The Kitikmeot Heritage Society has created a number of community and educational programs centred around Inuinnait traditions of skin preparation and sewing with the goals of increasing knowledge of traditional skills, building Inuinnaqtun language, and forging stronger intergenerational relationships.
In traditional Inuinnait culture, the skills of sewing and skin preparation were both an artistic endeavour and a matter of survival. In traditional Inuit culture, girls learned from a very early age that being an accomplished seamstress was a highly valued talent. Under the guidance of their mothers and grandmothers, they were instructed in skin preparation, pattern development, sewing, and the care of clothing. While men were often instructed in the basics of sewing to perform emergency repairs, sewing as an art remained firmly anchored in women’s worlds.
Understanding the strong links between sewing and female identity, the Kitikmeot Heritage society aims to develop programs that use sewing to support language acquisition, wellness, parenting skills, cross generational communication and healing among women. These programs take place in many communities and through many different workshop formats including:
- instruction in creating patterns and fitting clothing;
- workshops on selecting and preparing skins for sewing projects;
- teaching young mothers to create amautis and atataaqs (clothing specifically designed for carrying infants);
- courses in making scrapers, ulus and sewing kits;
- group workshops in creating wallhangings;
- traditional doll making programs;
- programs exploring sewing as a economic pursuit;
- introducing participants to sewing machine and hand stitching.
We similarly target a variety of different age groups for our projects including young mothers, life management program participants, elementary and high school students, elders, and residential school survivors.
Over the years, our various sewing programs have been sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Nunavut Department of Culture and Heritage, the Embrace Life Foundation, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.