20th Biennial Inuit Studies Conference / Inuit PiusituKangit

Lay Summary 

Co-hosted by the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University under the auspices of the Tradition & Transition Research Partnership, the 20th biennial Inuit Studies Conference was a success by any measure. With a total of 519 participants, the conference attracted the second largest number of attendees in ISC history (topped only by the Smithsonian in 2012). More significant than the number attendees was who they were: nearly half those attending and participating in ISC 2016 were themselves Inuit, representing a significant shift from previous conferences where the considerable majority of participants were academics. Proof that the setting of the research agenda is migrating from academic institutions and researchers to Inuit communities and knowledge-bearers, frequently through research partnerships where Inuit not only participate fully in knowledge creation, but direct the research agenda.

The conference program convincingly reflected this shift. All five keynote speakers were Inuit, addressing the topics of Inuit leadership and governance (Natan Obed and Maatalii Okalik), contemporary Inuit cultural expression (Tanya Tagaq and Joar Nango) and Indigenous language revival (Natalia Radunovich). Across the 216 presentations made by conference participants, these themes and many more that reflect on the preoccupations of Inuit communities were addressed. Some examples include

• An entire day of sessions exploring issues of housing in the north, curated by a research team from Laval University
• Three full days of sessions on innovative approaches to education in Inuit schools
• Three full days of session on Inuktitut spanning basic linguistic research, challenges in standardization, new strategies for language retrieval and revitalization, and Inuktitut literature
• Multiple sessions on Inuit self-governance, with shared experiences from self-governing Inuit territories and academic analysis
• Reflections on Inuit agency, identity and representation in contemporary film and through social media
• Inuit culture and traditional knowledge as transmitted and mediated by contemporary technology
• Recent projects demonstrating community-led research and monitoring programs
• Numerous sessions on issues in contemporary Inuit art, including the business of Inuit art and the future of the Igloo Tag system
• Explorations of traditional knowledge and it role in informing scientific research
• Animals in the Inuit world, including dogs, bears, seals from cultural, historical and economic lenses
• Inuit women’s leadership and Issues of interest to Inuit women
• Issues of interest to urban Inuit and the challenges of community-building in Southern Canada
• New approaches to understanding pre-contact history

School of Music
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Aboriginal Peoples
Start date 
7 Oct 2016
End date 
12 Oct 2016
Partner Organization 
Nunatsiavut Goverment