Pond Inlet is located on northeastern Baffin Island, more than 600 km north of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Inuit territory of Nunavut. The official Inuktitut name of Pond Inlet is Mittimatalik. This name may refer to “the resting place of Mittima”, an elder who passed away in the area long ago, and/or refer to a large rock near the town site used as a landing place by gulls fishing in the area. An older name for Pond Inlet is Tununiq, which means “a place that faces away from the sun.” Nestled on the shores of Eclipse Sound, the town site of Pond Inlet faces the impressive mountains and glaciers of Bylot Island to the north and is surrounded to the south by the hills and mountains of the Arctic cordillera. With a population of just over 1300 people, 95 percent are Inuit and Inuktitut is the language most commonly used in the community. The Pond Inlet area has been a hunting and fishing site for the Inuit and their ancestors for more than 4000 years.
Over the years, the Pond Inlet Inuit Knowledge Working Group and members of the community have shared their perspectives of this ever changing Arctic environment. The topics presented in the following podcasts include:
- The Qulliq as a symbol of Inuit Knowledge
- The contemporary meaning of Inuit Knowledge
- The lifetime observations of Elder Cornelius Nutarak
- Sayings and indicators as benchmarks of environmental changes
In the following podcast, Elisapee Ootoova talks about the qulliq, a traditional Inuit oil lamp that is a symbol of Inuit knowledge and Inuit survival. Elisapee Ootoova is a respected Elder from Pond Inlet, Nunavut also known as Mittimatalik in Inuktitut. She was born in 1931 near Qausuittuq. As a language specialist, she was an important contributor to the development of a dictionary Uqausiit in the Tunnuniq dialect for Nunavut schools. In 2002 she was granted the Order of Canada for her contribution to the community and to Nunavut and especially for woman’s equality and community justice.
In the following podcast, Elly Bonny, masters student with the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba, explores the concept of traditional knowledge, or Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) in a modern context. When she started her work, she was familiar with the definition of IQ written by the government of Nunavut’s Working Group on Traditional Knowledge in 1999, and had seen 12 principles of IQ included in the Nunavut Wildlife Act. She understood that Parks Canada, the Nunavut education system, environmental regulators, and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board were all increasingly drawing on IQ to support their policies and decision-making activities. But outside of these formal documented definitions, she wanted to understand what IQ means to local Inuit – what it means to young women close to her own age – to their grandmothers, great aunts, and elders.
The topics range from the contemporary meaning of Inuit knowledge to Inuit observations and responses to environmental changes and perspectives on conservation. In the following podcast, Elder Cornilius Nutarak Sr. shares his lifetime observations of environmental changes. Born in 1924, Mr. Nutarak lived in the Pond Inlet area for all but four years of his life before passing away in 2007 at the age of 83. He worked for decades documenting and sharing the knowledge of his ancestors and his elders as well as his daily observations of life and environmental change. Moreover, Mr. Nutarak was involved in extensive archaeological research. Mr. Nutarak received a number of awards and recognitions for his work including the Inuit Heritage Trust’s Elders Recognition Award, an award recognizing his contributions to Nunavut culture from the Nunavut Commissioner and he was recognized as a member of the Order of Canada in 2006.
In the following podcast, Elder Cornilius Nutarak Sr. shares his knowledge of polar bear behaviour. Mr. Nutarak worried that young people in his home community of Pond Inlet and tourists to the area were unaware of how to read polar bear behaviour and to recognize the dangerous situations they may place themselves in when traveling in areas frequented by polar bears.
This podcast explores the traditional sayings and indicators related to the environment and described by individuals from the Inuit community of Mittimatalik, alternatively known as Pond Inlet. Hunters and elders discuss these sayings and indicators in the light of recent environmental change in the arctic. Nunavut elders have described traditional sayings as Inuit “scriptures,” or records of tradition, experience and knowledge that encompass Inuit values. In some cases, these indicators and sayings are hundreds if not thousands of years old. They are “benchmarks of change” that elders wish to share with the public, and Inuit youth in particular, in order to equip future generations with the tools for thought that they will need in Nunavut’s changing environment.
This legend was recorded in 2005 while interviewing Elder Cornelius Nutarak Senior on the ecology and cultural significance of snow geese, changes in the environment and the health of the land. Mr. Nutarak was often referred to as the ‘living encyclopedia’ of Pond Inlet. For the interviews, Mr. Nutarak always brought one of his many notebooks along with other sheets of paper where he had made notes. The purpose of the legend said Elder Nutarak is to to remember the ancient site of Qilalukkat, the site where the story takes place. The legend refers to the times when Inuit people started using the site, and thus the importance of taking care of the site. This legend is part of the oral tradition of the Inuit culture of Northern Baffin Island. It is known by many Inuit elders from various communities who can easy tell their own version of the story. But whether the story is told by an elder from Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay or Igloolik, it always refers to the same location: Qilalukkat.