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23 Omingmak Street

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

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INUINNAIT ARCHAEOLOGY

The territory of Nunavut is rich with history.  For over four thousand years, different Arctic cultures have migrated through this landscape and made it their home.  The Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society is dedicated to working with professional archaeologists to help document the lives and traditions of these past peoples.  We encourage archaeological research that involves local elders and youth, and finds meaningful ways to both build knowledge about the past and communicate it through public excavations, oral history documentation and the development of educational resources.

 

We are involved in multiple ongoing relationships with universities, museums and academic researchers to set new standards for community-based archaeology in the Canadian Arctic.  For more information about the process and findings of our collaborative research, please access the sample selection of PDF publications below. 

QINGAUQ: A FIVE-YEAR COLLABORATION

The PI/KHS and the University of Toronto have begun a five-year collaboration to investigate the Inuinnait cultural history and the archaeology of the Bathurst Inlet region.  Bathurst Inlet and the surrounding area is ecologically rich and has been an important homeland to Inuinnait for centuries.  

Earlier this summer, our team conducted three weeks of climate change field research in the Bathurst Inlet region of Nunavut. For centuries, this area’s rich animal populations and ecosystem have sustained the Kiluhikturmiut and earlier ancestors during their inland and maritime seasonal rounds. Bathurst Inlet continues to be the last, full-time outpost community in Nunavut. 

All photos above taken by Max Friesen during the 2018 field season. 

The 5 year research project is funded through SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) and INAC (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada), and run in partnership with the University of Toronto. Our work seeks to catalogue and visualize the enduring and evolving Inuit relationship to the Bathurst Inlet landscape through a combination of archaeological excavation, satellite and community monitoring, drone mapping, language and toponymy, and oral history work.

 

Following on the team’s 2018 field season of on-site interviews with Elders from the Bathurst area, this year’s research worked across historical ethnographies and contemporary land-user interviews to document changing understandings, representations, and engagements of the area’s land-human relationships. Using land-use maps drawn by local hunters during the 1971 Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Project, we compared how hunting and resource distribution patterns in the area had changed over time.

 

In addition to documenting contemporary uses of the land, archaeological surveys were conducted to determine past occupation patterns in the area and to continue monitor erosion indicators established the previous season. University of Toronto archaeologists Max Friesen and Taylor Thornton worked with local fieldworkers to digitally preserve existing archaeological sites and landscapes through 3D drone photography. The resulting 3D images will be entered into the PI/KHS’ Inuinnait Archaeology Atlas, where they can be explored by the public alongside Elder interviews and other documentation of the region’s past and current uses.

A ground squirrel on the stone wall of a historical tent ring.

All photos above taken by Brendan Griebel during the 2019 field season. 

PAST PROJECTS

Air photo of the Iqaluktuuq region, between Ferguson Lake and Wellington Bay.  Important occupation sites on both sides of the river extend back over 3,000 years.

IQALUKTUUQ ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
 

From 1999 to 2010, the PI/KHS and the University of Toronto collaborated on a project combining traditional knowledge and archaeology at Iqaluktuuq, near Cambridge Bay. Iqaluktuuq is a river valley remembered by Elders as a special place in the landscape – every summer it had a huge run of Arctic char, and every fall large numbers of caribou crossed the river on their way south.  Over the project’s 12 years, teams of southern and Inuinnait archaeologists studied large and important sites spanning over 3,000 years of the region’s ancient history.

Photos by Max Friesen

Max Friesen and Lauren

Norman, 2016, "The Pembroke Site: Thule Inuit Migrants on Southern Victoria Island,"

Arctic 69(1): 1-18.

Max Friesen, 2013, "The Impact of Weapon Technology on Caribou Drive System Variability in the Prehistoric Canadian Arctic,"  Quaternary International 297: 13-23.

Brendan Griebel, 2013,  "Building from the Ground Up: Reconstructing Visions of Community in Cambridge Bay," Nunavut. Etudes/Inuit/
Studies 37(1): 9-33.

Brendan Griebel, 2010,  

"A Conflict of Interest: A Case Study for Community Archaeology in the Canadian Arctic," MUSEUM 
International 62(1­‐2): 75‐80.

PUBLICATIONS

Max Friesen, 2002,  "Analogues at Iqaluktuuq: the social context of archaeological inference in Nunavut, Arctic Canada," World Archaeology 34(2): 330-345.