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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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The Place That Shines


by Sara Minogue Nunatsiaq News


credits: Qaummaarviit Island, 13 kilometres west of Iqaluit, preserves the perfect imprint of a Thule sod house. There are 11 such sites on the island. (Photo by Sara and Carol Minogu)

Qaummaarviit Historic Park got an overhaul last summer, but the ancient island in Frobisher Bay remains mostly unchanged since Inuit abandoned the camp site over 200 years ago.

Qaummaarviit, or “the place that shines,” is a misty island that sits off the end of Peterhead Inlet, 13 km west of Iqaluit. When the sun is out, mica in the rocks glitters, literally making the island shine. In grey weather, the thick green moss and grass are luminous under the clouds.

The island is the first territorial park in Nunavut to get new signs that will help visitors navigate their way around, but visitors will find they can still wander freely through ancient rock formations.

Just 700 meters long and half as wide, the island is a treasure of artifacts, including sewing and cutting tools, grave sites, tent rings and meat caches.

On the southern tip of the island, visitors can still see the imprint of a Thule sod house: a circle was cut into the ground, rocks were laid, and a narrow entranceway was carved deep on one side. The sod roof, which would sit on a skeleton of whale bones, is no longer there, but the bones are still visible. Lush green grass grows on the site, fertilized from the remains of the seal, caribou, walrus, whale, fox, wolf, dog and birds that were eaten in the house.

The northern tip of the island presents astounding views of the mainland, and the gentle sound of a waterfall just out of sight.

Here you will also find ancient rock piles that were formed centuries ago as graves and meat caches.

In total, there are 11 sod houses on the site that were built and occupied by the Thule Inuit who came to the island 600 years ago. Archeologists have discovered over 3,000 chert, slate, bone and ivory tools on the island.

For now, few tourists make the trip to the isolated park.

Jimmy Noble, who runs a boat with his father, also named Jimmy, has taken 10 boatloads of tourists out to the island in the past two weeks, with eight to 10 people per trip.

David Monteith, the GN’s superintendent of parks and conservation areas, says the number of visitors could quickly increase when Qaummaarviit becomes a historic area within an expanded Sylvia Grinnell Park.

Plans to build a footbridge over the Sylvia Grinnell River have been discussed since the early 1990s.

On Sunday, representatives from the Department of Environment, the Rotary Club, the Trans Canada Highway, and the Canadian armed forces met to talk about a new schedule for the project, which was derailed when the military unit working on it was pulled to Afghanistan.

For now, summer tourists can take a 30-minute boat ride to reach the park. Polynya Adventure and Coordination Ltd. is one of three outfitters coordinating trips this summer, at a cost of $249 per person. Local boaters can visit anytime, but camping is not allowed on site

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