The project will merge academic research with traditional knowledge and aims to preserve and promote the Labrador Inuit culture and language.
It’s funded by a $2.3-million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, $1.6 million from the Nunatsiavut government, $1.38 million from Memorial University and a combined $2.12 million from 20 other organizations
The project, Tradition and Transition Among the Labrador Inuit, is led by Tom Gordon, professor emeritus, School of Music.
More than 30 Inuit tradition-bearers and academic researchers from across Canada and the U.S. are involved. Twenty institutions and organizations will be collaborating on 49 sub-projects.
Researchers are focusing on three themes: a relationship between people and their environment; a pattern of leadership; and a legacy of expressive culture, starting with a unique language — the Labrador Inuktitut as a living language integral to Labrador Inuit cultural identity.
“What excites me most about this project is its potential to generate dialogue across traditional knowledge and scientific enquiry, between elders whose knowledge comes from lived experience and senior academics steeped in disciplined enquiry,” Gordon said in a post on MUN’s website. “This circle of conversation will expand through its engagement of Inuit youth and young academics, all of us working together to capture the cultural knowledge of the Labrador Inuit as a foundation for a resilient and rooted future for Nunatsiavut.”
“The Nunatsiavut government has enjoyed a good working relationship with Memorial University over the years,” said Sarah Leo, president of the Nunatsiavut government. “The initiative announced today is just one of many that will result from a memorandum of understanding that was signed in February of last year, formalizing a new partnership for extensive multi-year interdisciplinary research on Labrador Inuit traditions and transition. The information gathered from this research will help the Nunatsiavut government as we continue to move forward with our goal of reviving, protecting and revitalizing Labrador Inuit culture and language.”
MUN and the Nunatsiavut government will also build a digital database consisting of the project findings. This data will be accessible to Inuit communities, the public and other academic researchers and will be housed at Memorial University’s Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Library. Cultural knowledge revealed through this project will be also showcased at Illusuak (which means “sod hut” in Inuktitut), Nunatsiavut’s new cultural centre currently under construction in Nain.
“This is a proud day for Memorial University and our province,” said Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University. “This research partnership will open doors for Inuit communities in the future and serve as a stepping stone for many meaningful partnerships."
The project’s research agenda was developed through more than 50 consultations held in each of the five communities in the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area and Upper Lake Melville. From Oct. 25-28, Gordon and the research team will be in Hopedale, Labrador, rolling out the project at the Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum, an annual gathering of community leaders and heritage workers from across Nunatsiavut.