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 A Brief History of Aklavik and Moose Kerr School 

Moose Kerr School (MKS) has a rich and culturally diverse history. Built in 1969, under the guidance and support of Arnold J. (Moose) Kerr (a teacher and  administrator in Aklavik between 1952 and 1961), MKS was built on the premise  of inclusive and culturally infused education. To support, part of the first  employed faculty at MKS included Indigenous Instructors and since then, have had a number of Indigenous educators providing their wisdom and leadership;  one of which was Velma Illasiak, a principal of MKS from 1999-2018. 

Today, Moose Kerr School is home to more than 125 students and employs 35  faculty and staff – 17 of whom have been born and raised in Aklavik; the longest  standing has been with the school for 49 years (Margo McLeod). If you were to  visit MKS today, you’d soon realize that the school is active in its academic  deliveries, but also in its belief that culture must be the driving force behind what  students learn and experience. Besides delivery of Indigenous units on  drumming, languages, jigging, Welcoming Back the Sun, and the ever-popular  Muskrat Trapping, Moose Kerr School also ensures that each child experiences everything from on-the-land activities to processing wild meat to annually  participating in the NWT Indigenous Games. It is, as most would say, a school built  for the community. Of course, this is a testament to the ancestral elders who set  the platform from which Moose Kerr was built. 

As for Aklavik, which has been established as a Hamlet since 1974, it began  existence in the early 1900s when the Pokiak and Greenland families settled by  the then, Trading Post. Shortly afterwards, in and around 1920, the Hudson Bay  Company set up shop to purchase the many furs coming to Aklavik from  throughout the region. At the same time, the Anglican Church (1919-1936) and  the Roman Catholic Church (1925-1936) set up schools for children. Aklavik was  now becoming settled and was in fact, such a desirable representative of the  north that soon after the 1920s, interest in locating in Aklavik had spread throughout Canada. Some of the organizations making their way included the  RCMP building its Western Arctic Headquarters in 1922; the All Saints Anglican  and Immaculate Conception Hospitals being established in 1925; and, in the same  year, the Canadian Corps of Signals Station opened. In fact, by 1929 air mail was being delivered; with C. H. Dickens landing the first cargo airplane in Aklavik.

However, as it was in the north at the time, there were those who did not  appreciate the growing community and encroaching interference. One such  individual was Albert Johnson, a.k.a. the Mad Trapper of Rat Creek. After a  trapping license dispute, Alberta Johnson began what would become the largest  manhunt in the north, when he did not cooperate with the RCMP and fired  warning shots after they questioned him about it. In response, and over a  distance of more than 137 km in some of the roughest conditions on earth, the  RCMP hunting party eventually tracked Alberta Johnson down and killed him after  an intense shoot-out; he was later buried in Aklavik. In the end, Alberta Johnson  was responsible for killing Constable Edgar Millen and injuring one other officer.  To this day there continues to be an investigation of who he was and where he  came from.  

Aklavik and Moose Kerr School have come a long way since their earlier days.  Even despite the new transition program initiative (beginning in 1953) which in  1958 resulted in attempts to relocate community members to the now-known  town of Inuvik, Aklavik and Moose Kerr School persevered. In fact, it was from  this that in 1980 Aklavik adopted the motto of Never Say Die


Mission Statement:

At Moose Kerr School we endeavour to have students, school, families, and community members work together with a common understanding of the past, present and future. It is what fosters the foundation of ‘Never Say Die!’ It also ensures that all students and representatives of the school remain in a loving and accepting environment while students acquire the necessary skills for lifelong learning.