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Library and Archives Canada Designates More Than $350,000 in Funding for Inuit Arts Organizations

Jan 20, 2020

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has announced the recipients of grant money through the Listen, Hear Our Voices Initiative, which provides contribution funding to help Indigenous organizations digitize their existing culture and language recordings and build the skills, knowledge and resources they need to carry out this work in their communities. Among the $2.3 million awarded across 31 organizations, several Inuit associations will receive funding totalling approximately $350,000, including the Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV), Avataq Cultural Institute, and Inuit Broadcasting Corporation.

"As we continue our work with Indigenous partners on the path toward reconciliation, initiatives such as this illustrate our government's ongoing commitment to support Indigenous communities in preserving First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures and languages for future generations," said Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault. Read on to see how the money will be put to use by some of the organizations.

Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautini/ Kitikmeot Heritage Society 
Digitizing Inuit Language, Culture and Knowledge to Engage Communities in Language Revitalization

Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautini/ Kitikmeot Heritage Society plans to use the funding for their project Digitizing Inuit Language, Culture and Knowledge to Engage Communities in Language Revitalization. They have approximately 1,000 hours of footage at risk owing to outdated technology which makes the footage inaccessible to their communities. The LAC funding will go towards the digitization of 270 hours of footage.

The tapes include interviews with Elders from various land camps in the 1990s on topics of traditional life ways, hunting, fishing, family life and death, burial and relocations from the land. There are also recordings of Inuit songs and drum dancing. As part of the digitization, the recordings will be translated and/or transcribed, and given archival descriptions. Located in Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), NU, this digitization will ultimately allow Kitikmeot to share these materials across the three other remote communities the organization serves: Kugluktuk (Coppermine) and Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven) in Nunavut and Ulukhaktok, Inuvialuit Settlement Region in Northwest Territories.

Them Days Incorporated 
The Voices of Them Days

Oral history magazine Them Days will use the funding to continue their project The Voices of Them Days, working to digitize an estimated 900 audiocassettes and 100 reel-to-reel tapes dating from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. Approximately an hour apiece, these tapes contain records of oral history told by Nunatsiavut community members in Inuktitut, English and Innu-aimun, as well as cultural performances. As part of the project, Them Days will host a workshop in Happy Valley – Goose Bay about digitization and archival maintenance. In addition to training Them Days staff, the workshop will be open to other Indigenous organizations in the area.

While preserving the recordings digitally before their audiocassettes degrade further, Them Days aims to make the information more accessible online. A portion of this material is already digitized and available on their Finding Aid, but more will be transcribed and added for the community to access as part of this project.

Avataq Cultural Institute 
Uummatirpaa [Bring Back to Life]

Uummatirpaa [Bring Back to Life] is the digitization project being undertaken by Avataq Cultural Institute, which will use the LAC funding to preserve approximately 260 oral history recordings from the 1970s to 1990s. Predominantly in Inuktitut, these tapes contain recordings of the first Nunavik Elders Conferences, interviews with Elders in thirteen Nunavik communities, and tapes of interviews conducted by Japanese anthropologists Nobuhiro Kishigami and Kei’ichi Omura with Nunavimmiut in Akulivik, Inukjuak and Kangiqsualujjuaq in the 1980s and 9190s. Although these tapes represent only a fraction of the files in their archive, Avataq has chosen to prioritize these recordings for their focus on kinship, hunting/food related activities, colour terminology, food subsistence, sharing activities and ethnobotany.

Avataq is ultimately planning to house the digitized recordings in a public archive. For now, the recordings will be available on request to community members after the tapes are described by a bilingual Oral History Indexer fluent in Nunavik Inuktitut dialects. 

Inuit Broadcasting Corporation 
Inuit Film and Audio Archival Project

For the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, this new funding will go towards their Inuit Film and Audio Archival Project, which has been digitizing since 2014 and is estimated to run for another ten years. They are working to preserve 18,000 tapes with approximately 9,000 hours of footage between them. IBC has been working at a rate of 400 tapes a year, but this new funding will put them on track for 900 by the end of 2020.

The tapes contain archival footage going back to the late 1970s, which provide fascinating snapshots of the historical, political, and societal development of Nunavut. For example, one tape, simply labelled “Men Talking Politics,” records Tagak Curley and the late W. Thomas Molloy in the final throes of negotiating for the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. As part of the digitization process, IBC will be relabelling and adding descriptions to videos like this, to allow users to more easily find important information.

Ultimately, selections from the tapes will be made publicly accessible via Isuma.tv. Web players in ten communities across the north allow community members to access the materials, whose viewership has been growing at a rate of 10-20% per year.

Find the full list of recipients at Library and Archives Canada.

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