Aug 30, 2005

Chapter 41

Whatever they may be
Wherever they may be

After a brief statement made with throat singing, the music goes through several transformations of “Inuit Wedding Song” by Sainkho Namtchylak.

Found Poems, blowing around the steep slopes of Killiniq Island, across the narrow treacherous McLellan Strait, where the tide is 600% stronger than anywhere else in Ungava, to the Torngat Mountains, a mile high, voices that cannot be extinguished, wherever they may be; wounds that need to heal, whatever they may be;
||||||||||||||||scraps of paper blowing from all directions, in whirlwinds, from the abandoned school to the municipal dump and out over the frigid water and across the universe. On Killiniq Island, we still hear the ancient footsteps, the wind, and the motion of the sea.

The said evacuation
was carried out without valid consent
and was tantamount to coercion and duress.
All Inuit who left Killiniq during that time
did so against their wills.

The following individuals
were prevented
from taking all their personal belongings
during the evacuation of Port Burwell,
and were forced
to leave them behind:

Jacob Thoomasiah
One 308 rifle
One 222 rifle
One 24 foot canoe
One 25 HP outboard motor
Fifteen fox traps

Benjamin Jararuse
One seal net 120x28 feet
two seal net anchors
12 wooden barrow bouys
25 fox traps
one 20 foot canoe
one record player
40 yards of cloth

Willie Annatuk
one 24 foot canoe
one Olympic 340 engine
50 fox traps
one kitchen freezer
one kitchen table

Paulussie Thomasiah
one Olympic 300 snowmobile

Michael Keelan
one 340 Olympic snowmobile
one 12 foot sled
one 340 Olympic spare engine
two extra carburetors
parts and tools
one 9 x 12’ carpet
four antique electric lamps
one floor lamp
one washing machine
one small couch
one bureau dresser
one axe
three beds and mattresses

(et ainsi de suite)

Loss of community life
Cultural disruption

Loss of use and enjoyment
of the Killiniq category one and two lands
and of the adjacent offshore area
including harvest of wildlife

Psychological suffering
anguish and humiliation

Encroachment of the rights and freedoms
under the Canadian Bill of Rights

Breach of the federal trust relationship
pursuant to section 91(24)
of the Constitutional Act of 1867

Remember the election where we voted to be that kind of country?
Me neither.

John Amagoalik said:

What was done to this community
was not what the Port Burwell people
agreed to do.

This decision was made
without the involvement of,
or consultation with,
these Inuit,

and most definitely
without their consent.

It is essential to realize
the far-reaching consequences
of this action,
both legally
and within our culture

The federal government never made any attempt
to have any discussions
with the people of Port Burwell.

It just came out of the blue.

One day we found out that people
outside of Québec
were losing rights.

It seems very strange
that these people would lose everything

without being consulted

or even having a chance
to negotiate the loss of those rights
They depend on the ocean and the islands
to feed themselves
and to make a living

Government activity of this nature
can only lead to increased fear
and distrust
of the government
It can only leave us feeling
that the government
is above the law.

The reason why we say we are afraid

is that if the federal government
extinguishes the rights of the people
of Port Burwell and the Belcher Islands

they may be able to do that
in other areas of Canada.

That is what we worry about.

All native claims,
and interests,
whatever they may be,
wherever they may be,
in Canada,
of all the Inuit
of Port Burwell, NorthWest Territories,
are hereby extinguished.

All native claims,
and interests,
whatever they may be,
wherever they may be,
in Canada,
of _________YOUR NAME HERE__________
are hereby extinguished.

How does it feel
To be all alone?

They gave up their native rights in return for compensation that was slow in coming, such as having a functioning school, access to medical care, and clean drinking water; things that most Canadians get without signing over their land. There was also a pile of money, but it went into buying companies in Montreal. This is not a complaint against Makivik or the James Bay Agreement. This is a complaint about how the federal government treated my friends.

No one ever suggested to them their village would be shut down. That is not what they were told, and it is not what the Treaty says. Burwell was the ONLY village that did not get to keep the land it was built on. The ONLY village where the government mailed letters directly to the citizens offering them free one-way tickets to Quebec, without the knowledge of the elected Inuit leaders. And, without the knowledge of the Quebec Government. The ONLY village that would no longer have a school; the only village where they made the citizens believe that there would be no electricity, and yet, not long after the evacuation, a new generator, ordered a year earlier, was installed. After the Inuit were gone. Need-to-believe, need-to-trust, shattered like an empty cup. Who is able to rebuild and fill it up?


Charlie Watt said (early 1980’s):

The community of Port Burwell
is no longer a community of Port Burwell,
put it that way.

They were exiled by the territorial government.
They were kicked out.

From the day we entered into negotiations with the governments,
from the day we signed
and even before,
they started to cut back on the services
they were providing to our communities.

