This drum would be banned during the High Arctic relocation program because of its association with traditional Inuit beliefs.Library and Archives Canada
These homes gave the Inuit people warmth during the winter. Even when temperatures outside dropped below -40°F, the temperature inside an igloo can still be as warm as 59°F.Library and Archives Canada
Sled dogs were key to the traditional Inuit way of life. In the 1950s, the RCMP would slaughter sled dogs en masse, making it impossible for the Inuit people to subsist on hunting. It would be a pivotal moment in forcing the Inuit to switch to a lifestyle of relying on store-bought food and welfare.Library and Archives Canada
The ulu is a multi-purpose knife traditionally used by Inuit women for everything from skinning animals to cutting their children's hair.Library and Archives Canada
Colonialism certainly had already influenced the Inuit way of life even before the High Arctic relocation program.Library and Archives Canada
Kayaks were hunting boats, often using a whale bone to make up the frame.Library and Archives Canada
Seal is a staple food for the Inuit, especially during the winter. These animals were also useful in providing materials for clothing as well as oil for lamps.Library and Archives Canada
Traditionally, an inuksuk would be put up to help people navigate. They served as landmarks in the often endless ice, rocks and snow of the Arctic tundra.Library and Archives Canada
For the first year after relocation, many families were left in tents without enough supplies to survive. Library and Archives Canada
The photographer attached a note to this image, stating that one of the Inuit men was impressed by the cleanliness of his shack, compared to his other experiences.Library and Archives Canada
All Inuit people were required to be registered with and to wear an Eskimo Identification Number (E number). The government used these numbers, rather than names, to identify the Inuit.Library and Archives Canada
One of the goals of the High Arctic relocation program was to get the Inuit people to stop living off the land and, instead, to start working jobs and purchasing food in stores.Library and Archives Canada
Family Allowances were provided by the Canadian government to help Inuit families feed their children. To receive the allowance, however, families were required to either live on a reservation or a settled community.Library and Archives Canada
Some feel that the Family Allowance mainly served to introduce Western food into the Inuit diet, pushing them away from their traditional hunting lifestyle.Library and Archives Canada
These people are watching a square dance. With traditional Inuit drumming banned in many places, Western dances took hold.Library and Archives Canada
Many communities did not have the resources to build their own schools. Instead, children were separated from their parents and sent south to receive education.Library and Archives Canada
Children were required to speak English in school, where they were taught European material and values. When they returned home, many felt disconnected from their parents and their culture.Library and Archives Canada
The natives of Canada’s Arctic have a unique culture born from life in a frozen world. For hundreds of years, the Inuits survived in a place whose permafrost-ridden ground practically prohibited life. Then, the Canadian government intervened.
Before contact with the Western world, the Inuit were a nomadic people. They lived as hunters, setting up temporary homes before moving on to the next hunting grounds. They traveled on dogsleds and kayaks, making tools from stones and animal bones.
But Canadians of European ancestry had a hard time understanding that lifestyle. Thus, they sought to make the Inuit "modern."
This push came to a head in 1950, as the USSR began to contest Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic territory. To prove that the territory belonged to them and to do what they thought would improve Inuit life, the Canadian government forcibly relocated the Inuit people as part of the High Arctic Relocation Program.
The government ripped the Inuit from their nomadic lifestyles and settled them into communities, where they had to stop hunting and start buying food in grocery stores.
Terrified of the Inuit's sled dogs, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers slaughtered their animals.
Government officials pulled children away from their parents and their homes, and sent them to school in the south. There, they were forced to speak English, to learn Canadians materials and Canadian values. Often, teachers would beat children if they tried to speak their own language.
When they returned from these schools, they were different, disconnected from their own families and culture.
The relocation program ultimately ravaged Inuit culture altogether. It brought massive spikes in depression, drug abuse, and suicides. And though today many Inuit are fighting to give strength to the culture that the Canadian government systematically tried to destroy, the impact of the 1950s will never be forgotten.
Intrigued by this look at the Inuit people. For more insights into what Native American culture was like before colonialism changed it irrevocably, check out these historic Edward Curtis portraits of Native Americans and these early 20th century Native American masks.