The story of what happened here goes back decades.

Rose Island: A final resting place in the hearts of Labrador’s Inuit

A stone cairn holding the remains of more than a hundred Inuit individuals sits peacefully on Rose Island in the Torngat Mountains National Park, along the northern coast of Labrador.

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A stone cairn holding the remains of more than a hundred Inuit individuals sits peacefully on Rose Island in the Torngat Mountains National Park, along the northern coast of Labrador.

This is their final resting place.

Akinisie Sivuarapik, a throat singer from Puvirnituq, Nunavik — the Inuit area of northern Quebec — says she doesn’t feel alone in the Torngat Mountains landscape.

“You can feel the spirits from these mountains, and you can actually see faces on the mountains, like different facial expressions,” she said. “So you feel the spirits here. You don’t feel alone here.”

This summer, Sivuarapik paid tribute to the mass burial site on Rose Island with Evie Mark, who lives in Montreal but is from Ivujivik on the Hudson Strait.

Like Sivuarapik, Mark felt emotional the first time she throat sang at the mass grave.

The spirits miss hearing throat singing and drum dancing, Mark said. That’s why she and Sivuarapik dedicate songs to them.

“Today, I think that they celebrate when we come here. I don’t see them sad or lonely,” said Mark. “I think when we come here they get a chance to celebrate.”

 

This mass burial site on Rose Island holds the remains of 113 Inuit individuals who were removed from Rose Island and nearby Upernavik Island between 1969 and 1971. Elders and summer students built the mass grave in 1995 so the remains could be returned home and reburied respectfully. (John Gaudi/CBC)

The story of what happened here goes back decades.

Parks Canada’s Gary Baikie says the remains of 113 Inuit were removed from graves on Rose Island and nearby Upernavik Island between 1969 and 1971.

He says Dr. Jacob Edson Way removed and studied the bones for his doctoral thesis on paleontology.

They were stored at the University of Toronto, and later at Memorial University in St. John’s.

‘I think when we come here they get a chance to celebrate.’– Evie Mark

In 1995, a Labrador Inuit elders committee was set up to bring the remains back in a respectful way.

They were reburied on Rose Island, along with their worldly goods, such as pots and lamps.

“I’m very humbled to be able to tell the story of this place and tell the story of the people that were taken away from this area and brought back” said Baikie, who is the visitor experience manager for Torngat Mountains National Park.

“Now that they are home, they will be at rest here forever. They will not be disturbed again.”

Archaeological sites on Rose Island span more than 5,000 years.

Baikie says it’s the only island in the Arctic where so many people are buried.

There are just under 700 traditional Inuit graves on the island, and Baikie says it’s not hard to see why Inuit laid their loved ones to rest here.

Read the full article on CBC