Nunavut is an extensive territory in the far North of Canada, located east of the Northwest Territories (of which it used to be part), north of the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, and west of the Danish territory of Greenland. Nunavut comprises a large portion of the northern tip of the North American continent and a large number of islands on Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. Alert on Ellesmere Island is the northernmost settlement in the world. Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world although it does have a cemetery...the world's northernmost.
Most of the people there are part of an indigenous group called the Inuit. They have historically been called Eskimos, but this word is no longer used in Canada, and may be considered offensive by some. Note that English usually follows the local language usage where Inuit is a plural; the singular is Inuk ("he is Inuk" vs "they are Inuit").
- Iqaluit - capital and largest settlement of Nunavut (Note: don't spell it "Iqualuit")
- Pangnirtung - second largest settlement in Nunavut, gateway to the Auyuittuq National Park
- Rankin Inlet
- Baffin Island - Canada's largest island located in the eastern portion of the territory of Nunavut
- Ellesmere Island
- Resolute Bay - the 2nd most northern community in the world and a cultural tourist attraction. Flights available to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island can be taken from Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet.
- Ellef Ringnes Island - the land currently nearest the geomagnetic north pole, which previously passed through the island.
Until the end of World War II, when the Canadian government began to realize its strategic importance, the Canadian far north was seen as a barren and desolate place, inhabited by indigenous peoples and containing vast mineral resources that had (and have) yet to be exploited. In 1982, after much debate and argument, it was decided to divide the Northwest Territories into two parts, one called Nunavut and the other retaining the name of "Northwest Territories". On April 1, 1999 Nunavut came into existence.
Nunavut means our land in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. The official languages are English, French, Inuktitut, and Innuinaqtun.
It is one of the most sparsely populated regions of the world - fewer than 30,000 people in an area the size of Western Europe. The immense territory includes most of Canada's Arctic Islands, from Baffin Island in the territory's southeast, where the capital Iqaluit is located, to Ellesmere Island a few hundred kilometres from the North Pole. The territory also includes all of the islands in Hudson Bay.
Around 65% of people living in Nunavut speak Inuktitut as a first language, and the language is co-official with English and French in the territory. Inuktitut is the traditional language spoken by the Inuit people, and is closely related to Greenlandic. It is a somewhat hard language to learn for the English speaker, and most English speaking people won’t even be able to read it because it is written in its own unique script. Though most Inuit probably speak English, it would be a good idea to learn a few key phrases or bring a Inuktitut phrase book along. Learning the script in any case is actually relatively easy to do. French may also be useful, though not necessary. In the more remote places, Inuktitut may be necessary. Public signage is generally bilingual in Inuktitut and English.
Access is only by air - there is no road or rail from the south, and consequently prices are rather expensive owing to the difficulty of shipping goods in. Cargo vessels do make the trip up to Iqaluit by sea in the summer months, but there are no passenger vessels that ply these routes.
In the smaller communities (less than 3,000), ATVs and trucks are used during the short summer (when there is no snow).
In the winter, snowmobiles are the main way of getting around. Dog sleds are also used but owning and maintaining a dog team can be a very costly endeavour. Getting to and from the different communities can only be done by air there are no roads linking the different population centres in the territory.
Some towns may offer small restaurants or coffee shops.
Try some traditional Inuit food, such as raw seal meat. For many Inuit, hunting is still the primary way of acquiring food, so many northern foods such as Arctic char and caribou meat can be bought from local hunters and cooked.
The main grocers are Co-Op and Northern, a common grocery for Northern Territories. Because all food must be shipped in from planes, be prepared to pay unusually high prices for perishables, such as milk and fruit/vegetables.
In many places in Nunavut there is a local law prohibiting all alcohol. Given the high rates of addiction and suicide in many places, communities have felt the need to adopt this extreme position. Do not bring any alcohol into an officially dry community, as you can exacerbate the local problems with alcohol abuse and even cause a person's death.
In other communities, local bars are permitted to operate. There are no local liquor stores outside Iqaliut; a warehouse in each of Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit will ship hard liquor outside the community but this must be ordered in advance.
There is no 9-1-1 emergency number in Nunavut. One must use the local seven-digit numbers to reach individual emergency services in each community.