Skip to main content

The end of winter in Iqaluit brings celebration and tests of traditional Inuit skills, such as igloo-building, dog-sled racing, ice-fishing and more

Igloo-building, sea-ice racing and bannock-making are just some of the competitions at the annual Toonik Tyme Festival in Iqaluit. The 52-year-old event celebrates Inuit traditions and the return of spring to Canada’s Arctic.

This year, participants and visitors attended the 10-day festivities from March 31 to April 9. One of the most popular events is the 320-kilometre-long Kimmirut Race with qamutiik, traditional Inuit sleds. Participants race their machines from Iqaluit to Kimmirut, a nearby community across Tasiujarjuaq (Frobisher Bay), and back to Iqaluit. Evenings are filled with live performances; this year, the closing-night concert was by singer Susan Aglukark.

The all-volunteer event is supported with funding from the City of Iqaluit.

Larissa MacDonald and her daughter, Maisie, high-five after Maisie returns from her dog-sled race on March 31, the first day of Toonik Tyme.
Teenagers gather on a hill to watch the fireworkers on March 31. This is Toonik Tyme’s 52nd year.
Paul Irngaut remembers learning the craft as a teenager in Igloolik, which held building contests like this at Easter. ‘It’s hard to build igloos when you are young. But it takes practice. The young people here, they are trying, and it is really good to see young people try.’
Andrea Andersen gets help from another veteran igloo maker, Solomon Awa. ‘He finished way before me, then gave me pointers on how to make the top of the igloo because that’s the hardest part,’ she says. ‘... He is what we say “ajunngi,” which is, like, super-expert.’
Adamee Itorcheak gives a pep talk to the participants of the kid’s snowmobile competition. He is a board member with 123 Go!, the group that organizes Toonik Tyme. ‘It is nice seeing people get out and see people they haven’t seen in a while,’ he says. ‘When you see that one person smile, it makes it worth it.’
Billy Kilabuk celebrates winning the snowmobile race from Iqaluit and Kimmirut and back again across the frozen sea ice of Tasiujarjuaq (Frobisher Bay). He finished in four hours 16 minutes. Getting to Iqaluit from his home community, Pangnirtung, took 15 hours. It was his first race.
Nina Ipeelee shares some of her first-prize-winning palauga, or bannock, made with a family recipe.
Kyle Ritchie and Paul Salter use a motorized ice auger to make new ice holes for the fishing derby.
Shannon Hessian and Kamil Sameer take off on the frozen sea for the full team dog-sled race. ‘We had a good time riding together,’ Ms. Hessian, a veteran racer, says of her teammate. ‘There was great light, the dogs were great, just the peacefulness of the snow and driving around with the dogs.’

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe