of pure bred Qimmiit in Nunavik.


"It's not the role of the government to destroy it's people." (Silas Berthe, Tasiujaq)

"Those that killed our dogs just abandoned us and left us to fend for ourselves without aiding us to recuperate from our loss of livelihood with the Qimmiit." (Peter Anautaq, Akulivik)

Though some of governments’ stated objectives in killing the Qimmiit may have been in the interest of public safety and disease control, it is Makivik's contention that the governments were negligent in the course of action taken to deal with what they alleged to be problems with Nunavik Qimmiit, negligent in the manner in which these measures were undertaken and negligent in not providing remedial measures to mitigate the consequences of the dog killings. 

It is important to underline the fact that authorities had witnessed over the years the hardship endured and suffered by the Inuit when they lost their dogs in difficult times or in periods of starvation.  For that reason it is very difficult for Inuit to understand the insensitive and arbitrary approach used by persons in authority in the 1950’s and 1960’s when the massive killing of dogs took place.  When decisions were made to kill the Qimmiit, almost to the point of extinction, the authorities could not have been unaware that the massive and brutal slaughtering of dogs would cause great hardship to the Inuit hunters and their families.

There also seemed to be a lack of understanding of the profound attachment of the Inuit hunters to their dogs, their companions of expeditions and in survival. The Arctic is a harsh environment and for that reason Inuit and their dogs were an inseparable team.

The issue of loose Qimmiit in Nunavik communities required a much more delicate and culturally appropriate approach if indeed there was any problem to begin with.  Such an approach would of course have had to be developed in collaboration with the Inuit. 

There is very little evidence of community consultations that would have been conducted prior to the dog killings.  As a result, Inuit did not perceive the Qimmik killing policy as a consequence of a community consensus, but rather as an enforcement of governments’ views and policies regarding the Qimmiit.  The impact on Inuit culture was not taken into account, considering the absence of policies regarding the preservation of Qimmiit following the killings.

At best, the dog killings were an ad hoc response to what the government considered to be a problem, with little policy direction and little or no consultation with the Inuit communities. 

Alternatives to simply killing the dogs should have been sought.  For example, the Governments could have studied and applied policies similar to those in place in Greenland, where large populations of pure Qimmiit continue to flourish.


Makivik Corporation requests the following:

* Governments undertake a public inquiry into the dog slaughters that occurred in Nunavik during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Makivik must be involved in the drafting of the terms of reference for such an inquiry.

* Governments reimburse the costs, including past and future costs, incurred by Makivik or its representatives in attempting to resolve the complaints by the victims of the dog slaughters.

* In the short term, Governments provide remedial measures for appropriate and affordable transportation to allow Nunavik Inuit to maintain their traditional harvesting practices. 

Makivik Corporation expects that as a consequence of a public inquiry into the dog slaughters that occurred in Nunavik during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Governments would:
* Acknowledge the wrongs done and apologize to the Inuit of Nunavik; and

* Compensate the victims of the dog slaughters, in the amount and form agreed to between Makivik and governments.


Annex 1 Letter from Pita Aatami, President, Makivik Corporation, to The Honourable Guy Chevrette, Ministre délégué aux Affaires autochtones, Gouvernement du Québec (March 28 2000).

Annex 2  Letter from Pita Aatami, President, Makivik Corporation and Pauloosie Keyootak, President, Qikiqtani Inuit Association, to The Honourable Robert Nault, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada (March 29 2000).

Annex 3  Letter from Guy Chevrette, ministre délégué aux Affaires autochtones, Gouvernement du Québec to Pita Aatami, President, Makivik Corporation dated June 21 2000 and letter from Serge Ménard, ministre de la Sécurité publique to Pita Aatami, President, Makivik Corporation (September 5 2000).

Annex 4 Letter from Lawrence MacAulay, Solicitor General of Canada to Pita Aatami, President, Makivik Corporation and Pauloosie Keyootak, President, Qikiqtani Inuit Association (December 1 2000).

Annex 5 Arthur Laing, Minister, Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources, Draft Memorandum to Cabinet: “Eskimo Administration in Northern Quebec”.

Annex 6 Letter from Premier Jean Lesage to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (December 27 1962).

Annex 7 Extract from An Act Respecting Certain Abuses Injurious to Agriculture,  R.S.Q. 1941, c. 139.

Annex 8 Letter from Alvin Hamilton to Maurice Duplessis, (November 17 1958).

Annex 9 Memo from W.G. Kerr, Northern Service Officer, to Mr. Stevenson, Northern Affairs (June 3 1960).

Annex 10 Letter from F. de Miffonis, Inspecteur chef to Le Commandant, Subdivision de Hull, SQ, (October 26 1964).

Annex 11 Letter from G.W. Rowley to Mr. Gordon, (March 5 1965).

Annex 12 Letter from G.W. Rowley to Mr. Gordon (August 19 1966).


35 Verbal testimonies by Nunavik residents during Makivik AGMs and regional radio programs.
36 Verbal testimonies by Nunavik residents during Makivik Executive Field Trip radio programs.
37 Graburn, Nelson H., Eskimos without Igloos, Social and economic development in Sugluk, Little & Brown, Series in Anthropology, 1969
38 MacRury, Supra, note 5 at p. 40.
39 MacRury, Supra, note 5 at p. 47.

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