Poignant pieces of history surround us every day of our lives, we simply have to look for them. Being the closest university in the North Country to the border of another country, we sometimes forget that some of the older customs of that country are closely enmeshed in our own. As students living in the North Country, we also tend to forget how important our northern neighbor is to our way of living.
Only 90 minutes away exists one of the most colossal collections of history of this region, not to mention that it harbors some of the richest aspects of the culture in its artwork. Prints as well as stone and woodwork belonging to that of the Inuit tribe in northern Canada are significant in that they exist in a The Canadian Museum of Civilization and express the turmoil and cultural upheaval experienced by many during the 1950s and 1960s. Overlooked by mainstream society, the beautiful traditions of the Inuit people are fading fast in a world that is rapidly becoming digitized, globalized, and “consumerized.”
In the 50s and 60s the tribe was encouraged by the Canadian government to abandon their traditional nomadic lifestyle of hunting, trapping and fishing and settle into communities that fed the cash economy. The fledgling communities suffered long periods of trauma caused by starvation and deprivation in a society that was ill-fitted to their way of life, but soon discovered that one way to survive in an industrial society was to utilize a talent to create native art from natural materials.
Creating beautiful art quickly became one of the most prevalent ways of preserving Inuit heritage and through several shows with the Canadian Guild of Crafts in Montreal, marked the dawn of contemporary Inuit art in Western culture. Sculpture and printing as art forms allows us to view this vein of pride from the Inuit people, and it also allows pieces of their heritage to bleed into ours. A stenciled print by artist Ekidluak Amartuk and printer Josea Maniapik that is part of St. Lawrence’s permanate collection depicts this relationship between The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Inuit people’s precious preserved pieces of history. The image of the igloo as the namesake of the museum is perhaps the artist’s idea of one of the few places that emphasizes the importance of the preservation of the delicate and ancient traditions that have been otherwise forgotten or whitewashed over in a conglomerate of instant gratification of commercial mainstream media and Anglo art. The pride of these native people lives on in this creative tradition, and boasts an overwhelming possibility of becoming stronger through instilling knowledge of these traditions into current culture and lifestyle. So, if you ever find yourself with time to spare take a quick trip over to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Quebec and experience the spirit of the Inuit tradition.