Kuujjuaraapik is Nunavik's southernmost village and unique for its admixture of both Inuit and Cree inhabitants. About 150 Inuit also live among the Cree in Chisasibi (Mailasik); the Cree community is called Whapmagoostui "where there are whales" but it is also called "Poste-de-la-Baleine" in French, making it one of the few places in Canada with three official names.
Ancestors of the Inuit, as well as of the Cree, have lived together in the area for roughly 3,000 years. The Hudson's Bay Company opened a trading post in 1820 on the site of present-day Kuujjuaraapik, mainly to process by-products of the commercial whale hunt and to trade in furs. An Anglican mission was established in 1882 and a Catholic mission in 1890. Although the federal government set up a weather station in Great Whale River in 1895, Ottawa only began providing limited medical assistance and a police presence during the first half of the 20th century.
The village itself began a growth spurt during the late 1930s. During World War II, the United States built a military base and airport, which were returned to Canada in 1948 and became the control station for a string of military radar stations constructed in 1955 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson Bay along the 55th parallel. But the population of Kuujjuaraapik decreased significantly in 1985 when many families relocated to another community, Umiujaq, about 160 km to the north, fearing the potentially negative impact of the Great Whale River hydroelectric project.
A visit to the Manitounuk Islands is a must for its abundant wildlife. Inland, the Amitapanuch Falls are a thrill to behold. Within the town itself, you must see Inuit artist Eddy Weetaluktuk's magnificent fresco of Christ walking on the waters of the Great Whale River. The Asimautaq School also displays a superb collection of Eddy’s carvings and paintings.
Photo Credit : Camille Lapointe