Master of Arts
This thesis explores Inuvialuit cultural heritage through the lens of Inuvialuit Pitqusiat Inuusimitkun or living art, a term coined by Iñupiaq/Inuvialuk Elder Pauline Saturgina Tardiff and translated to Sallirmiutun by Inuvialuit Elders Albert and Shirley Elias. Using semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and ethnography, it brings together the knowledge of 11 Inuvialuit artists to discuss Inuvialuit living art through: its ability to tell stories through time and space; its role in surviving and thriving on the land; and its connection to inner “heartwork”. Using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) framework, it outlines the 2019 Inuvialuit Living History Culture Camp at Ivvavik National Park, where living art, photovoice, and participatory design were employed in action with nine Inuvialuit research partners to co-create visual products and documentation of Inuvialuit cultural heritage. This thesis concludes that living art is a vital aspect of Inuvialuit cultural heritage and advocates for continued engagements with living art, musicality, and a heart-centred approach in the future of archaeological research.
Summary for Lay Audience
This work talks about the role of art in Inuvialuit culture and history, which Iñupiaq/Inuvialuk Elder Pauline Saturgina Tardiff calls a living art, and Albert and Shirley Elias calls Inuvialuit Pitqusiat Inuusimitkun. But what makes Inuvialuit art a living art? First of all, it can hold and tell Inuvialuit stories for a long time and through many generations. Second, it is often made to live life, whether that is to survive on the land, or to connect with and show your love for your family. Third, it is always made with the heart and is often a thoughtful and emotional experience that can also be extremely healing for the soul.
After learning more about Inuvialuit living art from 11 Inuvialuit artists, the Inuvialuit Living History (ILH) Project hosted a Culture Camp and brought 5 Inuvialuit youth, 2 Elders, and 2 Knowledge Holders, a videographer from the Inuvialuit Communications Society (ICS), along with a couple of university academics, out to Ivvavik National Park to make their own Inuvialuit living art. At the camp, everyone worked together to make and design creative projects about Inuvialuit culture and history, including: collages and posters, drawings, sewings, photos, videos, and a youth zine called Nipatur̂uq that featured interviews and portraits of the Inuvialuit who went on this trip.
This project finds that researchers have to use visual media to create knowledge about culture and history with local communities, and set up places where different generations can teach and learn from each other, in order to respect and celebrate Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Making art should be seen as research and can change power imbalances between researchers, and local people can see themselves as researchers whether they have been to university or not. Future researchers would benefit from taking more creative approaches to doing Northern research, working with and placing what local people want first, making more art together, trying new ideas (instead of bringing new people into the same old ways), and most importantly always being sensitive to local cultures, histories, languages, and people’s feelings. All of these actions used in partnership with Northern Indigenous communities help us all move closer to making archaeology and anthropology a more equal learning experience for everyone involved.
Lau, Jason YF, "Inuvialuit Living Art: Co-Creating Local Community Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8642.