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A journey into Inuit Traditional Knowledge


The first collection of oral history books published by Nunavut Arctic College is called Interviewing Inuit Elders. As their titles indicate, each of these five books explores an important dimension of Inuit Traditional Knowledge: An Introduction to Traditional Knowledge, Child Rearing Practices, Cosmology and Shamanism, Perspectives on Traditional Health, and Perspectives on Traditional Law.

 Knowledgeable elders from different regions of Nunavut were invited to Iqaluit where interviews with them were conducted in Inuktitut by students of the Language and Culture Program, supervised by Susan Sammons. Facilitators with relevant academic backgrounds, such as Frédéric Laugrand (Laval University), Bernard Saladin d'Anglure (Laval University), Jaarich Oosten (University of Leiden, Holland), and Michèle Therrien (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations, France), guided the students in preparing questions and conducting research on the content of the interviews.

By asking relevant questions, students and facilitators engaged in reconstructing Inuit concepts and practices from a time when their way of life had been less impacted by foreign influence. The elders being interviewed are some of the last witnesses of the nomadic lifestyle, when Inuit families lived in isolated encampments and travelled great distances with their sled dogs, by umiaq, or on foot.

Inuit Perspectives on the 20th Century
Mariano Aupilaarjuk
I think we have to begin thinking about where Inuit have come from and where we are going to go in the future. I think we are in a three way situation. We have to really think about this carefully for we have to plan ahead. We have to look to the past and look at where we were, we have to look where we are today. We see that people’s physical and mental well-being is deteriorating. We have to start reviving ourselves again.” Perspectives in Traditional Law, (Pages 34-35).