During Amundsen’s visit, Gjoa Haven was one of the places the Netsilik spent time during their annual migration through the Arctic landscape.
Towards the end of the 1920s, the trading station became the first permanent building in Gjoa Haven. The missionaries followed. The Netsilik started settling here permanently in the 1950s.
Today Gjoa Haven is the largest of the three communities in the Netsilik area.
Gjoa Haven 1903-1905
From Gjoa Haven, King William Island. Photographs: Roald Amundsen’s expedition
Gjoa Haven 2011
Today Gjoa Haven is a community with shops, schools, a clinic and an airport. Nevertheless, hunting and fishing are still impor- tant to people. Although hunters use skidoos and prefer to sleep in hunting cabins rather than in igloos these days, the harpoon is still their first choice when hunting seals at breathing holes on the ice.
The University of Oslo is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2011. The Museum of Cultural History is marking this anniversary by returning some of the objects from our Netsilik collection to Gjoa Haven. The objects represent aspects of everyday Netsilik life: housekeeping, hunting and fishing. In this context, the harpoon is a key object.
A proposal for the return of fifteen objects was presented to the hamlet council in Gjoa Haven in May 2011. The council responded with enthusiasm. One factor in selecting the objects was that they could tolerate the journey. Another was the number of examples the Oslo museum has of a particular type of object.
We consider this repatriation significant in terms of cultural policy. The repatriation represents the return of a part of Netsilik cultural heritage. This is in keeping with the spirit of Roald Amundsen. It also marks a further step in the history of cooperation between Norway and Canada in the field of Arctic history.
The Netsilik Inuit have been recognised as skilled artists since the end of the 1970’s. Their vibrant soapstone sculptures are particularly impressive. Netsilik art unites Inuit traditions with the present. Myths and legends are often used as themes for the sculptures. The themes give the Netsilik people a distinctive identity in the market for Inuit art.
The main pioneers of Netsilik art were the brothers Nelson Takkiruq and Judas Ullulaq from Gjoa Haven and Charlie Ugyuk from Taloyoak. They are no longer with us. However, their work has inspired a whole new generation of artists. Among these are Wayne Puqiqnak and Leo Uttaq.
In spring 2011, the museum was able to purchase several sculptures from Gjoa Haven artists. The art market now opens economic opportunities for talented Netsilik artists. A new tradition has emerged. It is taken for granted that these artists also spend a significant amount of time out on the land hunting and fishing. To be recognised as a good hunter as well as a well-known artist gives high status in Gjoa Haven.
PublishedJan. 20, 2021 10:53 AM
- Last modifiedMar. 8, 2021 9:15 AM