In 1922, a seven-man Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment was established at Craig Harbour, on the northern shore of Jones Sound, Ellesmere Island, about 55 kilometres southeast of present-day Grise Fiord. The RCMP outpost was closed in the 1930s and reopened in 1951 at the start of the Cold War. A number of Northern Québec and Pond Inlet Inuit families were brought to Craig Harbour in 1953. One week later, they were taken another 48 kilometres west and relocated on Lindstrom Peninsula.
In the spring of 1955, the Craig Harbour RCMP outpost began its move to Grise Fiord. The buildings were dismantled, parts numbered, nails saved, then all transported by dog-teams. The Craig Harbour outpost was permanently closed and the Grise Fiord outpost officially opened in 1956. Further RCMP buildings were shipped up by sealift in the summer — an office detachment duplex and a cold warehouse. In addition to their police work, the RCMP also ran the Trading Post.
The Federal Government’s plan to open a school in Grise Fiord led to building materials arriving by sealift in the summer of 1961. The Lindstrom Peninsula residents were relocated to Grise Fiord in 1962. Their small houses, purchased with trapping earnings, were moved by dog-teams. The school was built in the summer of 1962, teachers arrived in September and the school opened. A new era had begun!
The school currently has 32 students, from Kindergarten level through Grade 12. English is used for most courses, but Inuktitut is also taught. Traditional Inuit skills are included in the curriculum— like igloo building, drum making, outdoor clothing making, including sealskin mittens, plus, on occasion, cultural heritage oral stories are taught to the students. Throughout the year, but especially in the dark winter season, the school gym is an important community facility that provides indoor recreational games for youngsters, elders and youth.
A low-cost rental-housing program started in 1966. The houses were heated with old-fashioned oil stoves. Furnace heating was finally introduced in 1982. The community water supply is stored in huge tanks. Homes are served by hamlet-contracted municipal services that provide water delivery, sewage pumping, and garbage removal.
As of 2017, most households own family vehicles: Snowmobiles for winter and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) for summer. These vehicles are used for both hunting and recreational purposes. In the summertime, hunters also use outboard motorboats. Several Grise Fiord hunters raise dog-teams that are used exclusively for Polar Bear Sport Hunting.
Hunting will always be vital to Inuit culture. Elders emphasize to the younger generations the wise use of their hunting harvest. No wanton waste of wildlife is ever permitted, as hunting provides delicious and nutritious foods — known as ‘Country Food’ — to help supplement expensive store-bought foods.
Many people work directly for the hamlet, as office workers, municipal drivers, maintenance workers, casual workers and short-term summer labourers. The hamlet has a Senior Administrator and Foreman responsible to make things run smoothly.
The Co-op, which is the main store in Grise Fiord, has a General Manager, responsible for managing the Finance Clerk, Sales Clerk and Maintenance Foreman, as well as all aircraft unloading, plus the purchase of Inuit handicrafts and carvings. Oogliit Sannavik is a privately owned little corner store that sells confectionary goods.
The Iviq HTO (Hunters and Trappers Association) of Grise Fiord runs a non-profit outfitting company called Qutsittumiuq Outfitting that specializes in sport hunting expeditions for clients from around the globe. The Qutsittumiuq Outfitting store also sells hunting supplies, like knives, lumber for making sleds, fish and seal nets, animal traps, outdoor boots, plus boating safety equipment such as floater suits.
The Iviq HTO provides special tour arrangements for visiting the traditional Inuit Polar Bear trap located eight kilometres away in Lindstrom Peninsula, or to view Muskoxen ranging at Anstead Point, or simply to go on a High Arctic photo tour by boat. In the springtime you can also request dog-team riding arrangements. The summer, with 24-hour daylight, is the time when most people go out on the land to hunt, fish, camp and enjoy life. It is a time to recharge one`s life-giving energy. If you are planning to go see Quttiniqpaaq National Park, it is convenient to stop in at Grise Fiord for a friendly visit on your way there, and also on your return trip back.
In Harbour Fiord there is an historic landmark to go visit, a cross on top of a small hill where Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup lost one of his sailors. You may also make arrangements to go visit Fram Fiord, to see the refuge place where Sverdrup waited out the stormy weather.
Cobourg Island has been designated a bird sanctuary named Niqjutiqaqvik by the Nunavut Territorial Government in 1995. It’s where thousands of migratory birds nest in the summer. It is also an oasis for marine mammals, like the Bearded Seal, and the Polar Bear.
The annual Polar Bear hunting quota is divided into two categories: Six-to-nine tags are set aside each year for visitor sport hunting, the rest of the tags are exclusively for the Inuit of Grise Fiord to hunt Polar Bears for their sustenance use — for food and clothing. Local hunters rarely ever finish their annual quota. They feel very secure, knowing that the Polar Bear will be around for a long time yet!