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Names and Nunavut

Names and Nunavut: Culture and Identity in the Inuit Homeland

Valerie Alia
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Names and Nunavut
    Book Description:

    On the surface, naming is simply a way to classify people and their environments. The premise of this study is that it is much more - a form of social control, a political activity, a key to identity maintenance and transformation. Governments legislate and regulate naming; people fight to take, keep, or change their names. A name change can indicate subjugation or liberation, depending on the circumstances. But it always signifies a change in power relations. Since the late 1970s, the author has looked at naming and renaming, cross-culturally and internationally, with particular attention to the effects of colonisation and liberation. The experience of Inuit in Canada is an example of both. Colonisation is only part of the Nunavut experience. Contrary to the dire predictions of cultural genocide theorists, Inuit culture - particularly traditional naming - has remained extremely strong, and is in the midst of a renaissance. Here is a ground-breaking study by the founder of the discipline of political onomastics.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-849-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvi-xvii)
    Valerie Alia
  6. Notes on Spelling, Translation and Transliteration
    (pp. xviii-xix)
  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xx-xx)
  8. Introduction Towards a Theory of Political Onomastics
    (pp. 1-16)

    As the child of European-Jewish (Ashkenazi) immigrants to North America, I grew up hearing naming stories. I knew I was named Valerie for a place called Valeria where my parents met, and Lee to commemorate a relative named Leah. I knew I was a giver as well as a receiver of names when, at age six, my parents invited me to help name my sister. I also knew the limits to my power, as my original choice of Susannah (which I thought ‘fancier’ and prettier) was shortened to my parents’ preference of Susan.

    My next name-giving experience was as a...

  9. Chapter 1 The Importance of Names in Inuit Culture
    (pp. 17-38)

    I did not start out to study Inuit names, or work in the Arctic. In the midst of pursuing early work on immigrant names and renaming experiences, a serendipitous event changed everything. Our first year in Toronto, my sons and I were invited to a Christmas Eve party at the home of our next-door neighbours. One of the guests, Michael Neill, asked what I was studying. On hearing ‘the politics of naming’, he perked up and said: ‘You mean, like Operation Surname?’ He then proceeded to describe the government renaming programme, whose official title I later learned was ‘Project Surname’,...

  10. Chapter 2 Visiting, Colonial Style: From Early Days of Cultural Intervention to the Cold War
    (pp. 39-64)

    When I first went North I had to discard countless preconceptions and learned ways of politeness and decorum. Some of the ways I was taught to behave were turned upside down. This was especially true of what I had learned about ‘proper’ methods of conducting research, and about the etiquette of visiting.

    Having obtained funding and made elaborate personal arrangements restricted by limited funds, research time and child care, I proceeded to contact key people in Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay) and Pangnirtung, the first communities I visited, from my home base in Toronto. No one official mentioned it, but I learned...

  11. Chapter 3 Renamed Overnight: the History of Project Surname
    (pp. 65-90)

    In a period of about two years, virtually all Inuit in Canada received new names, based on a non-Inuit model of surnaming. Completed in 1972, Project Surname marked a turning point in the history of government efforts to reidentify Inuit. The effects are still felt more than thirty years later.

    Everyone wants a piece of the Arctic. It offers great (though sometimes dubious) riches – gold, diamonds, gas, oil, uranium. People, the richest resource, have sometimes been ignored in the process of developing land, minerals and policy. Early in the twentieth century the United States and Canada collaborated on the...

  12. Chapter 4 ‘The people who love you’: Contemporary Perspectives on Naming in Nunavut
    (pp. 91-120)

    In May 2005, a historic Partnership Accord was signed between Inuit and the government of Canada. The signatories were Jose Kusugak, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the presidents of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (Western Arctic), Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Makivik Corporation (Nunavik), Labrador Inuit Association, Pauktuutit (Inuit Women’s Association), Inuit Circumpolar Conference Canada, the National Inuit Youth Council, and Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The accord acknowledges

    constitutional recognition of Inuit as an Aboriginal people of Canada, living in Nunatsiavut (Labrador), Nunavik (northern Québec), the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and many centres in southern Canada.

    It recognizes the...

  13. Chapter 5 Homelands and Diasporas: Concluding Thoughts on the Politics of Naming
    (pp. 121-144)

    It is not just personal names that have deep meaning for Inuit. As George Kuvik Qulaut explained, ‘Each one of our names means something, they all have meaning; geographical names are the same way.’ Since 1972, Linna Weber and Ludger Müller-Wille have worked with Inuit elders and with Avataq Cultural Institute in Nunavik (northern Quebec) on mapping projects aimed at recording traditional place names. In the mid-1980s, Ludger Müller-Wille and this author were among the members of a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who met in geographical names symposia with the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names to help...

  14. Chronology of Key Events and Developments in Nunavut and the Circumpolar North
    (pp. 145-150)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 151-152)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 153-166)
  17. Index
    (pp. 167-172)