About Kinngait

The community of Kinngait, formerly Cape Dorset, is located at 64' 14" North, 76' 32' West on Dorset Island off the Foxe Peninsula in southwest Baffin Island. The elevation at the airstrip is 56 m. Kinngait is 402 air km southwest of Iqaluit, and 1,891 km northeast of Yellowknife.

It was at Kinngait that the remains of an ancient Inuit people, who flourished between 1000 BC and 1100 AD, were first found. They were called the "Dorset Culture" after Cape Dorset. The Baffin Inuit of Kinngait, descendents of later Thule culture people, know them in legends as the tuniit.

The Cape itself was named by Captain Luke Foxe on September 24, 1631, after Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset. Sackville, a Lord of the Admiralty, was one of Foxe's sponsors in his unsuccessful attempt to find the Northwest Passage. The "Cape" on Dorset Island is actually a 243 m high mountain, part of the Kingnait Range. "Kingnait" means "high mountains" in Inuktitut and is hence the Inuit name for the community.

Kinngait is noted among ornithologists as an entry point to the nesting ground of the Blue Goose. It was from Kinngait, in 1929, that the naturalist Dr. Dewey Soper (Kaimiati) set out to discover their nest near Foxe Basin. The Bird sanctuary to the northeast of Kinngait is now called the Dewey Soper Bird Sanctuary.

The Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post in 1913. A Roman Catholic mission established in 1938, but closed in 1960 as the majority of the residents are of the Anglican faith. In 1947 the well-known Arctic supply ship RMS Nascopie struck an uncharted reef at the harbour’s entrance and sank. The ship and its cargo were lost, but the passengers and crew were saved; Kinngait residents in memory of the disaster built the cairn. The cairn is located by the RCMP office.

In 1949, the market for white fox collapsed. The poor economic situation put lot of people through hardship and lot of people had to go back to the old way of supporting their family. People in Kinngait area didn't have any sickness like spinal meningitis, influenza and typhoid until late 40s and the 1950s. A federal nursing station was established at Kinngait in the 50s to help avert such epidemics.

In 1953, the local Inuit of Kinngait built the Anglican Church on their own initiative. The material and shipping cost was pick-up by Dioceses of the Arctic. In the same year Settlement Administrator (Artist) James Houston arrived in the community. Mr. Houston and his wife were to spend ten years at Kinngait; with the help of local people they started to recruited gifted artists, encouraging carving and handicraft production and introducing printmaking. The west Baffin Eskimo Co-operative was formed in 1959, and in that year the first major exhibition of Kinngait Inuit sculpture was held at the Stratford Festival. It was a success, and carving and graphic art have become an economic mainstay of the community.

Total Population: 1,527