Understanding the Past to Build the Future is a five-year multidisciplinary study of the history of the Inuit Métis of southern Labrador. It is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) programme, as well as the community partners listed below.

Archaeological Dig at Indian Harbour, 2009
Uncovering an Inuit House at Indian Harbour, 2009

The research objectives include investigating the Inuit occupation of Southern Labrador, collecting and analyzing evidence of Inuit-European interactions, documenting cultural changes, and bringing the history of the Métis into the present day. Research activities include archaeology, ethnography, archival study, and genealogy.

New archaeological research to better understand the pre-contact and early contact period of Inuit occupation in Southern Labrador will focus on Inuit habitation sites near Sandwich and St. Michael's Bays. Research in European and North American church archives will include research on Moravian, Methodist and Anglican missions in Labrador to provide details of interactions between Inuit and Europeans along the Labrador coast. The economic and social history of the southern Labrador coast will be documented through searching archives for ships' logs, journals and diaries describing Labrador's social condition of the 18th and 19th centuries. Research into the more recent social history of the Métis will examine the role of social stigma and the development of Métis identity.

The research collaborators in this project are drawn from universities, communities and non-government organizations. In alphabetical order they are:
Dr. Mario Blaser, Memorial University (ethnography, First Nations research collaboration)
Dr. John Kennedy, Private Scholar, North River, Nova Scotia (ethnography, social and economic history)
Mr. Greg Mitchell, NunatuKavut (community research collaboration, sustainable development)
Dr. Evelyn Plaice, University of New Brunswick (ethnography, education)
Dr. Lisa Rankin, Memorial University (Principal Investigator) (archaeology, ethnohistory)
Dr. Hans Rollmann, Memorial University (social history, church history)
Dr. Marianne Stopp, ethnohistorian, Historical Services Branch, Parks Canada (archaeology, ethnohistory)
Ms. Patricia Way, Private Scholar, Cartwright, Labrador (genealogy, social history)

The project is overseen by a governing board drawn from academia and the wider community. Their role is to ensure that the project is proceeding according to the goals set out in the funding application, to monitor the financial expenditures, and to provide advice and fresh insights regarding future directions. The current members of the board are:
Ms. Martha MacDonald, Labrador Institute (Chair)
Dr. Peter Whitridge, Department of Archaeology, Memorial University
Dr. Tim Borlase, Moncton, NB
Ms. Darlene Wall, NunatuKavut Community Council, Labrador
Ms. Eva Luther, St. Lewis, NL.
Ms. Ola Gatehouse, Cartwright, NL

Sod House
Early contact period sod-walled Inuit house structure, near Sandwich Bay.

Understanding the Past to Build the Future is a collaborative research venture involving two universities and several community partners. The organizations contributing to this project, in alphabetical order, are:
Air Labrador, The Anglican Church of Canada, Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's, Battle Harbour Historic Trust, Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair MHA office, Cartwright Town Council, Community Youth Network, Eagle River Development Association, Labrador M. P. Office (House of Commons), The Labrador Institute, The Labrador Interpretation Centre, NunatuKavut, The Labrador School Board, Mary's Harbour Town Council, Memorial University, The Moravian Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Parks Canada, Port Hope Simpson Town Council, Provincial Archaeology Office of Newfoundland and Labrador, The Rooms, The Senate of Canada, Smart Labrador IT Initiative, Southeast Aurora Development Corporation, St. Lewis Town Council, Town Council of Charlottetown, Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, The United Church of Canada, The University of New Brunswick.

This research project combines and applies academic and community-based knowledge for the benefit of all stakeholders. A key outcome will be the incorporation of information into school curricula for southern Labrador, and material for adult literacy support. This will in turn result in greater local content for use in social studies and history classes, hopefully attracting student interest and stimulating learning. Métis students and adults will also be trained in archaeological field methods, archival research, and ethnographic and educational work.

In cooperation with community members, the results of the research will be made available as written and electronic resources for educational purposes and for the wider public. Findings from the new archaeological, archival and historical research will provide a significant stimulus to the nascent heritage tourism industry in southern Labrador. In addition, the employment of numerous Métis on the project will result in a body of trained experts who will be more than capable of developing this business. In addition to this web site, Labrador Métis and other members of the public will have full access to the ongoing research findings through touring exhibitions, public forums and other media.