The Diocese of The Arctic
PO Box 190, Yellowknife, NWT, Canada
Anglican Church of Canada
Contact Administrator
Today is: Sunday,20 October,2019 06:35:30 AM

Some Stories of Ministry in the Arctic:

The stories in this space will come from various places. Some stories come from books other stories from people in the north. Where known I will give credit to the author. I do not vouch for the factualness of some of the stories. It will I hope reflect the spirit of the north, of the people who call it home, and the church that serves the Almighty in it. I will change these stories regularly. If you have a story to share of the high north, (that is NT, Yukon and Northern Quebec), its people or its Church past or present, pass it on to me and if appropriate I it will appear in this spot. My address will be at the end of this section.


May 12, 2014, the Rev. Annie Ittoshat of Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River) Nunavik graduated Wycliffe College with an MDiv. We believe Annie is the first Inuk to complete this program at Wycliffe. We are all so proud of you Annie. Well done! Below are some photos from Annie's convocation.
Annie with Bishop Darren McCartney
Annie & husband Noah with Governor General David Johnston
With friends following convocation - Bishop Darren, Noah, Marianne Martin, Rita Novalinga, Annie & Rev. Tom Martin

At the close of the ceremonies, Bishop Darren gave the blessing in Inuktitut!

Edith Hodgson – McKenzie River Heroine
Margaret E. Montgomery

montgomerys.jpgFor me, it began in the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, in early December 1948 .I was on my way to the far North with my husband who had been appointed Canon of the Cathedral in AKLAVIK in the Northwest Territories Canada. We heard that there were some of his people in the hospital and the Chaplain offered to take as round the wards to meet them. Camsell is a large hospital for advanced TB cases who cannot be treated properly in the Northern hospitals. We found many Indians and Eskimos who wanted to send letters, gifts or messages to their people, whom, in some cases, they had not seen for many years. While walking along one of the corridors I noticed a beautiful little Indian boy of about five years old, laughing and dancing in his cot. I went over to speak to him and as he turned its full face I saw that it was terribly scarred all over one side. I was told he had been mauled by sledge dogs.
Next morning we left Edmonton early in the morning by Canadian Pacific Airways and as soon as it was light we saw that we were flying over an apparently deserted land of endless frozen rivers, lakes and woods, all clearly outlined in their winter mantle of white. It got colder and colder as we flew North and we began to realise that our ordinary winter clothes were not going to be much use for the Northern Areas to which we were flying. The plane, apart from the cold was most comfortable, and we were well looked after by a pretty little Stewardess. About lunchtime she came along to say that the luncheon sandwiches were frozen, and we would have to wait until our next stop when she would get them unfrozen! At each stop where we re-fuelled or picked up mail or freight, we got out of the plane and walked to the Canadian Pacific Airways hut to get warmed. . At Fort Simpson we got our lunch unfrozen and were very glad to get large cups of steaming hot coffee. Finally, about 4:30 PM we arrived in Norman Wells, where we were to spend the night. We were the only passengers going on to Aklavik.
Norman Wells is the most northerly oil refinery in the world and is owned by the Imperial Oil Company. The charming manager, Mr. McKenzie very kindly invited us to come down and stay at their guesthouse. An old Army wagon bumped us along for about a mile and then we were led to our quarters. What a place to find in the frozen North! The rooms were so hot we had to leave the doors opened a little, though the temperature outside was 40° below zero. We had the place to ourselves-a sitting room, office and three bedrooms from which to choose! A bathroom with shower and of all things, modern plumbing - the last we were to see for years!! The Imperial Oil Company. have certainly made their people comfortable. The married people have houses, the single ones have attractive bed sitting rooms and everyone eats in a communal dining hall. there are recreation rooms, Canteens and Curling rinks .They have overcome the difficulty of frozen sewerage by running steam heated pipes alongside all the water and sewerage pipes. In fact the greatest problem is to get cold water! We thought we were there for one night but actually were destined to stay for a week. In the North transport during the winter is very uncertain because of the short days and the bad weather conditions.
aklavik christmas 1.jpgIt was in the small modern hospital there that I learnt the full story of my little Indian boy in the Edmonton Hospital .A fine young doctor and his wife were running the hospital and we spent many interesting hours with them-both Bob and Lavina Delaney had loved their time in the North-they asked us if we had seen Norman Hodgson whom the doctor had attended after he had been mauled by dogs .On hearing that I had spoken to him, they arrange for me to go by snowmobile to see his mother and tell her about his progress-but first I heard the story of his sisters courage. Edith Hodgson at eight years old became a heroine in my eyes.
