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    Heiko Wittenborn


Meaning: Central prong of a kakivak
Population: 536

Akulivik takes its name from surrounding geography. A peninsula jutting into Hudson Bay between two small bodies of water, the area evokes the shape of a kakivak, a traditional, trident-shaped spear used for fishing. To the south is the mouth of the Illukotat River and to the north is a deep bay which forms a natural port and protects the village against strong winds. Ice around the peninsula tends to break up particularly early in the spring, making the area good for hunting. The soil around Akulivik carries vestiges of the last ice age: its white, sandy texture are the crumbly remains of fossilized seashells.

The area around Akulivik teems with game. The many lakes of the region abound in fish and the Cape Smith Range, or Qimiit in Inuktitut, are the natural habitat of ptarmigan, arctic hare and foxes. Numerous islands near the village are the summer refuge of various species of birds. Just a few minutes from Akulivik is Smith Island, known as Qikirtajuaq by Inuit and one of their traditional hunting grounds. The steady currents of Hudson Bay make it favourable habitat for marine wildlife and flora. In winter, Akulivimmiut practise a unique method of harvesting mussels in nearby shallow waters. After piercing holes through the ice, they use a hooped net fixed to one end of a long pole to scoop mussels from the sea floor.

Akulivik was incorporated as a community in 1976. However, the history of the area goes back thousands of years. Relatively recently in 1610, the explorer Henry Hudson passed by Qikirtajuaq. Later, in 1750 the island was given the name Smith Island in honour of Sir Thomas Smith, merchant, first Governor of The Company of Adventurers and discoverer of the North-west Passage.

In 1922, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established a post on the site of today’s settlement. The outpost was moved to a more strategic and accessible point on Qikirtajuaq, in 1926. Inuit at that time were still living all along the coast. However, over time some groups began to congregate around the trading post. Between 1922 and 1955, the area where Akulivik is located today was the summer camp of these groups. By 1933 according to HBC records, there were about 140 Inuit living on Qikirtajuaq. In 1952, the post was closed, forcing the now somewhat sedentary groups to move to Puvirnituq, the next closest trading post.

The displaced people, however, never forgot the land where they had grown up. In 1973, one family moved back to the area. The following year, many others followed and, together, they built the village of Akulivik.


Smith Island for its natural beauty and, in the spring, for the thousands of migratory Canada and snow geese.
Wildlife observation.

Source: Nunavik Tourism Association

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