Dogsleds to snowmobiles
Sled dogs were traditionally essential to survival in Nunavik; they helped Inuit move around the territory, detect the thickness of ice on bodies of water, orient during storms and more.
Taamusi Qumaq, an elder from Puvirnituq, discusses the use of dogsleds of the past and snowmobiles today:
“Long ago, our dogs were very useful since they were the only means of transportation that allowed us to find food in the winter when we had to travel for extended periods of time… Some dogs knew the territory very well and didn’t get lost in storms or in foggy weather, when even I couldn’t find my way. My dogs helped me a lot.”
My two sons have dogs, still today, and they travel by dogsled during the winter. They also have snowmobiles, but gas is very expensive, and, nowadays, money for gas is sometimes difficult to come by. This is why, during certain times of the year, we only use dogsleds to travel… “
The traditional use of dogsleds in Nunavik was impacted by the presence of police officers in Nunavik between 1950-1960. Police officers were told to shot stray dogs to control the population. The government used rabies as a pretext. Many Inuit claim that the government’s goal was to encourage Inuit to adapt more sedentary lifestyles. In 2007, the Inuit, Qikiqtani Truth Commission, began investigating what happened. Eventually, this led to a government apology and financial compensation for some Inuit.
Note: Taamusi’s story was adapted by Jacques Maurais, Director of Les langues autochtones du Québec- Conseil de la langue française, in 1992! The reality he describes may not be typical in Nunavik today, where dogsled use for hunting is even less common. Today racing teams keep the tradition alive.
Makivvik. Dog Slaughters. Consulted on January 25, 2024.
Qikiqtani Inuit Association. QIA applauds the Quebec government for acknowledging Nunavik dog slaughter. Consulted on January 25, 2024.
Based on texts from the Récit de l’univers social. Adapted and updated by LEARN.