The Kitikmeot Heritage Society got its start in the early 1990s, when a small group of individuals recognized the need to begin collecting and preserving the knowledge of our local Elders so that it would not be lost for future generations.
Kim Crockatt, Emily Angulalik, Ekvana Angulalik and Reverend Keith Todd starting recording the stories, traditions, and experiences of Elders so that they could create exhibits and cultural resources that were accessed through the Hamlet-run Library. At this time, projects were done on a volunteer-basis, without any funding. Often interviews took place in Elders’ homes or in the Library after closing.
In 1995, Kim Crockatt, Emily Angulalik, Ekvana Angulalik and Reverend Keith Todd applied to officially incorporate the Kitikmeot Heritage Society so that they could apply for funding to maximize the impact that they were starting to see. The newly formed KHS continued to operate out of the Library, which at this time had been moved into the high school. It was on March 6, 1996 that the KHS was officially incorporated by the Government of the Northwest Territories (Nunavut officially became a Territory three years later).
In August 1998, the Library was destroyed in a fire that engulfed the entire high school. Our founding documents and archival records were destroyed. The community rallied around us and we fundraised to include a new space within the new high school that would include both a Library and Cultural Centre, operated by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.
For 25 years, we have worked to preserve and renew Inuinnait knowledge, language, and culture. Elders have shared their knowledge and experiences through countless hours of recorded interviews. Annual land camps and workshops have connected us with our ancestors and their traditions. The design and fabrication of exhibits has seen our cultural heritage shared not only with our community, but on national platforms with countless Canadians and visitors. Archaeological investigations paired with Elder knowledge have allowed us to explore our past in new ways. Revitalization has created sparks and ignited a lasting fire as we document Inuinnaqtun, foster Mentor-Apprentice teams and language nests, and work with linguists across our communities to create Inuinnait-designed tools and resources. We push the boundaries of available technology, exploring new ways and creating our own solutions to connect with and engage Inuinnait.
We continue to address projects of critical importance to the revival of Inuit culture, language and history. The Inuinnaqtun language—the foundation of Inuinnait culture—has less than 600 fluent speakers remaining. By most estimates, it is a language that will be extinct in less than two generations. The disappearance of Inuinnaqtun precipitates the loss of culturally unique knowledge, relationships and engagements with the world. Faced with an urgent timeline, we have made an unwavering commitment to support the renewal of Inuinnait culture and the revitalization of Inuinnaqtun.
In 2018, we began to re-evaluate our priorities and the critical needs facing our communities. As part of this process, we added a new Inuinnaqtun name for our organization. Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq means ‘learning through culture’ in Inuinnaqtun; a title that we feel more accurately expresses our direction. To acknowledge both our organization’s extensive history and promising future, we use a combination of both names—Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society, or PI/KHS.