Kugluktuk is the westernmost community in Nunavut. It is located north of the Arctic Circle on the Canadian mainland at the mouth of the Coppermine River where it feeds into Coronation Gulf, which is part of the Northwest Passage.
Situated near the border with the Northwest Territories, the scenic valley of the Coppermine River was an ancient source of copper for the Inuit people.
It has a unique microclimate that extends a narrow band of stunted boreal forest trees northwards toward the Arctic Ocean. ‘Kugluktuk’ means ‘place of moving water’ and the root word ‘kugluk’ means ‘waterfall.’ Upriver from this hospitable hamlet is the beautiful Kugluk cascade, also known as Bloody Falls, an ancient fishing and hunting location that is now a territorial park of historic cultural importance.
The Inuit of Kugluktuk speak Inuinnaqtun — a slightly different language from Inuktitut — because they are Copper Inuit people, descendants of the ancient Thule with distinct cultural traditions.
- Thule Culture (Proto-Inuit): 1000 AD to 1600 AD
- Inuit Culture (Eskimo): 1600 AD to present-day
The Copper Inuit were so named because they made arrowheads, spearheads, ulu blades, chisels, harpoons and knives from copper that was sourced along the shores of the Coppermine River. This valuable survival resource, plus the nice local climate with its great hunting and fishing were the same historical reasons why the Dene First Nations people lived here.
The Dene people were the original inhabitants and violent ethnic feuds with the Thule and Inuit people continued for centuries. A sacred healing ceremony to reconcile these ancient native grievances took place in 1996.
The Hudson Bay Company sent an expedition led by Samuel Hearne to search for copper in this area. Hearne followed the storied river to its mouth and named it the Coppermine in 1771. The local Inuit community went by this same name until it was changed in 1996.
In 1865 an influenza epidemic spread along the Coronation Gulf coast, wiping out 30% of the population. From 1913 to 1916, Diamond Jenness, the famous Canadian ethnologist, studied and recorded the traditional lifestyle of Inuit in the Coppermine area.
The Hudson Bay Company established a trading post here in 1927. In 1932 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police built a police station. Radio facilities, weather station, nursing station and a day school soon followed. Oil and gas exploration companies in the 1970s trained and employed a large portion of the local population. In 1996 a permanent peace was made with the Dene people and the community changed its name to Kugluktuk.