Located in the heart of Hudson Bay in the Belcher Islands, Sanikiluaq is an Inuit community of 750 residents. It is the southernmost community in Nunavut, about 150 kilometres off the west coast of Nunavik, Quebec. The Islands are distinctly arctic where no trees grow.
The Inuit have inhabited the Belchers Islands for centuries. The Thule and Dorset cultures occupied the Islands as evidenced by many sites. The Islands first came to the attention of outsiders after Henry Hudson spotted them in 1610. Then about 1840s, Thomas Wiegand, a servant of the Hudson's Bay Company, led an exploration party
from Fort George (Chisasibi), Quebec to the Belchers. Robert Flaherty and his crew, some 75 years later were the first Qallunaat (people with brushy eyebrows) to winter on the Islands.
The Inuit survived in the Belcher Islands through their ingenuity. In the 1800s when caribou disappeared from the islands (due to starvation after freezing rain conditions), women began sewing winter parkas from eider duck skins. The men were renowned for their knowledge of ice fields, and their dogs and sleds with ivory runners were popular trade items during annual trips to mainland posts. The men were respected as well for their qajaking skills and the two-person qajaq (kayak) that they navigated adeptly around the islands and the bay.
A Hudson's Bay Company trading post first opened in 1928 and operated sporadically until the 1950s. The permanent trading post was relocated from Tukarak Island to Eskimo Harbour in 1961. At the same time, the federal government built a school in the southern settlement of South Camp. Up until 1971, the two settlements of South Camp and North Camp existed, when the federal government centralized its services and moved its buildings and inhabitants of South Camp to North Camp. Today, Sanikiluaq is a growing modern community with an economy based on subsistence hunting, distinct soapstone carvings, fishing, basket making and some tourism.
The hamlet of Sanikiluaq is named after a man who's exploits of being a fast runner became legend. He, himself, claimed to outrun wolves. Sanikiluaq, the child, having been left for dead in an empty iglu, grew up to be a good hunter and leader of his camp and spent most of his winters in the present location of the community.
Most of the small islands in the archipelago provide nesting grounds for several species of ducks and geese. Most of the species that nest in the Belcher Islands or visit here are marine birds, including common eider, king eider, red-throated loon, common loon, arctic loon, canada snow, and brant geese, merganser, black guillemot, arctic tern and sea gulls. The common eider spends the winter around the islands.
There are also a few land birds such as rock ptarmigan, snowy owl, rough-legged hawk, peregrine falcon, horned lark, Lapland longspur, snow bunting, and a few others.
Arctic char are found in the rivers, lakes, and offshore waters, while whitefish can be found in the lakes. Coastal waters are a home to cod, capelin, and sculpin. The islands are also home to ringed seal, bearded seal, harbour seal, beluga whale, walrus and polar bear. The largest lake in the islands is also home to the harbour seal.
On the tundra there is fox, reindeer, arctic hare, weasel, lemming and the rare wolf. The reindeer were introduced in 1978 from the Western Arctic. Seafoods are also abundant in some areas. They include mussels, scallops, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish, and kelp.