The barren lands is a vast, desolate expanse of tundra in northern Canada lying above the tree line and extending north to the Arctic Ocean. It is the land of the Inuit, they cherish it and embrace it with a mystifying intensity.
Thomas Ugjuk was born August 1, 1921, near Garry Lake, a passage of water that cuts roughly through the northern part of the barren lands before discharging into the Arctic Ocean. Thomas was still a boy when his father took him on the land. While Thomas learned to stalk caribou, he also watched his father pay close attention to the weather. Being caught in a sudden storm could be fatal. And Thomas had to become skillful with his father’s dogs. Inuit often survived and perished by the quality of their dog teams.
In the 1950’s Thomas decided to return to his parent’s camp to help his younger brother who was too inexperienced to provide for them. During the famine period Thomas’ family had no rifles to bring down caribou — which were difficult to find regardless — so they survived primarily on fish. Thomas moved his family and parents to Baker Lake in 1956. He fed his growing family by hunting and trading furs at the local post. Rankin Inlet became the Ugjuk’s permanent home in 1968.
For many years Thomas travelled and hunted on the land he loved. With his pleasant nature, Thomas made friends anytime his path crossed another. He experienced his share of tragedy but lived a life with few regrets. Thomas Ugjuk passed away on December 24th, 2012, at age 91.