Ukkusiksalik (Ok-koo-seek-sa-leek) National Park protects a 20,885 km2 area surrounding Wager Bay, a 100 km long inland sea on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay. Wager Bay is so huge that eighteenth century explorers thought it might be the long sought Northwest Passage. It wasn’t, but it is important for other reasons.
Ukkusiksalik is the “place where there is stone to carve pots and oil lamps” in Inuktitut, which refers to the soapstone found within the boundaries. This is but one feature of the landscape that made it attractive to early inhabitants. The plentiful marine life in Wager Bay has drawn Inuit and their predecessors for hundreds of years. Evidence of this is found in more than 400 documented archaeological sites within park boundaries that include tent rings, food caches, fox traps and an extensive site called Aklungiqtautitalik, meaning “place of the rope game.” Named for a large, distinctive stone feature on the south side of the site, archaeologists believe this area might have been used both prehistorically and in relatively recent times.
In 1925, a Hudson’s Bay trading post was set up at the head of Wager Bay above an area of reversing tidal falls. Here, they could take advantage of inland trade potential while working to establish an overland trade route to the Back River area, and ultimately the Arctic Ocean. It is significant as being the first post run by an Inuit manager. Old buildings remain on-site as relics of this era.
Inuit from the communities of Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Naujaat (formerly known as Repulse Bay), and Rankin Inlet maintain ties to the land with Inuit from Naujaat and Coral Harbour having the closest historic ties to the park.
The park was established under the Canada National Parks Act in 2014, although it has been operating in the spirit of the Act since 2003, when the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada was signed. The park is jointly managed by Inuit and Parks Canada in accordance with the Nunavut Agreement, the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Ukksiksalik National Park of Canada (IIBA), and the Canada National Parks Act, its associated regulations and policies.