Norman's father had been a white trapper who had accidentally shot himself some years before. His mother, a full-blooded Indian had married again, and was now Cecilia Tourmagean. She had six children by her first husband, and already had three more by her second husband, who was a half bred trapper; the eldest 2 1/2 years, the youngest three months . They were living in a good log cabin, high up on the banks of the Mackenzie River, about 10 miles from Norman Wells. It was the first time, Cecilia had ever lived in a permanent home, and she was looking forward to cultivating the garden, which he had fenced in round the cabin. It was a beautiful setting when I saw it that December afternoon. The little log cabin set in a clearing in the spruce forest. Across the river far beyond the interminable lakes and spruce forests could be seen the mountains, the last chain of the Rockies.
Cecilia told us the story as we sat round the wood stove in the cabin .One morning at the end of September her husband Pat decided that he would take the dog team, and go off for one last day's fishing before the ice closed in on the river. Winter had come early-snow had been falling steadily and was getting deeper and deeper each day, and wolves had been heard howling around the cabin at night. It was a nice bright morning when he set off about 10 AM seen off by Cecilia and the children, all waving and laughing as the dog team sped swiftly down the bank and out of sight round the bend in the river. Cecilia went back into the house to attend the babies and left three children playing outside .Suddenly, about two hours later her heart stood still she had the ugly sound of snarling dogs and the screams of children .She flew to the door and she opened it, in fell little Kenneth aged four and Edith but Norman was on the ground and the dogs were tearing him to pieces before her eyes. She lifted the gun, which always stood loaded by the door but dared not shoot because of the child. Then, without any thought of her own danger she rushed that the dogs, tore the little senseless bleeding child from them and ran towards the house. She had to hold him high above her head, as the dogs were jumping up all round her, trying to get at him again. She reached the gun, put the child down and in the second she took to lift the gun one of the dogs was on him again but with a steady hand she pulled the trigger and the dog fell dead. The others made off into the bush. The child was still alive, but his injuries were so terrible she could do nothing. By this time the short day was beginning to get dark. She dare not leave the boy or her babies to try and get a doctor. What should she do? Then Edith, who the night before had been hiding her head under the bed clothes when the wolves howling outside, volunteered to walk 8 miles through the darkness to the signal station .They would send a message to the doctor . Neither she, nor her mother thought it was heroic. It was simply a part of their life .So that little girl armed with a gun, in case she was attacked by wolves, set out to walk 8 miles along the dark silent river bank in soft snow. It took her several hours, and when she arrived there, a very wet, tired, scared little girl .The men told me that she had told her story and then fell fast asleep from exhaustion and emotion, while they removed her wet clothing and wrapped her in warm blankets . By this time the message and been sent to the Doctor, and he was on his way down the river by motor-boat. When he saw the terrible injuries, he did not think the child could possibly live, but he gave what ease he could by injections, and then brought Norman and his mother and the baby into the Hospital. Pat had arrived home and was able to tell what had happened .When he arrived at his fishing ground – he got into the boat and the dogs were coming along the bank. After one bend in the river, he missed the dogs, and landing on the bank he saw that they had broken the leads and disappeared .He immediately started for home, but did not arrive until some hours after the tragedy.
As soon as they got to the hospital, the doctor started to sew up the terrible wounds and then discovered that the nose was completely missing. But no, Cecilia, who had stayed all through the gruesome operation, produced it from a clean handkerchief, and it was stitched on. The doctor told me that even through the agony the child smiled and never once did utter a cry. By some miracle, he lived, and as soon as possible, he was flown into Edmonton where I saw him well on the way to complete recovery. He is home now for a few months, but it will take much plastic surgery to heal those terrible scars, and he will be in and out of hospital for many months . While at the cabin one of the children came to tell us that there was a wolf in one of the traps, so I went to see with the Royal Canadian Mounted constable who was on the trip with us. What a brute! A huge grey shaggy dog, which had almost gnawed through the leg caught in the trap in its efforts to get away. He shot it, but when I thought of little Edith going out all alone into the darkness, knowing that she might meet a pack of these beats, my admiration mounted.
When I was coming North, all the old-timers told me I must remember that if I were on a trail and how the jingle of bells, I must at once get off the trail and leave plenty of room for the dog team to pass. They will attack anyone in their direct path. or anyone, child or adult who is on the ground. If Norman had not fallen as he ran away when he saw the dogs approaching, they probably would not have touched him. As it was, he fell, and the dogs immediately fell on him. In the North one does not carelessly try to make overtures to a native owned dog.
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Canon Colin & Mrs. Montgomery were in Aklavik from 1948 to 1952. The photos in this article were provided by Mr. John Collinson, Mrs. Montgomery's nephew.



