About Iqaluit: History

Iqaluit, Inuktitut for "place of many fish," is located near the mouth of the Sylvia Grinnell River that empties into the bay named after Martin Frobisher, the Englishman in search of the Northwest Passage. Besides thinking he had discovered the Passage, Frobisher believed that he had discovered gold on an island in the bay, but it was only fool's gold that he took home to England. Between 1955 and 1987 the settlement of Iqaluit was known as Frobisher's Bay.

History of Iqaluit

1576 - Sir Martin Frobisher sails into the entrance of the Bay, believing this is a strait and that he has found the route to China.

1861 - Charles Francis Hall arrives at Frobisher's "Straites," having learned from a local hunter named Koojesse that this is in fact a bay and not the fabled Northwest Passage. On his trip, Hall camps on the banks of a river opening into a narrow inlet. The river he names Sylvia Grinnell and the Inlet Koojesse, after his guide and geographer.

1800's - Commercial whaling brings men, ships and trade to the Frobisher Bay area.

1880 - The British Government transfers sovereignty of the Arctic Archipelago to the Canadian government.

Early 1900's - Collapse of whaling, rise of the fur trade. The Catholic and Anglican churches gain strongholds in the Arctic through the work of missionaries.

1914 - The Hudson's Bay Company opens a trading post at Ward Inlet, forty miles from Iqaluit's current location.

1920's -Hudson Bay trading posts are set up throughout Baffin Island. The founding of RCMP posts in Eastern and High Arctic establishes Canadian Sovereignty.

1930's - Fur prices crash; many southern traders withdraw. This leads to hard times for Inuit as game has been over-hunted and southern commodities have become scarce.

1942 - U.S. Air Force selects Koojesse Inlet as the site of a major airbase.

1943 - The American Airstrip is operational and the Hudson's Bay Company moves its trading post to Apex, in part to take advantage of improved transportation and communication technologies offered by the airbase, and in part to better serve the Inuit who have moved farther up the bay.

1955-57 - The new settlement of Frobisher Bay becomes center for DEW line construction operations. This huge project brings tons of supplies and hundreds of men into the area. By 1957 the population is approximately 1,200, 489 of whom are Inuit.

1959 - The Canadian Federal government begins bringing doctors, teachers, administrators, clerks and support staff to the establishing area. Inuit begin in large numbers to settle permanently at Frobisher Bay and at the community at Apex (Niaqunngut).

1960-63 - Frobisher Bay is the location of a U.S. Strategic Air Command Unit. By 1963, when the American Air Force leaves, Frobisher Bay has become the Canadian government administration, communications and transportation center for the Eastern Arctic.

June 1964 - The first community council is formed.

1970 - Frobisher Bay is officially recognized as a settlement.

1974 - Frobisher Bay is officially recognized as a village.

1976 - The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) proposes the creation of the Nunavut Territory.

1979 - Frobisher Bay's first Mayor is elected.

1980 - Frobisher Bay is officially designated as a town.

1987 - Frobisher Bay officially becomes Iqaluit, reverting to its original Inuktitut name.

May 1993 - Signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in Iqaluit.

December 1995 - Iqaluit is selected to be the capital of the new territory of Nunavut.

April 1, 1999 - The new Territory of Nunavut officially comes into being. National and International politicians, media and tourists flock to Iqaluit for the ceremonies and celebrations.

April 19, 2001 - Iqaluit receives it's Order of Official Status as a City.

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