Tuktoyaktuk , or Tuktuyaaqtuuq (Inuvialuktun: it looks like a caribou), is an Inuvialuit hamlet located in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Commonly referred to simply by its first syllable, Tuk , the settlement lies north of the Arctic Circle on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Formerly known as Port Brabant, the community was renamed in 1950 and was the first place in Canada to revert to the traditional Native name.
Tuktoyaktuk is the anglicized form of the native Inuvialuit place-name, meaning "resembling a caribou." According to legend, a woman looked on as some caribou, common at the site, waded into the water and turned into stone, or became petrified. Today, reefs resembling these petrified caribou are said to be visible at low tide along the shore of the town.
No formal archaeological sites exist today, but the settlement has been used by the native Inuvialuit for centuries as a place to harvest caribou and beluga whales. In addition, Tuktoyaktuks natural harbour was historically used as a means to transport supplies to other Inuvialuit settlements.
Between 1890 and 1910, a sizeable number of Tuktoyaktuks native families were wiped out in flu epidemics brought in by American whalers. In subsequent years, the Alaskan Dene people, as well as residents of Herschel Island, settled here. By 1937, a Hudsons Bay Company trading post was established.
Radar domes were installed beginning in the 1950s as part of the Distant Early Warning Line, to monitor air traffic and detect possible Soviet intrusions during the Cold War. The settlements location (and harbour) made "Tuk" important in resupplying the civilian contractors and Air Force personnel along the "DEW Line." In 1947, Tuktoyaktuk became the site of one of the first government "day schools" designed to integrate Inuit youth into mainstream Canadian culture.
The community of Tuktoyaktuk eventually became a base for the oil and natural gas exploration of the Beaufort Sea. Large industrial buildings remain from the busy period following the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and 1979 summertime fuel shortage. This brought many more outsiders into the region.
On 3 September 1995, the Molson Brewing Company arranged for several popular rock bands to give a concert in Tuktoyaktuk as a publicity stunt promoting their new ice-brewed beer. During the months leading up to concert, radio stations across North America ran contests in which they gave away free tickets. Dubbed The Molson Ice Polar Beach Party, it featured Hole, Metallica, Moist, Cake and Veruca Salt. Canadian film-maker Albert Nerenberg made a documentary about this concert entitled Invasion of the Beer People.
In 2008, Tuktoyaktuk was featured in the second season of the reality television series Ice Road Truckers where they travelled down the Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road. It was also referenced several times in the 1994 television series Due South as a place where the main character, Benton Fraser, spent part of his childhood.
In 2009, an episode of Jesse James is a Dead Man titled "Arctic Bike Journey" featured James riding a custom motorcycle across 125 miles of ice road to deliver medicine to the locals of Tuktoyaktuk.
In late 2010, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced that an environmental study would be undertaken on a proposed all-weather road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Work on the highway officially started on January 8, 2014, and is expected to be done by 2017 or 2018.
Tuktoyaktuk has a K-12 school called Mangilaluk School as part of the Beaufort-Delta Education Council. It also hosts a Community Learning Centres of Aurora College.
Tuktoyaktuk is set on Kugmallit Bay, near the Mackenzie River Delta, and is located on the Arctic tree line.
Many locals still hunt, fish, and trap. Locals rely on caribou in the autumn, ducks and geese in both spring and autumn, and fishing year-round. Other activities include collecting driftwood, reindeer herding, and berrypicking. Most wages today, however, come from tourism and transportation. Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) is a major employer in this region. In addition, the oil and gas industry continues to employ explorers and other workers.
Tuktoyaktuk is the gateway for exploring Pingo National Landmark, an area protecting eight nearby pingos in a region which contains approximately 1,350 of these Arctic ice-dome hills. The landmark comprises an area roughly 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi), just a few miles west of the community, and includes Canadas highest (the worlds second-highest) pingo, at 49 m (161 ft).