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.
Country food is a term that describes traditional Inuit food, including game meats, migratory birds, fish and foraged foods. In addition to providing nourishment, country food is an integral part of Inuit identity and culture, and contributes to self-sustainable communities. Environmental and socioeconomic changes have threatened food security, making country food more expensive and difficult to harvest. Despite these challenges, the Inuit, in partnership with various levels of government and non-profit organizations, continue to work towards improving access to country food.
Inuktitut is an Indigenous language in North America spoken in the Canadian Arctic. The 2016 census reported 39,770 speakers, of which 65 per cent were located in Nunavut and 30.8 per cent in Quebec. Inuktitut 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 language, which represent combinations of consonants and vowels. 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.
In 1953 and 1955, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acting as representatives of the Department of Resources and Development, moved approximately 92 Inuit from Inukjuak, formerly called Port Harrison, in Northern Quebec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), in what is now Nunavut, to settle two locations on the High Arctic islands. It has been argued that the Government of Canada ordered the relocations to establish Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and proposed to Inuit the move, promising improved living conditions. The Inuit were assured plentiful wildlife, but soon discovered that they had been misled, and endured hardships. The effects have lingered for generations. The Inuit High Arctic relocations are often referred to as a “dark chapter” in Canadian history, and an example of how the federal government forced changes that fundamentally affected (and continue to affect) Inuit lives.
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.
An ulu is a cutting tool specific to the material culture of the Inuit. A practical device, the ulu has been significant to traditional subsistence strategies, namely hunting and harvesting. However, the ulu also holds cultural significance, especially to women, who have historically used the tool to cut meat for food, and skins for clothing. Today, some Inuit still use ulus for food preparation; others recognize the ulu for its traditional value.
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.
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
Inuvialuit originally occupied the western Canadian arctic coast from Barter Island in the west to Cape Bathurst in the east, as well as the northern portion of the Mackenzie River Delta. Numbering about 2000 during the 19th century, they formed the densest Inuit population in arctic Canada.
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.
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.
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.