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Western Arctic Region

Ulukhaktok (known as Holman until 1 April, 2006)


Ulukhaktok (Holman)


Ulukhaktok (Holman) c.1960


A stone bladed ulu

Ulukhaktok is a small community of under 400 people on the west coast of Victoria Island. Ulukhaktok means the “place where ulu parts are found” or “a large bluff where we used to collect raw material to make ulus”. While the community was given its name in the 1920s following the establishment of a Hudson’s Bay Company, Inuit had long traveled to collect the slate and copper found in the nearby large bluff. The community is also sometimes known as Holman Island, which, however, is the name of the small island to the south.

Interestingly, Ulukhaktok is also the location of the world’s most northerngolf course and hosts the "Billy Joss Open Celebrity Golf Tournament" every summer.


Billy Joss Open Celebrity Golf Tournament


Billy Joss Open Celebrity Golf Tournament

While Holman is renown for its prints it has also been producing sculpture, in whalebone, ivory, muskox horn, and stone, since the early 1960s.

Kugluktuk (Coppermine)


Kugluktuk (Coppermine)


Kugluktuk (Coppermine) sunset

Kugluktuk lies to the west of Cambridge Bay sitting astride the Coppermine River close to the westernmost point of Nunavut. Yellowknife (NWT) lies 600 kilometres to the south. The Coronation Gulf, a relatively narrow sea passage separates the mainland coast from Victoria Island at this point, a vital route on the Northwest Passage.

The Coppermine River has been of primary importance in the region, beginning as the site of semi-permanent Inuit fishing and sealing camps from ancient times. In more relatively recent history explorer Samuel Hearne (the first European to reach the region) traveled there in 1771 on the orders of the Hudson’s Bay Company to find the source of the copper being traded by Inuit at company posts to the south. Hearne gave the river its name, and left behind western disease in the form of influenza that spread along the coast and wiped out 30% of the population by 1865. Coppermine came back to life at the turn of the century, following the arrival of Diamond Jenness, an ethnologist with the Canadian Arctic Expedition, who studied and recorded the traditional lifestyle of Inuit in the area. The Hudson’s Bay company established a post in 1927 and the RCMP arrived in 1932. Oil and gas exploration in the 1970’s provided training and employment for a large portion of the population.


Samuel Hearne (1745-1792)
was the first European to reach the Kugluktuk
(Coppermine) region


Diamond Jenness (1886-1969)
Ethnologist, Anthropologist, Arctic Scholar,
Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), 1912–-19


Kugluktuk (Coppermine) people, Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), 1912-19


Hearne on his journey to the Coppermine in 1770


Kugluktuk (Coppermine) people, Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), 1912–-19

The Inuit name was originally Qurluktuk, meaning "the place of moving water" in Inuinnaqtun* which reflects its location near the Coppermine River. The language was lost in the process of a recent re-naming of the town, and with typical wry Inuit humour, Kugluktuk officially means "two startled people".


Agnes Topiak (1905-?)


Peggy Ekagina (1919-)

Copper Inuit, so called because they fashioned tools and weapons from copper, gathered at the mouth of the Coppermine River for over a millennium to fish and hunt. Unsurprisingly, copper, whalebone, antler and wood are used in the small sculptural depictions of traditional Inuit life.

* Inuinnaqtun is an indigenous language of Canada related very closely to Inuktitut, believed to be a dialect of Inuktitut. The government of Nunavut lists it as one of its official languages alongside Inuktitut. Inuinnaqtun is used primarily in the communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk in the western Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. To a smaller extent it is also spoken in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. Outside of Nunavut it is spoken in the hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, where it is called Kangiryuarmiutun. It is written using the Latin alphabet.