Human Flagpoles


Circulated between 1974 and 1979, the two-dollar bill features Joseph Idlout and his relatives preparing their kayaks for a hunt. (Bank of Canada / National Currency Collection)

“But it’s so cold up here, Grandfather.” The nine-year-old huddled with the rest of his brothers and sisters around the aged Inuit in front of the fireplace in the family hut.

“I know, George, I know it’s much colder here than in Inukjuak, but we were starving there. The white government says they will help us.”

“By moving us and seven other families to this frozen wasteland, Father?” Joseph paced back and forth in frustration. “You know why they’re doing this, don’t you?”

“Please, Joseph. For the children’s sake.”

“They might as well know the truth, Father. The Canadian government is using us as human flagpoles, sticking us in Resolute to establish a far north dominance and rattle their sabers at the Soviets.”

“They’ve lied to us many times before, put us on their reservations, but we have always survived.” The old man’s voice was resolute. “We will survive this.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a wee tale no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Resolute, NU, Canada. Naturally, I relied on Wikipedia as my “quick and dirty” information source, but I had to read no further than the Settlement section to get my ‘hook.” It’s the sad tale of the High Arctic Relocation of “seven or eight families from Inukjuak, northern Quebec (then known as Port Harrison) first transported to Grise Fiord on the southern tip of Ellesmere Island and then to Resolute on Cornwallis Island” in August 1953. Click the link to learn more.

To find out even more about this dark time in Canadian history and why I titled my story “Human Flagpoles,” read ‘Human Flagpoles’: Dark story behind Inuit scene on $2 bill (which is where I got the image for my story) and Ottawa sorry for using Inuit as ‘human flagpoles’.

Read other stories based on the prompt by visiting

24 thoughts on “Human Flagpoles

  1. It seems there are so many tragic stories about forced relocations like this, at every corner of the globe we visit. Heartbreaking, and yet also inspiring in an odd way, to think of how people managed to survive and persevere, even under such conditions. I’d never heard of the idea of “human flagpoles”; very evocative concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well
    Done !
    And seems the United States is not the only country with similar ostentatious error and exploit –
    I read the article u linked and liked this part:
    “…is that we were basically human flagpoles, so the Canadian government could assert sovereignty over the high arctic.”
    Thx for the history


  3. This is marvelous–it crackles with emotion, especially as Joseph speaks his mind. I love how you were able to weave in the (awful) historical reason behind the relocation.


  4. Human flagpoles – what a great phrase for how the Inuit were used at the time. So cynical, and barbaric too, as they left the people ill-equipped to survive there, in that land of semi darkness. Well written James


  5. I like the contrast of the young and old voices. The challenging, aggressive voice of the teen or young man, and the resigned voice of the elder, willing to once again give the white man the benefit of the doubt, but nevertheless proud of his people’s ability to survive in the harshest of conditions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.