Nunavut a cheapskate on arts funding

Organizers of a throat-singers’ gathering say the GN and Inuit organizations aren’t ponying up to help their own people.



IQALUIT — Organizers of the world’s first Inuit throat-singers’ gathering are disappointed with the lack of money and interest the event has received from representatives of Nunavut’s Inuit associations and the territorial government.

Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute is coordinating and hosting the gathering for the benefit of all Inuit kattajjatiit, or throat-singers, this September in Puvirnituq.

“I’ve asked for different sums of money from Nunavik organizations and gotten $15,000 from the Kativik Regional Government and $14,000 from the Nunavik Youth Association,” said Taqralik Partridge, the gathering’s coordinator.

“How come Nunavik has money for the arts but Nunavut doesn’t? Is it because we’re from Nunavik and they don’t know us? Or, is it because there isn’t any money there?”

So far, Partridge says, more than 20 kattajjatiit from all regions of Nunavut have confirmed their attendance at the gathering. There are 60 spaces at the event for registered participants.

“There are still a whole bunch of people from Nunavut on the list who we haven’t heard from,” she said. “But of everybody we’ve asked, nobody has said no. Everybody is excited about it.”

Partridge says she’s already raised between $150,000 and $175,000 of the gathering’s estimated $230,000 budget.

But, she says, most of this money is coming from Nunavik organizations, and the federal and Quebec governments.

To date, Partridge says, she’s raised less than $10,000 from Nunavut organizations — including $5,000 from the Nunavut Arts Council, which receives its $130,000 budget from the territorial Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, and $2,000 from the Kakivak Association.

“I was a little disappointed because Nunavik organizations know Avataq — they know we do good projects,” she said. “We got a lot of money from them and we haven’t gotten much from Nunavut. I don’t know if I’m applying to the wrong places.”

Partridge says QIA turned her down because “they only do stuff for the Baffin.” That’s also what Kakivak representatives told Partridge, but she says they gave her money anyway because “they said they liked our project.”

As for the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Partridge says all they told her was that her initial request for a $15,000 grant was more than they usually give to such projects.

Partridge acknowledges that political divisions between Inuit living in Nunavut and Nunavik are probably hampering her fundraising efforts.

But she says those divisions shouldn’t affect work which benefits all Inuit.

“The people living in Cape Dorset and Sanikiluaq are our relatives. They’re a boat ride away from Nunavik,” she said. “We’re brothers and sisters.”

“I’m not from Nunavut so I can’t discern exactly what’s going on in Nunavut, but in Nunavik I find there’s a lot of encouragement for artists,” she said. “But it seems that Nunavut doesn’t have those things in place — maybe because the government’s new.”

“It’s a little disappointing if they’re not actively promoting the arts because that’s an important part of Inuit heritage and our quality of life.”

CLEY policy analyst Mark Thompson says members of the arts council recognized the value of Avataq’s work, but they were bound by a small budget and CLEY’s detailed criteria for assessing project proposals.

He also said that CLEY employees are still editing the final draft of CLEY’s grants-and-contributions policy.

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