West Baffin Eskimo Co-op celebrates Cape Dorset's name change to Kinngait

On Monday, the Nunavut community voted to revert to a traditional name, Kinngait.

'It's kind of a terrific moment,' says William Huffman

A file photo of Cape Dorset, Nunavut, in 2018. The West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative says it's not worried about the recent name change vote impacting the brand of its artwork. (Travis Burke/CBC)

The West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative is celebrating after Cape Dorset voted Monday to revert back to a previous name — Kinngait. 

"It's kind of a terrific moment, I think, in general for Cape Dorset," said William Huffman, the Toronto-based marketing manger with Dorset Fine Arts. It's part of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, which promotes and markets local artists' work.

The community is internationally renowned for its drawings, paintings and sculptures. Some of the many famous artists from the community include Kenojuak Ashevak, Pitseolak Ashoona, and Nuna Parr. 

However, Huffman isn't worried about the community name change impacting the brand of the artwork. He said the co-op uses Cape Dorset and Kinngait interchangeably in its material.

"I don't know that we'll have to do much changing," said Huffman. "I think that it's not much of a difficulty."

The co-op's artists studios are called Kinngait Studios, which is one of the reasons Huffman said he doesn't foresee a problem with the name change. In a recent show, Huffman said the words Cape Dorset didn't even appear in the informational material. 

"This [is an] amazing moment in community's history," said Huffman.

'Surfacing Bear' by Cee Pootoogook, an example of the world-famous printmaking style associated with Cape Dorset. (Submitted by Dorset Fine Arts )

Concern for confusion

However, there were some concerns that southerners could be confused by the name change. 

"Cape Dorset was, worldwide, known for its art," said Jimmy Manning, retail manager for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. 

"And if that were to change maybe that would ... confuse the southern part or even around the world. So yes, it was a little bit of a concern there." 

Only 192 people voted in the plebiscite in the community of about 1,400 people. 

On a community Facebook page, the returning officer Josephee Oqutaq posted a breakdown of the results. Kinngait won with 80 votes, Cape Dorset came in second with 61 votes and Sikusilaq followed with 51 votes. 

The name will not be changed right away.

The hamlet council will need to move a motion to embrace the results of the plebiscite. They will then write a letter to the Nunavut minister of Community and Government Services to formally ask for the change. If approved by the minister, he will bring it forward to cabinet.