For about 14,15 years we lived at Nanisivik. I was just a young mother with three kids: one from my stomach and the other two adopted. We were in Hall Beach. My boyfriend at the time, he’d been working there for a year already when we got our ticket to move to Nanisivik. I think that was 1987, and we lived there ‘til closing time. Sometimes I’m still homesick.
I thought it was going to be like Arctic Bay; like Inuit communities, but when my boyfriend drove me to our house, I thought, Oh my goodness! It was beautiful. Quiet, not many people, and it had everything except dishes. All they said was “Welcome to Nanisivik” or “Welcome to your new home,” and Newfoundlanders would drop off some dishes or something to cook with. They just donated it, eh?
It was a really nice house. Like a dome—it looked like an igloo but light blue or yellow. Made out of wood, and we had a long upstairs, three bedrooms and two washrooms. It was awesome. My aunt and her husband even came to live with us there for years and years.
My boyfriend drove loaders and worked as a grinder, and pretty soon I hired a nanny and started working in the mill kitchen. I had to go way, way down from the town, into the hill but not underground. You could still see out the window. So I worked in the kitchen for about two years and then when my boss left, I went to the big dome kitchen, where the families all ate. Big, big kitchen.
For the mothers, we worked eight or nine hours a day, and the fathers worked more like 12 hours. Sometimes they would go on night shift, every two to four weeks, but we ladies were more like daytime workers. After the kitchen, I moved to the daycare and that was awesome. Not very many kids, but we had quite a few Newfies, and they always pushed their kids to learn more Inuktitut. And they were learning from their Inuit employees too.
There was one Newfie, even, who ran a video store out of his house. He was a miner, but he had so many movies; his walls were filled with movies, and we used to rent VHS and then DVDs from him. He wanted his son to learn Inuktitut, so he spent a lot of time with the Inuit, running that video room.
Ah, I loved the Newfies. Really nice people. Friendly, and I don’t think I really noticed many French people at all. The least I saw were Inuit people. Mostly from Arctic Bay and not many from Hall Beach.
With the Newfies and Inuit, everything was smooth and working well. We had really nice parties with lots of songs. But when these two French guys showed up, that’s when we started having more parties. And when that happened, things started getting kind of…scribbly. How would I put it? It was like things started to scribble out. But avoiding them, things still went smoothly and it was still a nice place to live. Quiet, and you could always go to Arctic Bay, look at the Inuit tents, see them hunting, see how they lived.
And my kids were growing better in Nanisivik; they were learning English and French. In some ways that was not really good because when we went back to Hall Beach for holidays, their grandmother didn’t really understand them. So we were taking more holidays in order to keep our language for them. And flights were free for kids under ten, so that worked out really well. I didn’t want my kids to lose their own language, so I was taking more holidays to bring them south.
I was on holiday in Hall Beach when they told us the mine was closing down. They said in two or three months time, the Inuit will go home first and then five of the bosses would be the last people to leave. And that’s when I stopped answering the phone. I told my boyfriend, “I don’t want to hear about it because you left me here in Hall Beach.” I was so mad at him for not letting me stay there at closing time. Because it was a better place for my two boys. They were growing there. There were getting A pluses here and there and they had better friends. Hurt me so much, I think it took me two years to get over, and sometimes I still miss it. But there was no other choice.
At closing time, they said, “you can take everything. It’s all yours.” And my son still has all the stuff he had in Nanisivik. I took my pictures and still have a Thermos that says Nanisivik Mines on it. And I took two pieces of zinc, two rocks. I love them so much I won’t even let my youngest boy play with them.
After we got back to Hall Beach, my boyfriend changed right away. Coming back and forth, he was always okay, but when the mine closed down, he changed pretty much instantly and that’s why I had to get away from him. Because he thought he was never going to find another job like that, eh? He used to be a funny, laughing guy, but he turned into a really quiet person. And I didn’t like that, so it got worse. I got really pissed off at him and we had more anger between us. I told myself, I won’t stop talking. I wouldn’t stop saying, “I’m homesick, I’m homesick, I just want to go back home to Nanisivik.” Because that was my home for so many years.
Eventually, he found a new job doing DEW Line site work. But still, he got more and more aggressive and I moved to Iqaluit. Didn’t last long in Hall Beach, maybe a year or less. I went to the women’s shelter and stayed there for a little less than a year. I stayed in Iqaluit for three years before moving to Igloolik. That was four years ago.
I have a new son now, but the girl I adopted with my ex-boyfriend—her name is Salomie—I don’t know her very much, but I know her as Princess Salomie. She’s maybe 12 years old now, 14? I even forgot her age.
This Mary River thing, I’m in love with it. Just hearing about it through the radio and at the meetings, I really want them to make it. When they open it, it will be awesome. And the people who will work there, I think, Lucky people! Because meeting new friends, having a new job—I find it beautiful. The people who work there will get to take a break from the same place where they’re standing right now. Staying on one place for years and years, if you’re on welfare? That’s not good.
At Nanisivik, I found everything to be more friendly. More contact with more people. More smiles. Only once in a very blue moon did I meet a grumpy person.
I go the meetings about the Mary River project, but I don’t know where to send my resumé. I don’t know who’s going to be the contact person to take the resumés and all that. They keep moving it around and that’s why it’s really confusing. Who do you take your resume to?
That’s pretty much everything I have to say. Except I still miss it; I can’t say that enough. I’m still homesick.”