Cape Dorset, in Canada’s eastern Arctic, considers returning to Inuktitut name

Residents of Cape Dorset, Nunavut, will vote this fall on whether to change the community’s name. (Travis Burke/CBC)
The Nunavut community of Cape Dorset could go back to its traditional name.

The community was named by English explorer Luke Fox, some 400 years ago. Its Inuktitut name is Kinngait, but Inuit say it was previously known as Sikusiilaq.

Nunavut Tunngavik is leading a name-change initiative across the territory — it reached out to English-named communities in March. Fourteen of Nunavut’s 25 communities are in this group.

“I am writing to you to encourage you and your council to consider changing your municipalities’ name officially to its Inuktut name,” the letter from Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik, said.

“In my view, changing the name to the Inuktut name would be a meaningful and public way to reclaim Inuktut within Nunavut. It would be a small but very important gesture, in the wake of our declining language.”

‘I am writing to you to encourage you and your council to consider changing your municipalities’ name officially to its Inuktut name,’ says NTI president Aluki Kotierk in a letter to Nunavut communities. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Kotierk told CBC that there is an opportunity this year, as the UN has declared it the Year of Indigenous Languages.

“Also [it’s been] 25 years since the Nunavut agreement was signed. So it’s a time to reflect on, ‘What did we envision? How to we reclaim who we wanted to be?'”

Residents in Cape Dorset will decide whether to go with the name change during municipal elections this fall.

Timoon Toonoo is the mayor of Cape Dorset.

“It will be changed if it has to, and it can only be done by law,” said Toonoo. “So we will follow the voting process that we follow here.”

Other Nunavut communities have not yet decided whether they plan to change their names.

With files from Jordan Konek

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s new Indigenous languages law does not protect Inuit languages, leaders say, CBC News

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska Iñupiaq leaders hope Barrow’s name change to Utqiaġvik helps heal and teach, Alaska Dispatch News

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