Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths
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Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths

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John Ahni Schertow
April 2, 2011
 

Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths examines a controversy not widely known in southern Canada: the historic slaughter of thousands of sled dogs — an essential part of Inuit life and culture — in the Canadian Arctic from 1955 to the late 1960s.

For the Inuit, sled dogs symbolized a way of life as well as a deep connection to the land. They depended upon the dogs for hunting, transportation and companionship: They were essential to survival. But from the 1950s to the 1960s, the Inuit’s semi-nomadic way of life all but vanished. The sled dog population dropped from an estimated 20,000 to just a few hundred dogs.

Many Inuit believe the dogs were deliberately killed by the RCMP as part of a government policy to force them off the land and into “civilization.” The RCMP, however, denies any conscious policy on their part. With the influx of people into settled communities, they argue, the sled dogs became redundant. Qimmit, an Inuit term for “many dogs”, explores the mystery of how and why the sled dogs disappeared, a mystery that has left deep wounds across Canada’s Arctic.

A “truth commission” for Nunavut ultimately concluded that there was no formal policy or conspiracy to “destroy” the Inuit’s way of life.

That may very well be true. Nevertheless, the decimation of the sled dog population ensured that the Inuit way of life would never be the same again.

Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths, was co-produced by Piksuk Media and the National Film Board of Canada. The film won the Rigoberta Menchu Second Prize at the 20th First Peoples’ Festival Awards in 2010.

You may also want to watch this short “Introduction to Qimmit” by Dr. Frank Tester. Thanks to the Nanisiniq Project for noting the film on their website.

Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths offers an overview of the changes experienced by the Inuit from 1950-1970 with their loss of sled dogs and semi-nomadic lifestyle. A controversial issue at the time, many Inuit still believe that their dogs were deliberately killed by the RCMP as part of government policy to force them off the land.

For the Inuit, the sled dog symbolized a way of life as well as a deep connection to the land. They depended upon the dogs for hunting, transportation and companionship: They were essential to survival. But from the 1950s to the 1970s, the Inuit’s semi-nomadic way of life all but vanished. The sled dog population dropped from an estimated 20,000 to just a few hundred dogs. Many Inuit believe the dogs were deliberately killed by the RCMP as part of a government policy to force them off the land – and into “civilization.” The RCMP denies there was any conscious policy on their part. With the influx of people into settled communities, they argue, the sled dogs became redundant. Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths explores the mystery of how and why the sled dogs disappeared, a mystery that has left deep wounds across Canada’s Arctic.

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