Naujaaraaluit Hotel boosts Inuit organization in Clyde River

Clyde River's newest hotel is more than a business — it's a way to help the Inuit-run Ilisaqsivik Society provide programs that build and inspire the community.

'We want to start taking over everything that has to do with our lives': Mayor Jerry Natanine

Local Inuit began the Ilisaqsivik Society in 1997 after Clyde River saw a number of suicides. The community organization has been providing mental health services ever since. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

Clyde River's new Naujaaraaluit Hotel is more than a business — it's a way to help the Ilisaqsivik Society provide programs that build and inspire the community.

From counselling to free internet access to school breakfast programs, the Inuit organization has been working in the community since 1997. But, since the beginning, Ilisaqsivik has had problems getting stable funding.

Soon however, the hotel will funnel anticipated profits back to the Inuit organization through Ilisaqsivik's for-profit company, Tukumak Inc. 

When Jakob Gearheard began work at the Ilisaqsivik Society about 11 years ago, the group was more than $100,000 in debt. Now, the organization is twice as big and more stable than ever. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

Jakob Gearheard, who moved to Clyde River to coordinate programs at Ilisaqsivik in 2004, said the hotel will help the Inuit organization weather its "precarious" project funding situation. 

"I don't know how we were still running when I started," Gearheard said about the status of Ilisaqsivik 11 years ago.  

"They were close to $100,000 in debt... There were some days when we were basically on pay day, calling people who owed us money." 

Over the past decade, Ilisaqsivik has not just climbed out of debt, it's doubled in size. 

Already plans to expand

"This new hotel is going to help a lot of people in the community," said hotel manager Samiulie Iqaqrialu.

"After this, it's going to get easier for money [for Ilisaqsivik]."

As he walks through the hotel, Iqaqrialu has stories about each aspect of the building — from the curtains his sister adjusted to fit the windows in each bedroom to the Internet he swears will never slow down.

"We have only a small hotel yet, but we plan to expand it." 

Not only does Iqaqrialu hope to expand the hotel from its current eight-room capacity, he hopes to eventually add a restaurant and employ local hunters as guides for tourists.

'This new hotel is going to help a lot of people in the community,' says Samiulie Iqaqrialu, manager of Clyde River's Naujaaraaluit Hotel. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

Inuit aim to 'take back' control

Mayor Jerry Natanine says Ilisaqsivik is a point of pride for the entire community. 

"In Clyde River, we have this attitude where we want to start taking over everything that has to do with our lives," he said. 

"The Government of Nunavut runs pretty much everything in Clyde River, but we want to come to a point where we're running our own power house, our own welfare office, to run our own housing association, to have our own self-government."

Natanine says having an Inuit-led, Inuit-staffed organization running community programs is one step for Inuit.

Ilisaqsivik runs the community library. Kids are encouraged to use the free internet access - but not until they've read a book or built something with Lego. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

While Gearheard has been lobbying the territorial and federal governments for core funding for Ilisaqsivik for years, he says working independently from the government has given the society the ability to respond quickly to Clyde River's needs. 

"It's community-based. It's community run," he said. "We don't have to ask the government if we want to do a project.

"If we can find the money to do it, the only people we have to ask is the community."

Iqaqrialu says the hotel, which began booking guests in August, has had an immediate effect on the community. Mobile health teams, which provide dental and eye care in small Nunavut communities, have told him that having a second hotel could make it possible to visit Clyde River more often. 


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