Holman in the Context of Canada

Holman is situated on Victoria Island which lies north of the Arctic Circle at latitude 70°.

Bluffs with Ice Formation

Bluffs surrounding the community of Holman. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.

Ulukhaktok "Holman Bluff"

Peter Palvik b. 1960
Ulukhaktok "Holman Bluff" 1994

Father Tardy's boat

Father Tardy's boat. Father Tardy ran the Catholic mission from 1949 to the early 1980s and was instrumental in the development of the arts and crafts industry in Holman. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.

Holman, May 2000

Holman, May 2000. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight.


Holman is a remote northern Canadian community of approximately 460 people located on the western side of Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories, about 900 kilometres (558 miles) north of Yellowknife. The people of Holman refer to themselves as Ulukhaktokmiut in their dialect of Inuinnaqtun. Ulukhaktok is the large bluff which overlooks the community. In Inuinnaqtun, ulukhaktok means "the place where ulu parts are found." Sharp slate found in this area was traditionally used to manufacture the ulu, a semi-lunar shaped knife used primarily by women in the preparation of food, and skins for clothing. The ulu is the symbol used by Holman artists on their prints, and the bluffs are often depicted in the artwork.



The people of Holman belong to the group of Inuit people referred to as the Copper Inuit, so named because of their traditional use of copper in the production of tools and weapons. The word Inuit means "the people," the singular form of which is inuk, or "person," and this is the way the people refer to themselves. The word Eskimo is largely an outdated designation in Canada but still appears in the titles of organizations formed when the word was in use.



Historically, the people of Holman originated from three areas: Minto Inlet (Kanghiryuahokmiut); Prince Albert Sound (Kanghiryuakmiut); and Read Island (Puivlingmiut). Today, there are also resident families from the Tuktoyaktuk and Mackenzie Delta area as well as Alaska. This cultural diversity is reflected in community practices, especially the drum dances. The community of Holman was established in 1939 when a Hudson’s Bay Post and a Roman Catholic mission were erected. The community outgrew its original site on King’s Bay and moved in 1966 to its present location in Queen’s Bay.



Landscape and identity are intimately linked. People all over the world are shaped by their environments and Holman, with its extreme climate and geography, is no exception. The people who live here have adapted to their unique environmental conditions with a way of life that requires patience, skill and, above all, an understanding of their interdependence with other people and with the animals with which they share the land. Because of its geographical remoteness, Holman had little contact with the rest of world until the middle of the 20th century. While the last sixty years have been a time of rapid change, the people of Holman continue to practice many aspects of a traditional lifestyle which is reflected in their artwork.

Welcome to Holman

Welcome to Holman


Back to Top




© The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2002. All Rights Reserved.


The Winnipeg Art Gallery
Home     Life in Holman     Artists     Art-Making     Gallery     Storytelling
Classroom Connections     Games     Glossary     References/Further Research     Credits     Comments