New cultural centre is on its way to Cambridge Bay

·2 min read
Emily Angulalik, executive director of the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society, says the future Kuugalak space will open up more possibilities for cultural activities. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
Emily Angulalik, executive director of the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society, says the future Kuugalak space will open up more possibilities for cultural activities. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

More cultural programs and activities for the western Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay are on the way with the construction of an additional cultural workshop space this summer.

The $1.7-million facility for the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society will allow the heritage society to expand from the May Hakongak cultural centre and library, where space for activities and courses in the Inuinnaqtun language is limited.

In 2016, the proportion of Inuit in Cambridge Bay aged up to 34 years who could converse in Inuinnaqtun was much lower than in the other Kitikmeot communities.

Submitted by the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society
Submitted by the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society

At that time, only 13.8 per cent of preschool-aged Inuit children in Cambridge Bay could have a conversation in Inuktut, down by half from 2001, according to a Statistics Canada report on the evolution of language in Nunavut.

The new building will be a big step forward for Inuinnait to keep their language and culture, said Emily Angulalik, the society's executive director.

"I feel grateful and so privileged that we will have our own building, a building to pass down our Inuit language and our Inuit traditional knowledge to people of all walks of life," said Angulalik, who received the 2021 Indspire Award for culture, heritage and spirituality.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency's (CanNor) Canada Community Revitalization Fund put $766,018 toward the construction of the building, to be called Kuugalak (little river) after a nearby waterway.

During its feasibility and pre-construction phase, the Kuugalak project received funding from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Government of Nunavut, the federal government and Indigenous Clean Energy.

Kuugalak's design includes solar panels and other features that will be evaluated. The design will use new technologies and materials to reinforce energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Submitted by the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society
Submitted by the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society

"This workshop, located within an eco-friendly structure, will contribute to the protection of the Arctic for future generations," said Dan Vandal, the minister for CanNor, in a recent release.

The flow of the 1,200-square-foot space, organized around a central room, is based on archeological findings, recollections from elders of traditional architecture and dozens of interviews with local homeowners, builders and cultural stakeholders.

For elders, it will include countertops and cupboards that they can access, among other features throughout the entire building.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

The structure is being built this month at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Tradespeople from Cambridge Bay are flying down to Alberta to learn about the new materials used in the construction of Kuugalak so they can assemble and maintain it.

This summer, the various parts of the building will be shipped to Cambridge Bay and reassembled on site.

The new building is part of the society's larger environmental program, Nunamiututaq, focusing on energy efficiency and building up related Inuinnaqtun terminology.

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