Inuit Contact: An Arctic Culture Teaching Resource

Inuit Contact and ColonizationMuch of history stems from exploration—of land, of resources, of people. The Inuit Heritage Trust, which is committed to protecting the heritage of arctic peoples, has created Inuit – Contact and Colonization, a resourceful teaching web site dedicated to takurngaqtaq, an Inuit term that translates to “encountering something for the first time.” The resources available on the site provide a historical and cultural context for Inuit contact with first nations, whalers, explorers, and traders. There are three primary types of contact outlined throughout the site’s sections: direct contact, indirect contact, and contact between cultures.

To get started, visit the site’s Historical Exploration Toolkit, which explains historical pedagogical techniques, such as story telling, a pillar of historic discovery. The site guides the user—ideally a teacher—on how to use the available resources; how to collect evidence; how to figure out the evidence’s significance, if any at all; and furthermore how to piece together the evidence to draw conclusions and give perspective. Additionally, teachers can help their students to approach history like a historian, through historical and critical thinking.

One final resource teachers can access before delving into the heart of the site is that of Instructional Modules intended for junior secondary students.

Inuit and the Land explores the Inuit belief system and the impact of direct and indirect contacts had on this belief system: “Students will be able to examine the historical influences that impacted Inuit culture today through an investigation of beliefs, practices, stories and the links of these cultural markers to actual archeological sites and the interpretation of finds from those sites by elders.”

Economics for Contact investigates economic activities of the Inuit and the impact European contact had on these activities: “Students will be able to examine the historical influences that impacted Inuit culture today through an investigation of economic and social drivers and the impacts these had on Inuit culture. Special focus will be given to identifying events and evidence and developing a critical approach to understanding what happened between groups and how this impacted them historically.”

Once teachers have familiarized themselves with the web site—the goals, the navigation, the available resources—they can then move into one of five different topics. Each of the following topics contains packs, trunks, and bags that change over time and through different relationships, The themes in each of these packs, trunks, and bags include sewing and clothing, cultural knowledge, tools, technology, weapons, trade, and food. Students can explore artifacts, documents, and stories, each coupled with their individual evidence, perspective, and significance.

  1. Inuit and the Land – “For Inuit, the Arctic has always been home, the land and landscape have provided both physical and spiritual needs and a unique sense of relationship with the land lies at the very core of Inuit belief.”
  2. Contact with First Nations – “As Arctic climates warmed and cooled Inuit groups encountered First Nation tribes as they shared paths across the barren lands to secure game and materials.”
  3. Contact with Whalers – “From the 16th century, Europeans began the move from a rural and agricultural society into a mixed economy that increasingly demanded artisans, craftsmen, skilled labour, and more centralized city centres. One of the demands that came with this change was the demand for fuel…This increased demand sparked the whale hunting industry in earnest.”
  4. Contact with Explorers – “Arctic exploration exploded in the 19th century when the age of scientific discovery, economic expansion came together with a surplus of naval ships and officers with a relative period of peace between warring European nations.”
  5. Contact with Traders– “At the heart of every exploration initiative is the motive of profit…Trade and the emerging merchant class of the 15th century onwards set the discoveries of this period in motion.”

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