Walking into Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society’s office, located within the The May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre, you will hear Inuinnaqtun, you will see Inuit people and cultural treasures, and you will feel that this is a space connecting people to their collective Inuinnait identities.
Co-founder and now Executive Director, Emily Angulalik, describes its humble origins as a room in an old school. “We had a matchbox house of a library with limited books, and limited resources,” Emily recalls. “We didn’t have any Inuinnaqtun resources, we didn’t have any recordings of our Elders.” It was then and there that two librarians – Emily and her settler accomplice Kim Crockatt – committed to creating resources and documenting Elders speaking, sharing oral histories, and knowledge about the lands and waters.
The first big project was documenting the history of Uvajuq (Mount Pelly), which is one of the first three giants that collapsed onto the ground and became a mountain. This history was passed down orally to children in Emily’s generation and she knew it needed to be recorded for future generations.
Read more about the legend of Uvajuq.
From there in the late 1980s, the work gained great interest from the community, and the library turned oral history project continued to flourish into a vibrant community space. With growing support and countless volunteer hours, the community group decided to incorporate and the work of the heritage society continued to expand.
Documenting, preserving, and revitalizing Inuinnaqtun – a sister language to Inuktitut – is the heart and soul of Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq’s work today, and the organization has started a multi-year project to record Inuinnaqtun terminology related to the natural world and surrounding environment. This will include land-based workshops, and support from linguists who work closely with Inuinnait Elders to preserve the wisdom and knowledge that lives within the language.
Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq also offers language programming using the Mentor Apprentice model and aspires to build a language nest to support the full reclamation of Inuinnaqtun. Connecting the Inuinnaqtun language and Inuinnait ways of life, the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq is also running year-round fishing workshops that include tool and spear making, and increasing food sovereignty in the Qitirmiut (Kitikmeot) Region.
Read more about Inuinnaqtun language revitalization efforts.
With less than 500 speakers left today, Inuinnaqtun is considered endangered by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society’s vision is to hear Inuinnaqtun spoken proudly, every day in Iqaluktuuttiaq.
Sharing her biggest hope, Emily says, “The more we work together, the more we come together and gather, the more we do to make sure our younger generations can speak our native language. I want youth to be able to communicate and I want to see their identities being fed. We are feeding our souls and feeding our spirits through cultural programming and teaching Inuinnaqtun.”
Mission + Vision + Values
To preserve and renew Inuinnait knowledge, language and culture for the benefit of all Inuit.
To concentrate and connect the resources, expertise and technology critical to Inuinnait cultural and linguistic survival.
Flexibility and Innovation