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Helping Community Elders Tell the Stories of Canada’s Frozen North

At the Itqaumavit Welcome Park – where the fascinating history of Cambridge Bay is honoured and retold – a new audio app will relate the past through the authentic voices of the community

Nestled in a natural harbour on Victoria Island,not far from the north coast of Canada’s mainland, lies the hamlet of Cambridge Bay. Once a safe haven for European explorers seeking the fabled Northwest Passage, and later a remoteoutpost,Cambridge Bayhas an important place in the history of this area.  

For 4,000 years, successive waves of people have travelled and settled here, leaving behind artefacts including stone longhouses, Inuksuk stone cairns,and copper tools.Later, Inuit people would come, naming this place Iqaluktuttiaqwhich means ‘good fishing place’.  

Later still came the European explorers, who were followed in the 1920s by more permanent outposts setup by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Hudson's Bay Company.  

Preserving historical buildings from the pioneering days 

Those historic outposts were old clapboardcabins built at a time when there were few claims on the land. But thesevenerable, weathered buildings were gradually surroundedas more people settled here to live and work – reaching 1,766 in2016. In that year,the buildings were finally scheduled for demolition, until local people intervened to get them moved instead.  

That was how the Itqaumavit Welcome Park began – with these characterful old buildings being painstakingly transported to the new heritage park where they would be joined by other artefacts that could help preserve the area’s rich history.  

Preserving historical buildings from the pioneering days 

Those historic outposts were old clapboardcabins built at a time when there were few claims on the land. But thesevenerable, weathered buildings were gradually surroundedas more people settled here to live and work – reaching 1,766 in2016. In that year,the buildings were finally scheduled for demolition, until local people intervened to get them moved instead.  

That was how the Itqaumavit Welcome Park began – with these characterful old buildings being painstakingly transported to the new heritage park where they would be joined by other artefacts that could help preserve the area’s rich history.  

Physical reminders to inspire the memory

Alongside the carefully repositioned old buildings at Itqaumavit Welcome Park lie an array of artifacts on display. These include an aircraft propellor dredged from the bottom of Cambridge Bay, the first fishing boat, a rusted Jeep found near the old stone church, and part of the Loran Tower – a 189metre mast that served for decades as a beacon for aircraft and returning hunters.  

These historical artefacts are also joined by stunning metal sculptures of the wildlife that has inhabited the region since time immemorial, including Arctic wolves and muskoxen.  

Keeping the past alive through the elders 

A key motivation for gathering the many historical elements in the Itqaumavit Welcome Park was to spur storytelling by the community elders about how they used to live. To this end, a team of volunteers are building a ‘sitting wall’ of carefully fitted stone so the ancient history can be retold alongside the more recent.  

Moreover, the project includes renovating the 100-year-old wooden buildings so they can be used as teaching facilities, with displays and exhibitions of artefacts from the local area. With this resource, the elders will have more opportunities to mentor the youth of the area, who can then carry their knowledge and history down to future generations. 

Spreading the stories wider with a storytelling app  

Building on this success, the Municipality of Cambridge Bay is now working to spread this knowledge more widely than in-person storytelling can manage alone. 

With support from Hurtigruten Foundation of NOK 100,000 (approx. USD 11,500), the Municipality is developing an interactive audio app. This will explain and interpret the pieces of history that are gathered in the park by relaying the stories of the elders who know so much about the area’s history. 

The app will be accessible to visitors before they arrive and while they are in the park. This will help to spread the unique knowledge and history of Cambridge Bay to more people in a way that will deepen their experience of the place –perfectly complementing Hurtigruten’s expedition cruises to the area.  

About the Itqaumavit Welcome Park  

Envisioned as a gathering place to celebrate, mourn, learn and teach, this heritage park supports the community, welcomes visitors, and educates the residents and tourists of Cambridge Bay about the unique history and culture here.  

 Where can I learn more? 

You can read more about the hamlet of Cambridge Bay on the Municipality’s website: https://www.cambridgebay.ca/