Hundreds of pictures from Inuit communities explained in new e-book

Atiqput: Inuit Oral History and Project Naming, published October 2022, presents previously unnamed historical pictures of Inuit along with stories from Elders to describe them. It is available on McGill-Queens University Press’s web page. (note: the book is available as an eBook as well as in hard copy)

“A multigenerational discussion of culture, history, and naming centring on archival photographs of Inuit whose names were previously unrecorded,” describes the University Press’s website.

Co-edited by Beth Greenhorn, ​​Carol Payne, Deborah Kigjugalik Webster and Christina Williamson, the book presents “Project naming”. (the book does not necessarily present the “findings”, it is more about the history of the project, and Inuit naming traditions, which uses identifications for Project Naming as a way of talking about those traditions. One of the contributing Elders, Piita Irniq, named the book: “Atiqput” means “our names.”

The project was initiated in 2002. It is a photograph identification and community engagement initiative. It began as a partnership between Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS), a college for Inuit based in Ottawa, the Government of Nunavut and Library and Archives Canada.

“The project started with the digitization of about 500 photos. They included images taken in Iglulik, Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk and former community, Padlei between 1949 and 1950. In 2002, NS students brought the images back to these communities, sharing them with their Elders and family members. After identifying three-quarters of the photographs, digitization expanded to communities from across Nunavut. They gathered names of hundreds of Nunavummiut through a variety of methods; community outreach, the Naming Continues online form, “Do You Know Your Elders?” , a weekly photo feature in Nunavut News/North, on-site visits to LAC and social media” explains the website of Library and Archive Canada.

The project’s goal is to try to gain a better understanding of the history behind the unnamed pictures. Community members can still get involved by visiting Library and Archives Canada’s website under the Indigenous Initiatives tab. (Library and Archives Canada)

In March of 2017, Beth Greenhorn and Carol Payne organized a 15th anniversary of the project. They invited Elders, NS faculty, NS students and alumni, and partners. The event took place in Ottawa over two days. Those conversations were the beginnings of this book.

“After the event, Carol Payne and I started talking about wouldn’t it be great if we took some of the talks by the Elders and others who spoke at the event and turned it into a book. We thought about it 5 years ago and we finally launched it, so it’s been a work in progress for quite a while,” explains Beth Greenhorn, co-editor of Atiqput. The book is divided into 3 sections: the history of Project Naming; Elders’ stories about naming; and how Project Naming has been extended in research.

There’s still no Inuktitut translation of the book due to lack of funding. “We’d love to have one but we just didn’t have the funds. Sadly there is not, but what we did is we used inuktitut terms and vocabulary, places name and people’s name in the book,” says Greenhorn.

“One of the key things about Project Naming, has been digitizing historical photographs, which have been largely inaccessible to Inuit communities for decades. In the book, with the Elders talking about the images, it is a way, we hope that the new generation of Inuit will be able to learn more about these photograph and their history and their culture.”

Félix Charron-Leclerc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunavut News