Meaning: Little great river
Kuujjuarapik is nestled in golden sand dunes at the mouth of the Great Whale River. Beyond the village, the land is rather flat; a carpet of moss and rock unfold as far as the eye can see. From the crest of the dunes, there is a good view of Hudson Bay and the Manitounuk Islands which are just a little to the north along the coast. These breath-taking islands are representative of the Hudsonian cuestas that rise along the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. They are characterized by rocky beaches on the side facing the open sea and vertiginous cliffs on the coastal side. The Manitounuk Islands constitute an ideal shelter for birds, seal, whale and beluga. About 12 km up the Great Whale River, there is an enchanting waterfall, the Amitapanuch Falls.
Kuujjuarapik is Nunavik's southernmost village. It is also unique as it is a bicultural community of Inuit and Cree. The Cree community is called Whapmagootsui (where there are whales, in the Cree language). This village is also officially designated Poste-de-la-Baleine, making it one of the few places in Canada with three official names. It is important to note that about 150 Inuit also live amongst the Cree in Chisasibi (Mailasik), a village a little more southwest, in James Bay.
Ancestors of the Inuit, as well as Cree, have occupied the area for roughly 2800 years. In the 18th century, hunters travelled throughout the region setting up camps on Richmond Gulf, Little Whale River and Great Whale River. The Hudson's Bay Company opened a trading post called Great Whale River in 1820 on the site of today's Kuujjuarapik. The main activities at the post were processing whale products of the commercial whale hunt and trading furs. An Anglican mission was established in 1882 and a Catholic mission in 1890. Although the federal government set up a weather station in Great Whale River in 1895, it only started providing some medical assistance and policing services through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the first half of the 20th century.
The village itself started to develop in the late 1930s. During World War II, the United States built in Kuujjuarapik a military base and airport, which they turned over to the Canadian government in 1948. This base was also the control station of the Mid-Canada Line, a line of military radar stations constructed in 1955 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson Bay along the 55th parallel. The population of Kuujjuarapik decreased significantly however in 1985 when many families, fearing the negative impacts of the Great Whale River hydro-electric project, decided to relocate to Umiujaq, another Inuit community about 160 km north of Kuujjuarapik.
Manitounuk Islands: incredible cuestas and abundant wildlife.
The old church: fresco by Eddy Weetaluktuk representing Christ walking on the waters of the Great Whale River.
At Asimautaq School: superb collection of Inuit carvings and paintings by Eddy Weetaluktuk.
For more information:
Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik: 819-929-3360
Sakkuq Landholding Corporation (for Kuujjuaraapik): 819-929-3348
Kigaluk Landholding Corporation (for Chisasibi): 819-855-1881