Hundreds of photos of Inuit communities explained in new e-book

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Atiqput: Inuit Oral History and Project Naming, released October 2022, features historical images of previously unnamed Inuit along with stories of elders to describe them. It is available on the McGill-Queens University Press webpage. (note: the book is available in eBook as well as in paper version)

“A multi-generational discussion of culture, history and naming centered on archival photographs of Inuit whose names were previously unrecorded,” describes the University Press website.

Co-edited by Beth Greenhorn, Carol Payne, Deborah Kigjugalik Webster, and Christina Williamson, the book features “Project naming.” (The book does not necessarily present the “discoveries”, it is more about the history of the project and the Inuit naming traditions, which use identifications for the naming of the project as a means of talking about these traditions. contributing elder, Piita Irniq, named the book: “Atiqput” means “our names”.

The project was launched in 2002. It is a photo identification and community engagement initiative. It all started with a partnership between Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS), an Ottawa-based Inuit college, the Government of Nunavut and Library and Archives Canada.

“The project started with the digitization of around 500 photos. They included images taken in Iglulik, Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk and the former community of Padlei between 1949 and 1950. In 2002, NS students brought the images back to these communities and shared them with their Elders and family members. After identifying three-quarters of the photographs, the digitization expanded to communities across Nunavut. They collected the names of hundreds of Nunavummiut through various methods; community outreach, Naming Continues online form, “Do You Know Your Elders? , a weekly photo report in Nunavut News/North, on-site visits to LAC and social media,” explains the Library and Archives Canada website.

The goal of the project is to try to better understand the story behind the no-name images. Community members can still get involved by visiting the Library and Archives Canada website under the Aboriginal Initiatives tab. (Library and Archives Canada)

In March 2017, Beth Greenhorn and Carol Payne hosted a 15th anniversary of the project. They invited Elders, NS teachers, NS students and alumni. and partners. The event took place in Ottawa over two days. These conversations were the beginnings of this book.

“After the event, Carol Payne and I started discussing whether we would take some of the speeches from the Elders and others who spoke at the event and turn them into a book. We thought about it 5 years ago and finally launched it, so it’s been a work in progress for quite a while,” says Atiqput co-editor Beth Greenhorn. The book is divided into 3 sections: the history of Project Naming; elder stories of naming; and how Project Naming has been extended to search.

There is still no Inuktitut translation of the book due to lack of funding. “We would love to have one, but we just didn’t have the funds. Unfortunately, there isn’t, but what we did was we used Inuktitut terms and vocabulary, place names and people’s names in the book,” says Greenhorn.

“One of the key elements of Project Naming has been the digitization of historic photographs, which have been largely inaccessible to Inuit communities for decades. In the book, with the Elders talking about the images, it’s a way, hopefully, the new generation of Inuit can learn more about these photographs and their history and culture.

Félix Charron-Leclerc, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Nunavut News

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