Repulse Bay residents voting for mayor and community name change May 12
Councillors want to gauge support for Naujaat
Nunavummiut in Repulse Bay won’t just elect a new mayor May 12, they’ll be helping the new mayor and council decide whether to honour an Inuit tradition.
During the May 12 mayoral by-election, residents will be asked whether they support changing the community’s official name from Repulse Bay to its traditional Inuktitut name: Naujaat.
Repulse Bay’s senior administrative officer, Kowesa Etitiq, said May 12 that the decision to petition the Nunavut government for a name change rests with the mayor and council, but elected officials decided they wanted to gauge support in a non-binding plebiscite.
“The mayor and council wanted to ensure that the community really wants the name changed, so we’ve done it at the same time as the by-election,” Etitiq said. “This way they’ll have an opportunity to vote on it.”
Etitiq said councillors did not say in advance what percentage of support would be necessary to sway their decision. They simply want see how the vote goes today and will take the results into account when they make their final decision.
According to the Repulse Bay website, the English name came from explorer Christopher Middleton, who entered the bay in 1742 thinking it was part of the Northwest Passage. When he discovered it was a bay and that his way was blocked, he called it “Bay of Repulse.”
But the name has never sat well with many people, Etitiq said, since it has negative meanings in English beyond “to repel” including “to revolt or disgust.”
Other people from the community have complained that their mail often gets accidentally re-routed to Resolute Bay by Canada Post, Etitiq added.
Besides, local people know the place as Naujaat, which in English means, “nesting place for seagulls.”
A recent radio phone-in show seemed to suggest there is equal support on both sides of the issue, Etitiq said, but he got calls later from a number of people who supported the name change but didn’t want to speak on radio.
His office also received a number of letters from students at Tusarvik School in support of the name Naujaat.
Residents can vote on this issue as well as on their choice of mayor at the hamlet office until 7 p.m. on May 12.
The three candidates running for mayor are: Solomon Malliki, Marcel Mapsalak and Johnny Tungilik, Etitiq said.
The mayoral by-election was triggered by the departure of former mayor, Hugh Haqpi.
Coral Harbour recently held a mayoral by-election as well. Willie Nakoolak is that community’s new mayor.