Today, July 9, is Nunavut Day which celebrates the passage of the Nunavut Land Claims Act in Canadian Parliament on July 9, 1993.
In October 2018, Glenbow curator Joanne Schmidt traveled to several communities in Nunavut to share images taken by photographers Geraldine and Douglas Moodie in and around Qatiktalik (Fullerton Harbour) between 1903-1909. During the visit Schmidt met and received generous assistance from many community members, including Becky Tootoo of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), a teacher at a local high school for 30 years. Becky became interested in learning more about Inuit material culture held outside of Nunavut and in reading more of the diaries written by the Moodies. She was particularly interested-in the ways in which these resources could enhance learning for Inuit youth about their history and culture. This past February, Becky came to Calgary to visit Glenbow’s collection as part of a professional development opportunity.
We reached out to Becky to ask her if she could provide some commentary this Nunavut Day and this is what she shared with us:
“In February 2020, as a part of my professional development as an Inuit educator from Nunavut, I was able to visit Glenbow Museum in Calgary and saw some pieces of art made by Inuit and collections of photographs and journals of Inuit. I strongly believe that museums play a role in society. Museums can play a role in reconciliation amongst the Indigenous peoples of Canada – more specifically with the Inuit.
This was the most productive professional development that I have participated in. It not only helped my professionally but helped me personally as well. There is one piece at the museum, a beaded amauti. Seeing this piece evoked some emotional feelings – this amaut was very beautifully made, caribou teeth and all. What struck me was how intricate the designs were and the time that the woman spent creating such a beautiful piece of clothing. This is still practiced today. I teach classes on sewing with local Inuit seamstresses and one of the projects created is a doll with beaded trim. Seeing this piece and sharing the patterns seen were powerful and meaningful to the Inuit students.
Seeing these pieces confirmed for me that Inuit were very able. I was also fortunate to have taken some time to look through the photographs taken by Geraldine Moodie from the Cape Fullerton area – Kivalliq region in Nunavut. Going through these documents affected me in a personal way. In the collection were photographs of my relatives — great grandparents on my father’s side plus a picture of my mother’s grandmother on her father’s side. I read some of the journal entries that the Moodie’s wrote. Treasures! The entries were written with detail which helped me to understand the lives that my relatives lived. This information then helped me with my search for people from my bloodline. Interesting and informative!
I left the Glenbow Museum with very rich information that will help me and my students with family tree projects that is a requirement in the Inuktitut course. We are able to make connections to the face through name because of the collections. There are many other pieces that can be seen and many journals that can be read and photographs that can be seen at the museum — all of the pieces and collections are important for the Inuit.
I also had taken a photo of an accordion and was going to share that the Europeans brought with them tools and instruments that Inuit now use for entertainment — Dances that can last all night long especially during Christmas.
The pieces hold patterns that need to passed on to the younger generations so that they are not lost.”