National Inuit org honours return of stolen Nunatsiavut remains

“Cultural repatriation—overcoming the legacies of misappropriation—is fundamentally about respect and moral standards”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ITK President Natan Obed: “Cultural repatriation – overcoming the legacies of misappropriation – is fundamentally about respect and moral standards,” Obed said in relation to The Field Museum's return of Inuit human remains stolen from marked graves in Zoar, Nunatsiavut in 1927-28. (FILE PHOTO)


ITK President Natan Obed: “Cultural repatriation – overcoming the legacies of misappropriation – is fundamentally about respect and moral standards,” Obed said in relation to The Field Museum’s return of Inuit human remains stolen from marked graves in Zoar, Nunatsiavut in 1927-28. (FILE PHOTO)

The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami shone a spotlight on president Natan Obed’s home region of Nunatsiavut last week by announcing a long list of awards, including its first Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award.

The Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award is going to the Nunatsiavut Government and to The Field Museum of Chicago for the work they did between 2008 and 2011 to return the stolen remains of 22 Inuit from the now-abandoned community of Zoar, ITK said Sept. 20.

In 1927 and 1928, an assistant curator at the museum named William Duncan Strong, who went on to become a famous anthropologist, stole the human remains, which included complete skeletons, from marked graves in Zoar, located between Hopedale and Nain.

The Field Museum kept the bones within its permanent collection until 2011.

Following negotiations between Nunatsiavut leaders and The Field Museum, the stolen human remains were returned to Nunatsiavut and re-buried at Zoar on June 22, 2011.

“Cultural repatriation—overcoming the legacies of misappropriation—is fundamentally about respect and moral standards,” Obed said in a news release.

“I would like to thank The Field Museum for acknowledging the decades-old wrongdoing that was committed against Inuit and for doing what needed to be done to make things right.”

Johannes Lampe, the president of the Nunatsiavut Government, said that the return of the stolen human remains was made possible by an “ongoing positive relationship” between The Field Museum and Labrador Inuit.

“All those involved should be very proud of the contributions they have made towards reconciliation,” Lampe said.

ITK also gave awards to the following Nunatsiavut Inuit:

Dr. Stacy Shiwak, ITK Health Care Worker Award: Shiwak, who operates a private practice in her home community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, was the first female Inuk dental therapist in Canada and received a doctor of dental surgery degree in 2014;

Carl McLean, ITK Advancement of International Issues Award: McLean, now the deputy minister of the Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Lands and Natural Resources, is a commissioner of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and was appointed by the federal government to serve on an advisory committee on Atlantic salmon. McLean is also well-known in Nunavut, having served as the City of Iqaluit’s land manager, director of operations with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and as a senior lands administrator with the governments of the NWT and Nunavut;

Joan Dicker, ITK Advancement of Language and Culture Award: Dicker is a strong advocate for Inuktitut and worked nearly 40 years at Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain;

Rita Andersen, ITK Advancement of Regional Issues Award: Andersen is the longest serving employee of the Nunatsiavut Government and its predecessor, the Labrador Inuit Association, and worked nearly 40 years to preserve Labrador Inuktitut;

Silpa Suarak, ITK Advancement of Youth Award: Suarak serves as the Nunatsiavut Government’s language program coordinator and helps produce a radio show where kids call in to guess Inuktitut words; and,

Andrea Flowers, ITK Advancement of Women Award: Flowers is one of the few artists who knows how to make traditional black-bottom sealskin boots from start to finish.

The awards will be presented this week at ITK’s annual general meeting in Nain, ITK said. Also this week, Inuit leaders will meet with five federal cabinet ministers in the third annual meeting of the Inuit-Crown partnership committee.

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