Memorial, Nunatsiavut highlight Inuit traditions over four days

Oct 5th, 2016

By Jeff Green

From left, Dr. Tom Gordon, conference co-convenor; Vicky Allen, conference co-ordinator; Andrea Quigley, special projects co-ordinator; and Ossie Michelin, knowledge mobilization co-ordinator.
Memorial, Nunatsiavut highlight Inuit traditions over four days

It has taken months of planning, but a circle of loyal volunteers and a handful of staff are ready to welcome delegates from around the circumpolar world to the 20th biennial Inuit Studies Conference.

More than 400 Inuit, researchers, artists, community leaders, tradition-bearers and students will participate in the four-day event, which is being hosted by Memorial and the Nunatsiavut Government. The conference is taking place Oct. 7-10 on the St. John’s campus, with a variety of community events, performances and special activities happening throughout the capital city.

Organizers have planned 200 discussions, workshops and other sessions focused on the theme of Inuit traditions. Delegates will explore a wide range of disciplines including education, housing, health, language, archaeology, the creative arts, the environment, public policy and many more.

This is the second time the Inuit Studies Conference will be hosted by Memorial and the first time in the organization’s 40-year history it is being co-hosted by an Inuit government.

Setting the tone

Dr. Gordon says this year’s keynote speakers will set the tone for conversations between traditional knowledge and scholarly research. The speakers include Natan Obed (Nunatsiavut), president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Natalia Radunovich (Chukotka), linguist and folklorist; Joar Nango (Samiland), architect; Tanya Tagaq (Nunavut), performance artist; and Mataalii Okalik (Nunatvut), president, National Inuit Youth Council.

“We are especially excited by the significant engagement of Inuit researchers with this year’s conference,” said Dr. Tom Gordon, professoremeritus, School of Music, and one of the key organizers of the conference. “The program is rich with the results of community-led research initiatives, informed by the wealth of knowledge from tradition-bearers. The conference seems to embody the changing face of research in the North.”

This year, two unique art festivals will run concurrently with the conference: katingavik inuit arts festival and iNuit Blanche.

katingavik inuit arts festival

During the katingavik inuit arts festival, a three-day celebration of Inuit creativity in film, music and visual arts, a number of performances, screenings and exhibitions will take place throughout St. John’s.

The festival is framed by two major events: the opening of SakKijâjuk: Inuit Fine Art and Crafts from Nunatsiavut at The Rooms Provincial Gallery on Oct. 7 and a concert by Tanya Tagaq, in collaboration with the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, on Monday, Oct. 10.

iNuit Blanche

iNuit Blanche, the first ever all-Inuit, all-night art crawl spread across downtown St. John’s during the evening of Oct. 8, will include more than 30 performances, demonstrations and events with a distinctly Inuit flair.

“Assembling this conference has been a best-case study in collaboration, starting with the tremendous support from both the host institutions, Nunatsiavut and Memorial, and on to the amazing contributions from numerous presenting partners: The Rooms, the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre,” Dr. Gordon said. “What began as a conference has evolved into a massive celebration of Inuit culture.”

Honouring Inuit expert

The conference will pay tribute to the late Dr. Jean Briggs, professor emerita, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, a respected anthropologist and Inuit language expert, who passed away in July. The Jean Briggs Memorial Book Room will be located in the Chamber Studio (room MU-1001) in the School of Music during the four-day event.

Research outcome

The conference is one of the outcomes of a five-year, $7.4-million research project — funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Memorial University and the Nunatsiavut Government — focused on creating dialogue between academic research and traditional knowledge for the protection, preservation and revitalization of Labrador Inuit culture and language. Dr. Gordon is principal investigator of the project.

Keep up-to-date about the conference by following it on Facebook and Twitter.

More information is available online.