The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Zacharias Kunuk, OC, filmmaker, carver, sculptor, visual artist (born 27 November 1957 in Kapuivik, Nunavut). An internationally acclaimed media maker, Zacharias Kunuk has played a crucial role in the redefinition of ethnographic filmmaking in Canada and has been at the forefront of the Inuit’s innovative use of broadcast technology. He is perhaps best known for his debut feature film, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), which won six Genie Awards (including Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Motion Picture) and was ranked the No. 1 Canadian film of all time in a 2015 poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival.
In Canada, the term Indigenous peoples (or Aboriginal peoples) refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. These are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. In 2011, more than 1.4 million people in Canada identified as Indigenous. Though severely threatened — and in certain cases extinguished — by colonial forces, Indigenous culture, language and social systems have shaped the development of Canada, and continue to grow and thrive despite extreme adversity.1
It is often said that the Inuit have dozens of words to refer to snow and ice. Anthropologist John Steckley, in his book White Lies about the Inuit (2007), notes that many often cite 52 as the number of different terms in Inuktitut. This belief in a high number of words for snow and ice has been sharply criticized by a large number of linguists and anthropologists.
In recent years settlement, social and logistic factors have eliminated the nomadic lifestyle in favour of aggregation into permanent settlements which have concentrated around Repulse Bay, Mittimatalik [Pond Inlet], Hall Beach, Arctic Bay and Iglulik, which were formerly centres of trade.
Alikomiak (also spelled Alekámiaq) and Tatimagana, Inuit hunters from the central Arctic, were the first Inuit to be condemned and executed for murder under Canadian law on 1 February 1924. The trials of Alikomiak and Tatimagana have been described as demonstrations of federal authority over the Inuit as well as of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
Winner of the Sobey Art Award in 2006 and included in prestigious international exhibitions such as Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in collections like that of the National Gallery of Canada, Annie Pootoogook was born into a family of accomplished Inuit artists. She is the daughter of graphic artist Napachie Pootoogook and printmaker and carver Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, and is the granddaughter of Pitseolak Ashoona. Her uncle was Kananginak Pootoogook.
Inuktitut is an Indigenous language in North America spoken in the Canadian Arctic. It has approximately 34,000 speakers, located primarily in Nunavut and Québec, and is part of a larger Inuit language continuum (a series of dialects) stretching from Alaska to Greenland. Inuktitut uses a writing system called syllabics, created originally for the Cree, which represent combinations of consonants and vowels (see Cree Language). The language is also written in the Roman alphabet, and this is the exclusive writing system used in Labrador and parts of Western Nunavut. Inuktitut is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words tend to be longer and structurally more complex than their English or French counterparts.
Piita Irniq (formerly known as Peter Irniq and Peter Ernerk), cultural proponent, artist, public servant, commissioner of Nunavut (born 1947 at Lyon Inlet, NT [now Nunavut]). Irniq represented the Keewatin region in the Council of the Northwest Territories from 1975 to 1979. From 2000 to 2005, he served as the second commissioner of Nunavut . Irniq has worked to preserve and promote Inuit culture and languages.
Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, CM, journalist, broadcaster, philanthropist, commissioner of Nunavut (born 22 May 1946 in Qakutut, Northwest Territories). Hanson has spent much of her professional life in the public sector service, furthering the development of Nunavut and its people through her media and philanthropic work.
Paul Okalik, premier of Nunavut 1999–2008, Inuit land claim negotiator, politician, lawyer (born 1964 in Pangnirtung, NT). His accomplishments include contributing to the creation of the Inuit Heritage Trust, the Nunavut Implementation Training Committee and the Nunavut Social Development Council.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (formerly known as the Eskimo Brotherhood of Canada) is a national advocacy organization that promotes awareness about political, social, cultural and environmental issues that impact Inuit communities, from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, to Nunavut, Nunavik in Northern Québec, Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador and land claims regions.