During 1974 until 1979, the image on the $2 bill was one of Joseph Idlout and his family, preparing boats for a hunt. Most Canadians might remember this image on their Canadian paper money, or may still even have one of these bills. There is quite an interesting story behind this image.
Who Was Joseph Idlout?
Joseph Idlout was the grandfather of Canadian musician Lucie Idlout. She revealed to CBC Radio program DNTO recently, where the image of her grandfather and relatives comes from. She said that her father was an excellent hunter.
“He was one of the first few Inuit to receive the Coronation medal from the Queen – I kind of view him as a superhero, even though I never met him.” Photographer Douglas Wilkinson took the picture, after years of documenting Joseph Idlout and his community.
The photo shows Joseph Idlout at Baffin Island, hunting with family. On the image, it looks like nothing more than an image depicting life in the community at that time – but if you dig a little deeper, there is a story behind this image.
As the Canadian Government relocated struggling Inuit families from Quebec to Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, the goal was to improve their standard of living. Unfortunately, many families were accustomed to the weather and warmer temperatures of Quebec, so a change was needed. Joseph Idlout was hired to help people of southern Inuit how to endure the climate and ease their transition.
His role was to teach them how to survive in the colder climate. A lot of people struggled to get used to the harsher climate and in 2010 the Minister of Indian Affairs issued an apology to the Inuit people of Canada. He expressed his regret for the suffering the relocation caused them.
Lucy Idlout said that the change in lifestyle was the biggest consequence. It changed the way they lived. The transition was, in her opinion, too fast. Joseph Idlout found the move particularly traumatizing even though he was a very skilled and well-respected man.
Bills Meant to Inspire
The scenes that were printed on the bills were meant to instill pride and reflect Canadian settlements from sea to sea. Idlout says she has mixed feelings about the bill and feels that it is another representation of how Inuit were part of sovereignty. But despite the times that the bill represents, she feels a sense of pride, too. She says that it became more about the piece of history and less about the photo on the $2 bill.
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