In recognition of the significance of National Indigenous History Month we are creating a space to learn more about our shared histories and to celebrate the diversity among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. This week let’s spend time engaging with Inuit histories, knowledges, and cultures.
A Brief (Early) History:
The Inuit have stewarded the Arctic regions since time immemorial. Today, there are approximately 65,000 Inuit in Canada, many of whom reside in one of the 51 communities in Inuit Nunangat (Inuit Homeland). Living in the Arctic requires adapting to a land that is much different from the other regions of Turtle Island. For much of the year the land is covered in ice and snow, and during winter Arctic regions can experience approximately 30 days of darkness. Therefore, Inuit communities traditionally adapted to this territory by being small, nomadic, and autonomous. Each community would move throughout the seasons to hunt, fish, and gather. From winter to summer the waters, animals, and land provided all Inuit communities needed to thrive. By developing advanced tools and ways of living the Inuit population rapidly outgrew the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and created permanent settlements and hunting territories. However, the respectful relationship with the land continued as it had been since time immemorial.
In the late 1500’s, Europeans began sailing the coastline of Inuit Nunangat. As the Arctic began to attract whalers and fur traders, the Inuit way of life was changed – whaling became a year-long activity instead of a seasonal one, missionaries erected churches, and new European governments were established. Thus, begun colonization and assimilation policies that would deeply wound Inuit ways of being, knowing, and doing. Our present is about acknowledging painful acts of colonization and building a future founded on healing. We can begin this path by deepening our understanding of Inuit history and Inuit culture.
The above is only a brief introduction to the early history of the Inuit and our shared history that began in the 1500’s. Please explore the links below to learn more.
Watch: Breaths by Susan Aglukark
Inuit Qauijimajatuqangit (Inuit Traditional Knowledge) is found in culture. Explore Inuit stories, games, and language below.
Watch: Shaman by Echo Henoche
Read: Traditional Inuit Games
Read: Inuit Art Quarterly
Watch: Games of the North
Tanya Tagaq is also a “Punk Inuit Throat Singer”. Watch below:
Things You Should Know:
1. Igloos were not the only type of shelters traditionally used by Inuit communities.
Traditionally, the Inuit built shelters based on the season and the materials available in the territory. This allowed for shelters to be built quickly and easily while moving between the seasons to hunt and fish. Igloos were only built as shelters in the winter to protect from the cold, wind, and snow. In the spring and summer, tents of seal skin would be made. And in the fall, when it was too cool for a tent and there was not enough snow for an igloo, an icehouse with a seal skin roof was built. For Inuit living in the forested areas of Northern Quebec, it was also common to build shelters made of wood because of its abundance in the territory. And although these are no longer the common types of housing in Inuit Nunangat, they remain culturally significant and a symbol of Inuit ingenuity.
2. Inuktitut is the language of the Inuit.
Inuktitut is the traditional language of the Inuit, with approximately 40,000 speakers in Canada. It is also recognized as an official language in both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. There are multiple dialects of Inuktitut such as the dialects of Nunavimmiutitut and Inuttitut found in Quebec and Labrador respectively. In Inuktitut, the word Inuit means “the people” with the singular of Inuit being Inuk.
3. The Inuit are an inventive people who developed many advanced tools and ways of transportation.
The Inuit have invented advanced tools and ways of transportation that allow for an easier life in the Arctic. Inuit inventions include: qamutiks (dogsleds), qajaqs (kayaks), igloo, ulu (women’s knife), pana (men’s knife), quilliq (small stone stove), fur clothing, and toggle-head harpoons.
Additional Learning Resources:
June 1st to June 30th: Share your learning raffle!
Throughout the month of June all members of our CityU community are invited to participate in the Share Your Learning raffle. Share something that you learn or experience during Indigenous Peoples History Month and/or National Indigenous Peoples Day to be entered to win one of multiple prizes! Use this link to enter the raffle on Google Forms.
June 14th from 12pm to 2pm PDT: Celebration at the CityU Vancouver Campus (In-Person)
There are new Indigenous art pieces being displayed in June at the Vancouver campus! Join us in a celebration of Indigenous cultures, to learn more about the artwork, and to participate in some art of your own. This is an afternoon for cultural activities and learning. All the CityU community is welcome!
June 19th at 12pm to 1pm PDT: Community Book Reading Braiding Sweetgrass (Virtual)
Gather with Indigenous Campus Advocate Jalissa Schmidt to share reflections and conversations about Robin Will Kimmerer’s teachings of Indigenous knowledge, relationships, and plants in her book Braiding Sweetgrass.
This discussion will focus on the introduction and the first half of the section “Planting Sweetgrass”. The book is available through our CityU library, but you don’t have to read the book to attend! All are invited to join the discussion. And, if we want to continue reading this love letter to Mother Earth together, more gatherings will be scheduled!
Zoom Link: https://cityu-edu.zoom.us/j/82520790128