September 20, 2017 – Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is proud to announce its inaugural Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award presented to organizations that demonstrate leadership in recognizing and respecting Inuit cultural rights and working to overcome the misappropriation of Inuit cultural heritage.
The Nunatsiavut Government and The Field Museum in Chicago are jointly receiving ITK’s 2017 Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award for their work between 2008-2011 to return the remains of 22 Inuit to their homeland.
The remains were stolen in 1927-28 by an assistant curator named William Duncan Strong who was working on behalf of The Field Museum at the time. Strong dug up marked graves in the Inuit community of Zoar, a now-abandoned settlement located between the Nunatsiavut communities of Hopedale and Nain. The remains were kept as a part of the Museum’s collection until their return to Nunatsiavut in 2011.
“The work to right this historical wrong was driven by the relentless efforts of the Nunatsiavut Government, and this prize recognizes the partnership and cooperation that are required to bring about reconciliation,” said Natan Obed, President of ITK.
“Cultural repatriation – overcoming the legacies of misappropriation – is fundamentally about respect and moral standards. I would like to thank The Field Museum for acknowledging the decades-old wrongdoing that was committed against Inuit and for doing what needed to be done to make things right. We applaud the Nunatsiavut Government and The Field Museum for serving as an example to organizations across North America and around the world.”
“The Nunatsiavut Government worked diligently in getting the remains returned to their final resting place under respectful and appropriate circumstances,” said Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe. “I want to acknowledge The Field Museum for its positive response, acceptance of responsibility and work in righting this wrong. The fact that an ongoing positive relationship was established between Labrador Inuit and The Field Museum through this process is an important part of this story. All those involved should be very proud of the contributions they have made towards reconciliation.”
“The Field Museum is honored to be recognized by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and greatly appreciates their generosity of spirit in presenting us with this award,” said Field Museum President Dr. Richard Lariviere. “We value our relationship with Inuit and remain committed to working in the most respectful manner with Indigenous communities around the world regarding cultural repatriation.”
Dozens of dedicated Nunatsiavut Community members must be recognized for informing and directing the work done on this project. ITK also acknowledges government of Canada officials at the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Rangers whose contributions were instrumental in the success of this repatriation and act of reconciliation.
The Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award will be presented in Nain next week as a part of the ITK Annual General Meeting at which ITK presents awards recognizing Inuit who have made important contributions in their region throughout the year.
ITK joins NG in celebrating the work of the following outstanding Inuit:
ITK Health Care Worker Award: Dr. Stacey Shiwak was the first female Inuk dental therapist in Canada and went on to graduate with a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree in 2014. She operates a private practice in her home community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, and is currently providing services to the Labrador Inuit community of Rigolet.
ITK Advancement of International Issues Award: Carl McLean is the Deputy Minister of the Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Lands and Natural Resources. He is Commissioner of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and was appointed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to serve on the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Atlantic Salmon.
ITK Advancement of Language and Culture Award: Joan Dicker has been a strong advocate for promoting and protecting Inuktitut for many generations. She was a devoted and passionate educator of who garnered much respect during her nearly 40 years at Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain.
ITK Advancement of Regional Issues Award: Rita Andersen was the longest serving employee of the Nunatsiavut Government and its predecessor, the Labrador Inuit Association, until her retirement in late 2015, most recently serving as Interpreter/Translator Coordinator. Throughout her nearly 40-year career, she worked tirelessly to preserve, protect and enhance Labrador Inuktitut.
ITK Advancement of Youth Award: Silpa Suarak is the Nunatsiavut Government’s Language Program Coordinator and helps to produce a radio show where kids call in to guess Inuktitut words. She is also helping to develop a master’s apprentice language program that will connect fluent and intermediate Inuktitut speakers.
ITK Advancement of Women Award: Andrea Flowers is one of the few artists who knows how to make traditional black-bottom sealskin boots from start to finish. For decades she has made these beautiful and waterproof boots out of seals caught by her husband and now sons.
Inuit leaders will also meet next week with five federal ministers for the third annual meeting of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.