Through Mala's Eyes

Author: Published under the authority of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Date: Ottawa, 2003
ISBN: 0-662-33237-7

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Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge those individuals without whom this resource would not have been possible. This document is the product of an extensive consultative process involving educators and experts in education, and Inuit culture and history from across Canada. Special thanks are extended to Professor Jon Bradley of McGill University, Faculty of Education who co-ordinated the efforts of the writing team; project writers and advisers Sarah Bennett, Barbara Cram and Sala Padlayat of the Kativik School Board; Leonard Dent, education consultant, who oversaw the project; Linda Millar, education consultant, who developed the exercises and activities; and to project writers Blair Stevenson and Chris Tzavellas.

In addition, recognition is also extended to the following individuals for their efforts and dedication as reviewers and advisers: Shawn Bernard, consultant, Mi'kmaq Services Division, Nova Scotia Ministry of Education; Susan Ball, Nunavut Ministry of Education; Linda Darling, University of British Columbia; Liz Apak Fowler, Department of Education, Culture and Employment, Northwest Territories; Joe Kirman, University of Alberta; Jose A. Kusugak, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Stephen Hendrie, Communications Director, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; June Shappa, student intern, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Valentina de Krom, Director of Office of First Nations and Inuit Education, McGill University; Keith Lickers, Education Officer, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Branch, Ontario Ministry of Education; Heather Marshall, University of Saskatoon; John Mazurek, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto; Linda McDowell, University of Winnipeg; Stephanie Meakin, Inuit Circumpolar Conference; Debbie Mineult, Program Manager Aboriginal Content, Alberta Ministry of Education; Jennifer Mitchell, Elementary School Teachers Association of Ontario; Allan Patenaude, consultant, Montréal; Catherine Pawis, Vice-Principal, Owen Public School; Deborah Pineau, student, University of Toronto; Gail Saunders, Curriculum Branch, Saskatchewan Learning; Ray Robertson, Saskatchewan Learning; Greg Smith, teacher, Oliver, BC; John Stewart, Curriculum Co-ordinator, Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment; Karina Younk, graduate student, McGill University.


This series of lesson plans, built around the first-person narrative of a 12-year-old Inuk boy, will help you and your students appreciate life in the Inuit community of Salluit, in the northern part of Nunavik, Northern Quebec. Although designed for students from 9 to 12 years of age, some of the lesson plans and strategies in this unit can be adapted for other grade levels. Suggested activities and lists of research resources offer exciting and engaging opportunities to learn more about the history, customs and traditions of Inuit in Canada.


Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with numerous landforms, cultures, languages, customs and traditions. Dramatic variations in climate and geography have a huge impact on our lifestyles and culture. The more we know about our Canadian population, the more we can begin to appreciate the attributes, history, customs and strengths that each culture contributes to our nation. This unit will provide some insight into the lives of Inuit, as related by a young Inuk boy from Salluit.


The aim of this booklet is to enhance the knowledge of students about the history, cultures and traditions of Inuit and, in particular, those who live in Canada's northern Inuit community of Salluit.

By completing the lessons in this booklet, students will be able to:

  • express an appreciation for the strong traditions and unique culture of the Inuit people, in various ways
  • describe the various developments that affected Canada's Arctic from its early history to the present
  • locate the community of Salluit and its neighbouring Inuit municipalities on a map of Canada
  • relate the similarities and differences between life in Salluit and life in their own community.

Learning Outcomes

Through Mala's Eyes...Life in an Inuit Community offers educators opportunities to address provincial learning outcomes in the social studies, history and geography portions of their curriculum. Given the nature of the suggested activities, students will also address learning outcomes in language, the arts and mathematics.

Thematic Framework

The information contained in this booklet is organized within a framework graphically represented by an inuksuk (see diagram below). An inuksuk is a cairn or a stone structure essential for arctic survival. Inuksuit (plural) have been used for centuries by Inuit throughout the Arctic. They are built of local stones, large or small, round or flat, one balanced on top of the next. Some look like piles of boulders, others suggest animals, while others may resemble human figures. Made from the rocks of a particular place, they offer valuable information about each site. For example, an inuksuk can save people lost in a blizzard by indicating direction.

Thematic Framework Inuksuk

Each stone in the diagram above represents a theme associated with Inuit. The top stone, representing the Inuit learning unit, is supported by two layers representing the various areas where Inuit can be found which, in turn, are supported by two more layers representing various themes about Inuit culture, society and environment. As a navigational tool, the metaphor of an inuksuk guides you through the lessons in this booklet, which address only some of the themes shown here. However, you can use this diagram to construct other lessons for your unit on Inuit.

