The Block

Diverse items and materials, set against a felted wool background, were used by the The Inniutit Women’s Group to tell the story of the Qitiqmeut people, past, present and future. In the centre of the block is the traditional shelter from the elements, a snow-block iglu (igloo), shown in sun-bleached seal skin, defined with sinew and cotton threads. To the left is an oil lamp called aqudliq, a source of heat and light during the darkness of both night and day in the Arctic. Attached on the right is a collection of essential tools: a pana made of caribou bone and sinew (the snow knife is used to create shelters); a carved ivory ulu, the multi-use women’s implement, and a naugligaut or hunting spear, shown here in unbleached sealskin. The qayaq (kayak)situated at the bottom was used to hunt large sea mammals. The items at the top, a mortar board and a rolled, sealskin diploma, relate the peoples’ hopes and dreams for a better life through education and development. A surge in exploration and mining activity in the region is represented by the metal mining tools.

Members of the Inniutit Women’s Group include Annie Kavavaouk Buchan, Mona Igutsaq, Jeannie Ugyuk, Sarah Takolik, and Bessie Ashevak.

Igloolik Sunset
Igloolik Sunset
Snappy Salute
Inukshuk in Igloolik
Inuit footwear, Iglulik, 1987 - Bata Shoe Museum - DSC00395
Inuit Footwear
Iglulik Clothing 2 1999-07-18
Traditional Iglulik clothing
Ikpukhuak and his shaman wife Higalik
Copper Inuit Ikpukhuak and his shaman wife

Cultural Profile

Approximately 5,000 Inuktitut-speaking Inuit (including the Netsilik, Igloolik and Copper Inuit) live in Kitikmeot, the westernmost of the three regions of Nunavut. Both English and regional dialects are spoken by many, and Roman orthography or the English alphabet is becoming increasingly common alongside the syllabics used to represent these Native language.

The region’s landscape is characterized by tundra vegetation and sunless winter months that are contrasted by 24 hours of daylight in spring that lasts until June or July. Sea ice begins to break up in the summer months, but begins to freeze again as early as the end of September. It is generally accepted that forefathers of modern Inuit came from East Asia via the Bearing Land Bridge between Siberia and Alaska, known as the Beringia many thousands of years ago.

Like many of Canada’s First Peoples, the Inuit lifestyle was affected by the presence of traders, explorers, Hudson’s Bay Company outposts and the search for the Northwest Passage. Trapping changed traditional hunting grounds and the possession of firearms changed their methods of obtaining food and pelts. After the HBC closed its last trading post in the area in 1948, many Netsilik settled in Taloyoak (on the Boothia Peninsula), which means ‘large caribou blind’ in Inuktitut.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the arrival of various missionaries, who converted many Inuit to Christianity, the RCMP, and federal intervention saw the Inuit settled into housed communities with government schools and nursing stations. Since winning the rights to their land in 1999, they live under public government.

Traditional activities such as trapping and hunting remain prominent in everyday life, with carving, craft production and employment creating a balance between the old and the new. Modern conveniences, including satellite dishes and the internet, central heating and electricity make the northern communities not that much different from southern ones, except for the isolation and the climate extremes.

Sponsor: Ruth and Harold Fourney | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons