Sunday, 5 July 2015

Ulukhaktok (Holman), Victoria Island:
- an arctic hamlet with a native art centre

In the Nunavut region of the eastern Arctic Archipelago, Victoria Island is a medium size island (the eighth largest island in the world), with two native villages: Cambridge Bay and Holman.

Holman, renamed Ulukhaktok ("the place were ulu parts are found” in inuit), is located on the west coast, a region rich in copper - which is why Ulu knives are made there.

A small hamlet around a coastal bay, frozen most of the year.

Population: 400

Coordinates: 70°44′ N, 117°46′ W

Like other traditional communities in Arctic Canada, hunting, trapping and fishing are the major ways of living.

The Hudson Bay Company installed here a small post and a catholic church in 1939. That is how Holman started.

The wooden Anglican church from Hudson Bay Co. era

The first Hudson's Bay Company post (now called the 'Northern store ') was established in the area in 1923, on the north shore of Prince Albert Sound. The post moved to Holman in 1939. In 2006, the name of the hamlet was officially changed to the traditional name of Ulukhaktok.

Like many other communities in the Canadian Arctic, Ulukhaktok has its Inuit Arts Centre :

I've chosen some of the local artists who work or exhibit here:

Mary Okheena

Muskox in a storm

Helen Kalvak (1901-1984)

Helen Kalvak lived the traditional migratory existence of the early twentieth-century Inuit most of her life. She moved into the settlement at Holman Island in 1960.



Mona Ohoveluk

Musk-ox horn carving (anonymous). 

Ulu Earrings, by Mary Jane Nigiyok

Victoria Island

The island is mostly rough stone territory and patches of barren treeless tundra, with a few geographic features; the mountains, the Kuujjua river with its canyons, and just a few shrub dwarf woods. In spring and summer, the land is transformed - green mosses and lichens, small plants and flowers like the always present Purple Saxifrage.

Arctic willow (Salix polaris) wood - most shrubs no taller than 10 cm, a few up to 20 cm.

The Kuujjua river, originated in the center of Victoria Island, flows about 350 km into Minto Inlet on the island's west side, north of Ulukhaktok.

Beginning as a shallow stream, the river runs smoothly across the tundra, gaining speed and volume as it drops through rugged landscape, cutting canyons through basalt cliffs. Fishing the arctic char in the Kuujjua is highly appreciated.

As for History:

Apart some stone remains of the Copper Inuit occupation, the main historic fact was the quest for the route of the Northwest Passage, which took place in the waters around Victoria Island. 

And during the search for the lost Franklin expedition, one of the ships, the “HMS Enterprise”, wintered here in 1851-52, in Winter Cove, an inlet where the sailors built a memory cairn (pillar of stones) with messages inside. The cairn was ment to show the lost men of the Franklin's expedition that Europeans searched for them.

The cairn from 1852 in Winter Cove.

John Rae, Robert McClure and Roald Amundsen are also among those who visited and mapped the island.