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The new altar provided by St. John the Evangelist Church in Edmonton - the ivory cross on the front was actually salvaged from the holy table destroyed by the fire. Note the sealskin offering baskets.
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Note the crest on the side of the altar.
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This is the refurbished baptismal font from the old cathedral - the silver bowl lining was a gift from Queen Elizabeth.
The interior of the new St. Jude's Cathedral.
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In keeping with the traditional inuit style of the new cathedral - these mew hymnboards produced by NCC Developments in Iqaluit are also in the shape of a qamutiq
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NCC Development was also able to refurbish the Bishop's Chair from the old cathedral.
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This beautiful piano was donated anonymously and thankfully it is used at services each Sunday.
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Bishop David's family during the installation service (Matthew, Dustin, Davey & his wife Sarah, and Bishop's wife Rita).
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Bishop David's sons all took part in the service. Each of the readings were done in both English and Inuktitut. Here Matthew is joined by layleader Lew Philip in reading the Epistle.
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Here Davey is joined by Sarah Philip in the Psalm.
Dustin and Rev. Methusalah Kunuk read the Gospel.
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Bishop Andrew preached at the installation.
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The cathedral choir did an anthem.
bishops at communion.jpgOur bishops both new and retired presided at the communion. Bishop Andrew, Bishop Chris, Bishop Darren and Bishop David. Isn't it special the way the light from the dome is shining down on them all.
david rus & glenn.jpgDuring the service Capt. Cyrus Blanchet was Bishop David's chaplain. Our chancellor Glenn Tait was on hand to install our new diocesan.
bishops new & old.jpgAfter the service there was time for more photos and there were lots. Here again are retired Bishop Chris, Suffragan Bishop Darren, Bishop David and retired Bishop Andrew
Bishop Darren McCartney
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Bishop David & Rita Parsons
Bishop David Parsons
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The Very Rev. Jonas Allooloo, Bishop David and Chancellor Glenn Tait
karen & darren.jpgBishop Darren & Karen McCartney - the McCartney's arrived in Iqaluit from Ireland the day before the installation
mccartneys and retired bishops.jpgBishop Darren & Karen with retired bishops Andrew & Chris
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The Parsons family - back row: Davey, Matthew & Dustin front row Davey's wife Sarah, Rita and Bishop David
rita & david.jpgRita & Bishop David Parsons


Joy Maclaren, C.M.
May 2012

Part I
Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with our Canadian arctic and full of admiration for  the clergy, and their families, who established the Anglican faith in the arctic - a lifeline across the north, just below the North Pole.  And I often dreamed that someday, I too, might journey north to visit this remote frozen part of Canada and to meet the people.
In 2005, arson destroyed the igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit on the shores of Frobisher Bay at the eastern mouth of the Northwest Passage.  St. Jude was the saint who gave hope and help to those in desperate circumstances. This cathedral provided many invaluable outreach programmes that served the smaller parishes across the Arctic.  It disturbed me to think what the loss of this church would mean to this vast diocese.  
As Anglicans, we were asked to pray and to consider how we might help in some small way.  Where does one begin?  
I started by contacting Debra Gill in Yellowknife whom I had met previously.  Debra is the Executive Officer for Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk in the Diocese of the Arctic.  She informed me that plans were already on the drawing board for a new igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral.  But where could the funds, between $5-6 million, be found to finance this reconstruction?
When I was asked to help raise funds for the new Cathedral in those Canadian dioceses south of the Arctic, I could only think of this as outreach beyond my own church, St. Margaret’s, Vanier in the  diocese of Ottawa.  St. Margaret’s is the church in Ottawa with the largest congregation of Inuit / Inuk.  They can join in with the early morning service or can attend a later morning service held in both English and Inuktitut.

