Inukpuk is the mayor of Kujuaraapik. He has a beautiful camp just outside of the community that we visited to talk with him informally. He took us up on a hill to show us where his family used to live in the traditional way. There was no sign of their presence on the land.
What does it feel like to be the mayor?
It’s my first year. First year of being mayor. I was acting-mayor before that, but I’m still learning what it feels like, [laughter]
It’s a good experience. I’m still learning a lot of things.
This place is different because of the combined town with Crees and Inuit. To me I get along with the Cree Band S Council. We’re working together and this is what the community needs because we share things like the airport and even the dump, [laughter]
We have to work close together. At least this has been my experience.
You’ve seen a lot of changes in Kuujjuaraapik. Can you share some with us?
Before that James Bay Agreement the community was treated as a single community whether you were an Inuit or a Cree. We had to work together, go to a single school and work in the same council office. We thought that was normal and we shared things. We talked one subject, one community. It was good. Now we have two sets of communities for two different reasons. That’s what I have seen and it’s a big difference. We have to work in different ways because the Agreement makes us talk in different ways today.
How about in the past compared to now. Are the hunting styles similar?
Yes, in the way we still do hunting. Economically, it’s hard to do that right now because the materials and equipment are very expensive.
There’s not too many people working right now. There’s no jobs available. So the council is helping with such things as getting boats to help people get to where they want to go hunting or fishing.
Economically, there’s a problem that makes it difficult to practice traditional hunting.
I’ve noticed even the basic food supplies are expensive here?
Yes, it’s expensive and the taxes are too high for this far north. Canoes, outboard motors and guns are too expensive here.
Everyday necessities such as food cost a lot. If you have a big family it is hard to support them. The food cost goes up each year, but incomes stay the same. Clothing is expensive.
Do you think there should be northern allowance subsidies for communities that are as far north and as isolated as yours?
I wouldn’t say no to that. It’s something we need.
What type of economic activity would you see for Kuujjuaraapik?
I would like to see a hunting type of job program where hunters would go out to get food for the community members. It would give some people jobs and it would make life a little easier for others.
Another thing I don’t see enough of is self-employment. People aren’t creating enough small businesses here. People need a lot of money to start a business here and that’s a big problem. There’s some programs that have been tried, but they haven’t been as successful as we’d have liked.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank you for coming to talk to me. As I said there’s two communities and we get along pretty well. It’s something that we have grown up with, but we know we have to work in two separate ways.