April 24, 2024 | Allison Robertson

The Vanishing Village of Angikuni Lake


The Legend of the Disappearing Inuit Village

Back in 1930, fur trappers passed through a small village in Northern Canada and made a grueling, and unexplainable discovery—one that still remains one of America’s most intriguing mysteries today.

inuit split image

Angikuni Lake

Angikuni Lake is a lake in Kivalliq Region, Nunavut—part of Northern Canada’s most extreme climate, and home to only a handful of tribes native to the area.

Angikuni Lake - 2014Nicolas Perrault II , Wikimedia Commons

A Typical Day

Back in 1930, on a cold November day, Canadian fur trapper Joe Labelle was traveling near Angikuni Lake—a trip he had taken numerous times.

Angikuni LakeNicolas Perrault II, Wikimedia Commons

The Welcoming Village

Labelle was aware of a small Inuit village, who had always welcomed the fur trappers who passed through occasionally, as he had visited them before.

But this time, something was different. 

Copper Inuit Women And Child In Front Of Snowhouses At Minto InletCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Discovery

Labelle had approached the village in hopes of finding lodging for the night—a common courtesy given by the Inuit people to fur trappers who often gave them things in return for a warm place to lay their head.

Village Anaktuvuk Pass - 1969U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

A Concerning Silence

Upon arriving, Labelle noticed the entire village was eerily quiet. Not a single person could be seen or heard, and things had appeared to be left “unfinished.”

Copper Inuit Snowhouse Village At Bernard HarbourCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Findings

Labelle found unfinished shirts that still had needles in them and food hanging over fire pits, indicating that these projects and tasks were suddenly abandoned.

Copper Inuit In Their Village At Coronation GulfCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Smoldering Fire

Huts were stock piled with food and personal possessions, and a fire pit was left still smoldering, signifying that their departure had been somewhat recent—though it was common for fires to be kept continuously burning, so the smoldering pit may not be a reliable source of time.

Eskimo Dwelling, Russian MissionJ. C. Cantwell, Wikimedia Commons

No Evidence of Life

Aside from what appeared to be a sudden exit, Labelle did not find any signs of struggle. Nothing was broken or ransacked, and there was no blood—or any evidence at all of human life.

Native Houses At Point Barrow VillageGovernment Printing Office, Wikimedia Commons

The Sled Dogs

Labelle, who had been here before, quickly turned his attention to the whereabouts of the tribe’s dogs—an important and valued part of the Inuit community.

Anaktuvuk sledge -  1957U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

Tracking

As an experienced trapper, Labelle couldn’t find any sort of tracks leading in or out of the village, but he continued to walk the permitter looking for anything that could explain the whereabouts of the people.

Until he made a disturbing discovery.

Copper Inuit Snowhouse Village At Bernard HarbourCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Gravesite

Not far from the village, Labelle came across what appeared to be a shallow man-made grave framed with undisturbed stones.

Suddenly on high alert, he continued to canvass the area, and that’s when he saw it. 

Grave Of A Norwegian Carpenter in snow.Liam Quinn, CC-BY-SA-2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Part

Labelle found seven, lifeless sled dogs, some huddled together and others not far away. It was determined that the dogs had passed due to starvation.

Copper Inuk With His DogsCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Making a Connection

At this point, Labelle knew something was terribly wrong. He knew that an animal could not be responsible for the death of the dogs because there was no sign of a fight and the dogs did not have any visible wounds.

Nancy Columbia And Her SubjectsLouisiana Purchase Exposition Co., Wikimedia Commons

Reporting the Findings

Labelle reported his findings to the authorities, who, Labelle says conducted a search for the missing people after finding the bodies of the dogs and confirming everything he had told them.

Man is looking for trace in the snow.Internet Archive Book Images, Wikimedia Commons

The Search

After days of searching, the authorities were unable to find any trace of human life—most importantly, that of the missing Inuit villagers.

But they did find something else. 

Photograph of a book illustration of an Inuit village - circa 1865Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

More Findings

At first, authorities were skeptical of Labelle’s story. It was widely assumed that the village had relocated. That is, until they found more possible belongings.

Typical Copper Inuit Snowhouses In Minto InletCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Kayaks

Kayaks had remained on the beach nearby, meals still hung over cold cooking fires, and numerous valuables and necessities remained exactly in their place.

Why would the villagers leave without any of their things?

Snowhouse Village Near Schooner 'North Star' At Bernard HarbourCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Adding Up the Details

Authorities continued to search, and additional people were brought in to help solve this intriguing mystery.

And eventually, some “red flags” were raised.

Arctic people in AntarcticaInternet Archive Book Images, Wikimedia Commons

Holes in the Story

There are apparently a number of things about Joe Labelle’s story that raised some red flags, drastically changing the direction of the search.

Copper Inuit Building Snowhouse VillageCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Red Flag #1

For one thing, it happened in November, when average temperatures are 13 degrees below freezing—meaning the lake would have been frozen.

This debunks Labelle’s details about the kayaks.

Kayak on the Lake KutenaiLibrary of Congress, Picryl

An Impossible Detail

Labelle had apparently told authorities that the kayaks were “battered by wave action”, indicating they may have been out on the lake during their disappearance. But this could not have been possible.