When taking on a challenge, I always like to have an initial idea of what might be involved, so – In early June, 2007, I flew north to spend a short weekend in Iqaluit and ended up sitting at a large round table chaired by Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, Inuit clergy, local fund-raisers, architects and several parishioners.
I had been invited to join a planning and fund-raising committee to discuss/consider how to move forward with the reconstruction of St. Jude’s Cathedral.  This meeting was fascinating as ideas were being discussed in both English & Inuktitut.  But all were keen to help develop a re-building plan.
The next day I attended the Sunday morning ground-breaking service which was held outside at the site where the old cathedral had stood and where the new St. Jude’s would be rebuilt. The retired Suffragan Bishop Paul Idlout turned the sod for the new cathedral using the same silver shovel that Queen Elizabeth had used in 1970 for the sod turning for the first St. Jude’s.  Outside in -4 C weather, hymns & prayers were joyously melded together in both Inuktitut & English.  I found it very moving.     
Following the service, the congregation of almost 200 filed into the Parish Hall, a large hall built on “stilts”.  Here we sat at long, long tables and benches for a caribou stew & bannock feast.  The caribou had been especially hunted for this occasion.  It had been skinned and then the meat removed from the carcass for the stew.    The carcass was left in a corner of the Parish Hall where grace and thanks could be given for this special feast.  The parishioners were all so welcoming and despite language differences we were able to share this meal and communicate with much joking, laughter and, on my part, the waving of hands.
The next day I left Iqaluit to return home to Ottawa, having made a commitment to help with fund-raising and promising to return someday to see the completed cathedral.
This May 2012, 5 years later, I will be ravelling north again with great anticipation, this time to visit the new St. Jude’s Cathedral, the white igloo-shaped cathedral with its gold spire and cross, a landmark that can be seen for miles.  What a wonderful way to celebrate my 90th birthday.

Click to go to the following stories

James Peck left a legacy of the syllabic writing system

by Kenn Harper - Above & Beyond Fall 1992

The eldest among the Inuit of southern Baffin Island still speak of a short, thickset man who lived among them at the turn of the century and visited them periodically by ship for many years thereafter. They called him Uqammak - the one who speaks well. But he did far more than just speak well. He brought Christianity and literacy to Baffin Island as he had done earlier to the east coast of Hudson Bay. Nonnative history remembers him as the Reverend Edmund James Peck and often refers to him as The Apostle to the Eskimo.

In 1875 Bishop John Horden of Moose Factory wrote to the Church Missionary Society in England, asking them for a missionary to come to Canada to work with the Inuit of Hudson Bay. The Society interviewed a young sailor, turned theology student, named Edmund James Peck. When they asked him what climate, he preferred, he replied “Cold,” and added that he wanted to be sent to the “wildest and roughest mission-field in the world.” The Society accepted him for training that same year, and in June of the following year he got his wish, for he was sent to Hudson Bay.

Peck’s mission was at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post at Little Whale River. He realized early that “the first work of every missionary is to acquire the language of the people as well as gain their confidence,” and at Little Whale River he set himself a tortuous program of learning both Inuktitut and Cree. “My plan,” he wrote, “is to write down some simple words and sentences. I then get the corresponding Indian or Esquimaux words . . . I find all very willing to help me, for which I am indeed thankful. My daily collection averages from eighty to a hundred words. These are learned the following day, and brought into use as soon as possible . . . ” Peck was a man not easily satisfied. He considered himself a master of the Inuktitut language only after six hours of student daily for seven years.

The young missionary was not content, however, to simply master the native language and preach in it. He wanted also to produce written religious material. Indeed he had been mandated to do this by the Church Missionary Society, and to use the Syllabic script created for use among the Cree by the Wesleyan missionary, James Evans. This writing system consisted of nine symbols, each of which could be written in four positions, and it could be mastered within a few hours. It was so simple that each person who learned it became a teacher of it, spreading its use quickly among nomadic Indians throughout northern Canada. It had been modified for Inuktitut by John Horden and E.A. Watkins, but their work had been only peripherally with Inuit. Peck was the first to work almost exclusively with Inuit. He promoted the use of the Syllabic script, transcribed material into it, and taught reading and writing skills to all who would listen. He noted that they are very eager to learn.