Teaching Materials

Several numbered reference sheets are provided. These are intended to be used as information resources, and are referred to specifically in the lesson plans.

In addition to resources listed, teacher librarians will be of assistance in locating any related books, videos, magazines or Web sites; have them available in the classroom for this set of activities.

Where possible, try to plan a field trip to a local museum or art gallery, so the children can see artifacts and experience the culture of arctic people in a simulated setting.

Alternatively, you can access a Web site where your students can visit some of the country's finest museums and galleries on-line. You might also invite a local resident to act as a resource person, and speak to the children about Inuit and their culture. Above all, think of this booklet as a window on the uniquely fascinating life of Inuit.

Teaching Strategies

The lesson plans are centred on the first-person narrative of Mala, a 12-year-old boy from Salluit, Nunavik.

Each lesson plan has clearly stated objectives you can apply and adapt to your respective curriculum outcomes.

Students are encouraged to:

  • ask questions
  • engage in discussions
  • access information through a variety of resources
  • participate in simulation exercises
  • compare and contrast life in Salluit with life in their city, town or village
  • correspond with pen pals from the Arctic
  • describe, think about and appreciate Canada's arctic communities.

Please Note:
Although this teaching unit contains several comprehensive lessons, you can use as many or as few as you feel your students need. Think of this unit as a "library" of information, with opportunities for you and your students to learn about Inuit.

Useful Web Sites

Lesson 1: Setting the Stage

Locating Salluit, Nunavik

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • determine what they believe to be correct information about Inuit
  • identify what they would like to learn in this unit
  • identify how to retrieve information and resources for study
  • relate the importance of learning about Canada's Inuit population.

Step One: What do we know?

  • Using a large map of Canada, ask the students to come up and identify where Inuit populations are located. Place removable stickers where they suggest.
  • Divide the students into groups of five and have them print the word "INUIT" in the centre of a large piece of chart paper.
  • Allow the groups five minutes to brainstorm on everything they know about Inuit. (Remind them of the rules of brainstorming. All answers are accepted.)
  • Post the charts and review the information presented on the charts. (Note: Keep these charts, as you will revisit them at the end of the unit.)
  • Explain to students that they will have opportunities to check whether their information is valid during their study of Inuit.

Step Two: What do we want to know?

  • Ask each group to take another few minutes to identify things they would like to learn about Inuit. Circle and share common areas of interest.

Step Three: How do we learn new information?

  • As a class, explore and write down all the ways they can access information about Inuit. Be sure to include books, magazines, the Internet, e-mail, videos, television programs, invited guests, tours of museums, art galleries, etc. The longer the list, the better!
  • Explain that they are about to embark on a journey to Salluit, Nunavik, through the eyes of a young boy named Mala. Point out Salluit and mark it clearly on the map.
  • Give each group one of the following questions to think about, now that they can see the location of the village.
    • What means of transportation do you think the people in this village use?
    • What do you think are their main sources of entertainment?
    • What do you think they eat?
    • What wildlife do you think they would see every day?
    • What do you think their clothing looks like?
  • As the groups present their thoughts, ask each one to tell the class why they came to these conclusions.
  • Have each student prepare a learning journal to collect information as the class progresses through the unit. Allow time for them to decorate the front of their journal with an image they feel represents Canada's Arctic.

Step Four: Think About It!

  • Ask the students to think about why it will be interesting to learn about the people of Salluit. Have them turn to a neighbour and share their thoughts. Ask for volunteers to share their answers with the group.
  • Ask the students to think of three things about their lifestyle they would like to describe to the children in Canada's Arctic to help them understand the way children south of 60 degrees live. Write these suggestions down and be prepared to share them next class.

