The Inuit—Inuktitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ) meaning for “the people”—are the northernmost Indigenous people in Canada. They reside in the territories in their traditional regions and homeland, which is known as Inuit Nunangat.
Historically, Inuit were not known to travel to Alberta. Unfortunately, two circumstances above others brought them to Edmonton: a summons to appear in court, or a need to be treated for tuberculosis (TB).
Despite being strong, resilient people, Inuit were not immune to epidemics brought to the Arctic. Influenza and TB were brought up north in the 1900s and had devastating effects on the people. The CD Howe, an RCMP vessel, travelled the Arctic waterways testing Inuit for the infectious lung disease. Those who tested positive were flown south to sanitariums.
Inuit from the Western and Central Arctic were hospitalized at the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital in Edmonton.
Between 1950 and 1960, approximately one-third of Inuit were infected with TB. In 1956, more than one in 10 Inuit were being treated in southern Canadian hospitals and, on average, Inuit were in these hospitals for two and a half years.
Some Inuit survived and were able to return home. Many Inuit passed away and were buried in cemeteries in Edmonton and other southern Canadian cities away from their homes.
In memory of, and to honour the many who never made it home, the ward was given the name Anirniq (ᐊᓂᕐᓂᖅ). Anirniq means ‘breath of life’, or spirit. In connection to the Charles Camsell located in the ward, and after consulting Inuit Elders the name was recommended because TB took the breath and spirit of many Indigenous People who were brought there.