The Bishop Who Almost Lost His Ring

(as told to me by Mrs. Sarah Simons)

There are many strange and unusual things that happened under the midnight sun, as one traveled down the great Mackenzie River to the vast Arctic wilderness. Some are funny, some are sad, and many will never be know. But let me share one of these tales with you that I have only just discovered myself.


Mrs. Sarah Simons is the wife of the late Rev. James Simons Both are members of the Gwich’in Nation. They grew up in Fort McPherson and when James received his call to the ministry part of his training was done in Hay River. Bishop Archibald Fleming picked Sarah and James up to take them back north. This is where the story picks up.

Everyone who knows anything about northern history knows the story of the Bishop who ate his boots. This is even more true of any one interested in the history of the church in the north.

But how many of us have heard the story the Bishop who almost lost his ring. To be more to the point his ecclesiastical ring. In this story related to me by Mrs. Sarah Simons of Fort McPherson, the story is not only how the Bishop almost lost his ring, but as the question who’s ring is it real? You read the story, you be the judge.

After James and Sarah Simons were anxious to get back down river to Fort McPherson and home. They had just finished some training for the ministry. I say “they” because Sarah says they taught her almost as much as the taught him. They were met by the Rt. Rev. Archibald Fleming the first Bishop of the Arctic and together they boarded to river boat to take them down river towards the arctic circle and home. As they traveled down river the boat made many stops and in each the Bishop and his party would disembark and met people and in most case conduct a worship service. Sometimes it would be morning or evening prayer, but usually it was Holy Communion because ordained clergy who could conduct an Anglican Communion Service were few and far between, so people wanted this sacrament when ordained clergy came by. Now and then it would be a baptism for babies born since the last clergyman’s visit. It was at one of these stops that the incident in question took place.

The Bishop’s party had just landed in Fort Norman when one of the church leader approached Bishop Fleming that they had a wedding to perform and he could not leave with out doing it. The Couple had waited several months and finally just moved in with each other and now a child was involved. So now only did he have a wedding to perform but a baptism as well. Beside all that many were waiting to have Holy Communion. With this tall task awaiting him, the Bishop rose to the occasion and asked to be lead to the church.

The church was full when Bishop Fleming entered the church. He suggested the proper order would be the wedding first, then the Baptism Service and ending with a service of Holy Communion. During the Wedding service it came time for the groom to put the wedding ring on the bride. The problem arose when it was discovered that there was no wedding ring. The groom did not think it was necessary. Not so the Bishop. He said you needed a room even if it was borrowed for the occasion. He requested that someone loan them a ring for the service. No response come. Sarah was sitting beside a lady with “many rings on her fingers”. Sarah said “You loan her a ring, you have many”. The reply was “no these are my rings. I do not want to give one away.” The bishop said “loan”, Sarah said “loan”, but the lady definitely thought that she would be giving her ring away. Bishop Fleming annoyed that no-one came forward and probably wanting to get on with the service said they could use his ring and give his ecclesiastical ring to the groom, who put it on the brides finger and said, “with this ring I thee wed”. The wedding service was finished and then the Baptismal service and finally the Holy Communion Service was completed.

When the people began to leave, the Bishop realize the new bride was leaving with his ring. Blocked by the people, he called to Sarah, “Stop that girl and get my ring”. Sarah rang and caught up with the women and when asked to give up the ring refused and said it now belong to her because she was married with it. By this time the Bishop had caught up to them and was a little frantic. Sarah calmed the Bishop and as she said to me, “I had a long talk with the lady and she finally gave up the ring. She was not happy, but she gave up the ring.”

As to the question of ownership, I guess we can say it belonged to the Bishop. But I find it hard not to believe that in the eyes of that new bride (whoever she was), that part of that ring would not always belong to her as her wedding ring.

A strange tale indeed. The Bishop who almost lost his ring, or, the women who gave up her wedding ring for the Bishop who married her.

As to the authenticity of this tale I can only say to you that Sarah Simons who told me the tale is one of the most noble and honorable saints of God I have ever had the privilege of knowing and calling a friend.

Have a story to share? Send it to me.