About Sanikiluaq

In the town

Though residents travel to and camp on other parts of the islands, Sanikiluaq is the only permanent settlement in the archipelago. As such it is the hometown for the nearly 800 individuals who live in the community today. It is also the center of administration, trade and communal life. The hamlet council, which includes both young and old members of the community, is responsible for the administration and guidance of services and institutions. The hamlet office is the core of these services and includes departments for Finance, Recreation, Economic Development, Community Lands, Justice, and Alcohol and Drug control. The Nuiyak School serves over 200 students within the community with a 25-person staff and there is also a daycare service (The Najuqsivik Daycare). Adult education is offered by a branch of the Nunavut Arctic College. The health of Sanikiluaq residents is attended to by the local clinic which employs both nurses and a health representative. Dentists, doctors and other specialists also visit the hamlet on a regular basis and there is a permanent prenatal clinic. Information about events in the community can be found on one of the two local radio stations or the local television channel. The RCMP also maintains a detachment in the town.

Other businesses include hotels, construction and a general store. The power needs of the community are supplied by diesel electricity. While most items from the south and mainland can be brought to Sanikiluaq, they are generally more expensive and arrival times are a bit longer as one must wait for deliveries from the mainland. Similarly, the post is less frequent, but nonetheless, mail is delivered and sent out three times a week. There is no local bank in the hamlet, though there is a bank machine.

The distinctive goods produced in Sanikiluaq may be purchased through the local co-op. Local crafts of the region include winter clothes and blankets made with eider down as well as fine basketry constructed with lyme grass. The weaving of such baskets had gone out of practice for some twenty years, but recently, local women have revived the skill. Sculptors from the region are also highly regarded for their stone carvings, often depicting subjects drawn from traditional culture. The argillite used by local sculptors, often of a dark and sometimes green color, is quarried from the region.

Together with the harvesting of local resources and the growth of tourism in the region, sculpture and craft industries are a significant part of culture and trade.

Around Sanikiluaq

The natural resources of Sanikiluaq owe much to its geographic location. The hamlet is on one of the largest islands within the Belcher Island archipelago – Flaherty Island. The town is situated near the shores of Eskimo Bay to the north and Sanikiluaq Lake to the south. The archipelago itself consists of approximately 1500 islands with a land area of around 1300 square kilometres; they are located about 150 kilometres from mainland Quebec in the south eastern part of the Hudson Bay. Though this is the southern most point of Nunavut and is far below the Arctic Circle, the climate is still that of the Arctic tundra. There are no trees on the islands and temperatures are often very cold and accompanied by strong winds. As with many northern islands, the weather is noteworthy for its sudden winter storms and dramatic drops in temperature. Travellers to the island should take this into account.

The Hudson Bay is home to over fifty species of birds that have adjusted to the arctic weather conditions and many of these birds make their home on the island where Sanikiluaq is located. The numerous large cliffs near the hamlet, some as high as 150 metres, are nesting grounds for many species of birds, including the Eider duck. The communities of Sanikiluaq have long depended on the Eider for both food and for their feathers which they have collected from the nearby cliffs. Amongst the other species of birds that live on the island are: loons, Merganser ducks, rock ptarmigan, snow bunting, Peregrine falcons, black guillemot, arctic tern, Lapland longspur and the snowy owl. Many of the birds themselves depend on marine life for food, and the shore beds are home to mussels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers.

Fishing and subsistence hunting remain important to the economy of Sanikiluaq. Local marine life includes beluga whale, walruses, and seals; while polar bears, lemmings, foxes and arctic hare are found on land. Since 1978, reindeer were reintroduced to the region to replace the vanished caribou herds. Aside from the larger marine life, the coast near Sanikiluaq is also home to arctic char, capelin, cod, lump fish and sculpin; in the lakes one can also find char and white fish. In light of the importance of the natural environment, during the 1990s, the community of Sanikiluaq took a leading role in addressing risks to the marine ecology and wildlife of the region, spearheading a movement to observe and assess risks to the environment posed by the development of hydroelectric dams.