Eskimo man paddling kayak among chunks of iceAlaska, Western Canada and United States Collection, Picryl

Getting Specific

The very presence of kayaks being so far inland is suspect, however, but not impossible. Migratory Inuit would often portage to hunt caribou—but Angikuni Lake is landlocked so far inland, and the type of material used on these kayaks (sealskin) is not typically available in that area.

This could indicate that the kayaks did not belong to this particular Inuit tribe at all.

Eskimo In Kayak Probably Alaska - 1900English: Eric A. Hegg Photographs, Picryl

Red Flag #2

Labelle also described a permanent settlement, a “friendly little Eskimo village of about thirty inhabitants” that he’d “known for many years.”

But the authorities have an issue with this statement, too.

Copper Inuit Family Preparing To Leave Village At Bernard HarbourPhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Remote Location

Apparently, a village tribe of that size would not have existed in such a remote, inland area. They had left sealskin garments behind, in a region where there was caribou hide rather than sealskin.

So, either Labelle—a seasoned fur trapper—misidentified things, or perhaps the authorities were wrong.

Copper Inuit At Snowhouse VillagePhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Confusing Sequence

In fact, the details of this entire event seem to change based on the source presenting the information. Numerous publications have been written and the sequence of events doesn’t seem to follow a similar pattern in any of them.

Copper Inuit Gathered Around A Sled On Island Near Coppermine RiverPhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Lack of Evidence

Today, there is no evidence that the village existed at all. Once the authorities hit a dead end, they closed the book. All images found relating to the story are of generic Inuit villages and people.

Copper Inuit Snowhouse Village At Bernard HarbourCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Lack of Sources

The articles written about the event do not have any sources, other than Joe Labelle himself. And unfortunately, Labelle didn’t have anyone else with him during his initial visit to the village.

Journal Of A Second Voyage For The Discovery Of A North-West PassageParry, William Edward, Wikimedia Commons

More Red Flags

A year after the discovery, the RCMP released an investigation that revealed some more red flags involving Joe Labelle—the first being his employment location.

Snowhouses at Minto Inlet, Northwest TerritoriesPhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Red Flag #3

According to other local traders, Joe Labelle was a real person, but he worked only in northern Manitoba—a rather challenging distance from Lake Angikuni in Nunavut.

Apatok Near Inuit Village, Bathurst InletCanadian Museum of History, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Completely Unheard Of

Upon further investigation, no one in the area had even heard of this village, or its apparent disappearance—leading some to believe the entire thing was a hoax.

Snowhouses at Minto Inlet, Northwest TerritoriesPhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Forgotten Event

For the next 28 years, things were quiet. There were no new publications at all, and the entire event remained unheard of—until 1959 when a book was released.

Snowhouses in Minto Inlet, Victoria Island, Northwest TerritoriesPhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Brief Mention

Frank Edwards released a book devoting three short pages to Jow Labelle’s encounter. He offered no sources, and didn’t mention any previous publications.

Native House on West SideLindsay, David Moore, Picryl

A Sudden Interest

It didn’t seem to get too much acknowledgment—until 17 years later, when an interested writer dug deep into the details and arrived at a likely conclusion, with new information.

Man Reading and Writing Inside a Library.cottonbro studio, Pexels

New Information

In 1976, a man named Dwight Whalen wrote a cover story in FATE Magazine called “Vanished Village Revisited”, where he noted earlier publications, as well as some new—and disturbing—information.

Grayscale Photography of a Man Reading BookJovydas Dobilas, Pexels

RCMP Denial

Whalen reported that when he called the RCMP personally, looking for more information, they completely denied that this event ever took place, citing that they had no record of any such thing.

A Bearded Man on a Phone CallMART PRODUCTION, Pexels

A Tenacious Tale

Whalen then concluded that the entire story was made up by Joe Labelle, who may have stumbled upon old ruins of an ancient village, but fabricated the story.

But hold on, this is not the end. Things get weirder. 

Inuit Boats And Tents At Herschel Island VillagePhotographic Archives, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Famous Fan

A year after Whalen shares his conclusion, a reader named Betty Hill writes in to dispute it. But Betty was not just any fan—she had a rather bizarre story of her own.

Woman Writing Letter on TableClément Proust, Pexels

An Alien Abduction

Betty Hill, at the time, was the most famous self-described alien abductee in the world. She had claimed that while was on a ferry with her husband in the Bay of Fundy, she met Captain Larson—a Mountie who had spent nine years investigating the village’s disappearance.

Barney and Betty Hill were an American couple, allegedly abducted by extra-terrestrials - 1961Universal History Archive, Getty Images

A Fellow Believer

According to Betty, Captain Larson’s opinion was that the villagers had all been abducted by UFOs. And from then on, it became a highlight in every alien enthusiast’s work.

However, the villagers were not the last thing to disappear. 

Shot of a human being sucked into a spaceship.PeopleImages.com - Yuri A, Shutterstock

Disappearing Sources

Researchers opened the books once again—only this time, the original sources had all disappeared. The only evidence of this event was in publications written in the 70s, which quoted apparent sources, but had no way of citing them.

Man reading book and taking notes in home office.Dziana Hasanbekava, Pexels

An Unsolved Mystery

In addition to a lack of sources, newspaper articles that had apparently previously existed also could no longer be found.

To this day, the vanishing village of Angikuni Lake remains an unsolved mystery.

Doubtful man asking questionsOllyy, Shutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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