Website takes show-and-tell approach to history

“The idea is to chronicle the evolution of the Inuit peoples”


Learning about the history of Inuit contact with whalers, First Nations and explorers is as easy as emptying out a backpack, thanks to an interactive trilingual website launched Oct. 16 in Iqaluit.

The website, Takurngaqtaq (encountering something for the first time) or, in English, Inuit Contact and Colonization, traces the history of contact between Inuit and other peoples from about 4,000 B.C. to the 1920s.

The site uses the metaphor of the “container” to present and organize information.

“The idea is to chronicle the evolution of the Inuit peoples as they passed through the decades leading up to and including contact with non-natives” said Erica Chemko of the Inuit Heritage Trust, the project manager for Takurngaqtaq.

The goal is to see students critically look at the impacts of contact on Inuit society by looking at historical change as it is presented in the containers, she said.

Each container has its own set of items related to sewing, cultural knowledge, tools, weapons, food and implements, and trade.

For example, the Inuit container used to describe the era of contact with whalers includes an image of a package of tea.

When a student clicks on it, a link opens up to a section with photos and information about food and implements used during that period.

The whalers’ trunk includes a pot that opens up to reveal about hard tack, flour, tea, oatmeal and tobacco, which whalers introduced to Inuit.

The various sections also include photos, maps, and written background materials, such as interviews with Kivalliq elders in the section contact between Inuit and First Nations.

“Itqiliit [Chipewayan] Indians and Inuit became best of friends and wanted to trade their possessions, like dogs and personal items. Some Inuit even learned to speak Itqiliit Indian language, and Itqiliit Indians also learned to speak Inuit language,” Louis Angalik of Arviat says in an interview linked to the website.

The elder’s advisory committee of the Department of Education office in Arviat traveled to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center in Yellowknife and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary to research which artifacts and materials to include in the Takurngaqtaq website.

Some of the unique photos on the website, such a photo of the former Hudson Bay Co. trading post in Arviat, also come from the collection of Mark Kalluk of Arviat, a member of the elder’s advisory committee.

Archaeologists and social scientists Hugh Brody, Sue Rowley and Robert McGhee helped write or chose much of the background material.

The Takurngaqtaq website is designed to support the Nunavut social studies curriculum for grades seven to nine. Teachers can access instructional modules on the website to help them learn how to use it with their students.

The website’s English and French versions are completely translated, but its Inukitut text still needs more work due to a lack of funding earmarked for Inuktitut translation, Chemko said.

Plans also includes a follow-up second phase to the website, which would include containers to document contact and colonization into the time of the RCMP, Chemko said.

The Takurngaqtaq website, which received most of its funding from Heritage Canada, includes more than 800 windows to explore at

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