When they were relocated
into other Inuit communities
there was no housing arrangement made,

no adjustment made

in regard to the needs of those communities

Mark Gordon said:

How come we were left out
of the airstrip construction program
for Inuit villages?

Can you answer me that?

How come we were left out
of the housing program?

How come we were left out
of the health program?

What are your answers to this?

Was there some deliberate reason
that we were excluded?

Robbie Tookalook said:

We were in very tight spots
and under a lot of pressure
We were pushed around a lot
by the government
There was some bullying done to us
by the government

Mary Simon said:

A deliberate gradual reduction of essential services,
was applied to the small isolated community
in order to close it down.
From 1975,
scheduled air transport,
medical and health
and education services
were systematically curtailed
virtually compelling residents to leave,
climaxing on February 8-16, 1978
when the remaining families
were literally taken away overnight
to already overcrowded
northern Québec Inuit communities.
Killiniq was one of the oldest communities
in the NorthWest Territories
and enjoyed the traditional lifestyle.
Today the dispersed population is at a loss,
suffering the aftermath of social transplant.

Personal belongings were left behind,
livelihoods abandoned.
The residents have been deprived
of the enjoyment of many of their rights
including the use of category one land

The community was dismantled.
The members have lost their social fabric,
their community life,
despite the fact the Killiniq
is a recognized permanent community in the agreement.

Sound : Thhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Thhhhhhhhhhh

Note to readers: In the early 1980’s, about 5 years after closing Port Burwell, and in direct reply to my first article, the Canadian federal government thoroughly investigated itself and discovered that they had done everything right and according to the book. The Government investigation of itself found that the Government had nothing whatsoever to do with the disappearance of one of the oldest and most successful communities in the Arctic, except the taxpayers of Canada generously provided one-way air tickets to Quebec, which they did “as a humanitarian gesture” to aid the King’s Eskimo children, as determined by the traders and the Police. The Eskimo must not expect the King to give them free airplane tickets again.

Babies can’t talk, so they cry.

I would let you be in my dream if you would let me be in yours.

Post Script, and Kathia Rock sings again, with a drum that would have been burned in her grandparent’s time.

The 1972 Royal Commission examined the disastrous relocation of the Hebronimiut in Labrador. In its final report, the commission stated nine "principles of resettlement" to guide future relocations. Each and every one of the Royal Commission directives were violated by the government in the relocation of the Killiniq Inuit six years later in 1978. They are worth quoting in their entirety:

1. Any assisted community resettlement must be voluntary and free from coercion;

2. Resettlement should only occur when it offers assurance of opportunity to earn a reasonable living for those who are resettled;

3. Resettlement must not bring economic hardship to residents of receiving communities;

4. Resettlement should only occur when the views of the people involved are known and when people have had an opportunity to discuss, with appropriate authorities, the implications of resettlement, and the need for it;

5. Resettlement should only take place after adequate opportunity, prior to resettlement, for representatives of those wishing to resettle, of those in the receiving community, and of those in Government, to consider resettlement jointly, and for representatives of those to be resettled, to visit the receiving community well in advance of resettlement;

6. When a community is to be resettled, its residents should have the opportunity to settle en masse in one receiving community;

7. Resettlement requires sound advance planning of many kinds and such planning must be carried out, in concert, by local people and other experts;

8. Resettlement does not end with physical relocation but requires continuing effort to ease adjustment;

9. The financial cost of resettlement must receive adequate consideration.

Not one of the nine requirements set by the Royal Commission was met, or even attempted. The government broke every one of its own rules. The need-to-trust was shattered like an empty cup.

Kathia Rock, Innu from Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, sings of loss, and love, and the history of her people, in the Innuaiman language, on the beach where Ursula used to play with the Innu children 40 years ago. The drum Kathia plays was outlawed as “pagan”. Within living memory, the preacher and the police gathered up all the drums and burned them in the centre of the village. How’s that for a demonstration of power, a statement about who is in charge? And you can smell the same smoke from the burning of the co-op at Burwell. The Co-op at Killiniq was the most successful in all the Arctic, from the 1950`s to 1975. It may have made sense to burn it in that the village was empty, but it was not just a store. It was an icon, a symbol, a statement, a beacon of light, an authentic product of their history and their culture of sharing. Like the drums it went up in smoke. Let’s not do it that way anymore. It is a losing formula, to take a really good thing and destroy it.

Well, the drums are back. This time, please restrain yourselves from setting their musical instruments on fire and denouncing their art as “pagan”. This time, let’s listen to them. How radical is that?

Note to PETA, the European Common Market, all Saviours of the seals, and the Toronto Star: here’s an easy way to remember the difference:

Not all pagans are Neanderthals
But all Neanderthals are pagans

As it was, as it is, as it was meant to be; once again, once again, once again.

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