Kitikmeot Region & Inuinnait Culture

The Kitikmeot region

The Kitikmeot is one of three administrative regions in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. It includes the southern and eastern parts of Victoria Island and adjacent parts of the mainland as far as the Boothia Peninsula, together with King William Island and the southern portion of Prince of Wales Island. The region is home to the settlements of Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay),  Kugluktuk (Coppermine),  Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven),  Taloyoak (Spence Bay),  and Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay).

Inuinnait Culture

While active in programs and research with communities across the Kitikmeot region and Nunavut territory, the Kitikmeot Heritage Society highlights work with Inuinnait populations. ‘Inuinnait’ is a term used in the Inuinnaqtun language to designate ‘the people.’  While the term was traditionally used in reference to all Inuit, it has more recently been applied to Inuit populations occupying the western half of the Kitikmeot region. This group is more familiarly known as the ‘Copper Inuit;’ a name given to them by the explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson during the early 1900s because of their using the area’s natural copper as metal for their tools.

The term ‘Inuinnait’ does not reference a single body of people or customs.  Inuinnait were traditionally divided into regional groups and small populations of families that self-identified according to landmarks and place names in their hunting and traveling territories.  According to information collected by early 20th explorers, the Inuinnait population traditionally numbered about 800 people divided among roughly 25 different subgroups.

While many Inuinnait share similar cultural practices, each subgroup retains its own identity through small differences in dialect and tradition. To this day, individuals coming from different areas of the western Kitikmeot maintain unique ways sewing, speaking and constructing tools.  Recognizing this, the Kitikmeot Heritage Society seeks to involve elders from different regions in its projects to better document the diversity of Inuinnait traditions and language.