Lesson 2: Let's Meet Mala

Making the Connection

  • Share the lists the students developed in the last lesson. Ask them to explain why they would like to share this information with the people of Canada's Arctic.
  • Share pictures of Mala and his surroundings.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • l list several things Mala shares about his life
  • l discuss similarities and differences between Mala's life and theirs.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 2 - one copy per student
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 2 - one copy per student

Step One: State the Purpose

  • To learn about the Inuit population in the community of Salluit, it is important to be able to relate to someone who can tell the story on a first-person basis. This lesson will introduce you to Mala, a 12-year-old Inuk boy who lives in Salluit, Northern Quebec. Through his stories, you will be able to experience life in Canada's Arctic.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that today, they will have an opportunity to begin their visit to the community of Salluit as they read about Mala.
  • Tell them they will complete today's activity on their own, as they will each be provided with a copy of Let's Meet Mala.
  • Explain that they will also be provided with an activity sheet to help them identify some key learning experiences.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Pass each student a copy of Let's Meet Mala, as well as Activity Sheet 1.
  • Explain that you will give them the next 15 minutes to read the information and answer the questions on the Activity Sheet.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Share the answers generated from the Activity Sheet.
  • Discuss how the information gathered is similar or different to the ways they would describe their own life.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students to draw an inuksuk in their journals that would help to guide them home from school if they were lost. Explain that they will be sharing some of these drawings at the beginning of the next class.

Lesson 2: Mala Narrative

Let's Meet Mala narrative

Listen to this story (3:41')

Download: MP3 format (3.38 Mb)

Let's Meet Mala narrative

Hi I'm Mala and I'm 12 years old. I heard you're going to study my community, so I thought I'd come and introduce myself. My home town is Salluit, an Inuit community in Nunavik, Northern Quebec. I live here with my mother, father, brothers and my baby sister, Tunu. I also have lots of other family and many friends in Salluit.

We Inuit have been on this land for thousands of years. So, where do I begin? Well, I guess I'll start by telling you about one of our traditions. It's called an inuksuk. Maybe you've already heard about them, as they're quite popular these days. I hear that some southern cities, like Montréal, have built an inuksuk right downtown.

So what's an inuksuk? That was the question I wanted to ask my grandfather the first time I saw one when I was little. We were out on his snowmobile. It was beginning to snow and the wind was blowing around something big up ahead. A polar bear? No, we don't have any polar bears around Salluit. It was something much bigger. We sped closer and I began to make out a very high pile of snowcovered rocks. It looked like a crouching, white giant.

It is not polite to ask our Elders a lot of questions, so I kept quiet. Grandfather read my mind anyway and said: "That inuksuk is useful Mala. See that lake over there? Our ancestors built the inuksuk beside that lake to indicate the exact spot to force a caribou herd into the water. In the old days, some hunters would drive the herd in right there; others would wait in their qajaq (kayak) to cut the animals off before they could reach the far shore. On other lakes, the pointing stones of an inuksuk can indicate where the fishing hole is."

I remember Grandfather telling me to be thankful for these special and unique piles of rocks. "They are always built from the stones of a particular place and will help you survive there, Mala," he said.

He also told me that sometimes our ancestors would build a chain of these rock piles. You could stand beside one and see the next one off in the distance. There's a whole line of them along the Kangirsuk River that Grandfather says are still used to keep people from getting lost.

Now every time I see an inuksuk, especially when I'm out on the land in bad weather, I feel more confident about where I am. I know its rocks will guide me so I can find my way home.

Lesson 2: Activity Sheet

Let's Meet Mala

As you read about Mala, answer the following questions.

  1. Why do you think Mala chose to tell you about an Inuit tradition so early in his greeting?



  2. Through Mala's greeting, we learn many things. What do you learn about the following:

    1. two popular methods of transportation?


    2. a manner to be remembered when speaking to Elders?


    3. two facts about wildlife in Nunavik?


  3. From reading Mala's account, how do you think he feels about his culture and heritage? Why do you think this?



  4. After reading Mala's introduction, what other information would you ask him if he were here to talk with you?



Lesson 3: Locating Salluit, Nunavik

Making the Connection

  • Before beginning this lesson, ask the students to share their inuksuk from the previous lesson with a partner. Ask several volunteers to share their work with the larger group.
  • Read the selection, Mala, an Inuk Boy, to the class and ask them the following.
    • Why did the word "Eskimo" change to "Inuit"?
    • Who remembers the word for one person? Two people? Three people?
    • What surprised you most about Mala's story?

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify Nunavik and Salluit on a map of Canada
  • identify key points and dates in the history of Salluit.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 3 - one copy
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 3 - one copy per student
  • Reference 3, Parts A and B - one copy per student
  • A map of Canada or a circumpolar map of the Northern hemisphere

Step One: State the Purpose

  • To understand Mala's community of Salluit, students need to know exactly where it is located, as well as the key events in its development.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain to the students that they will be working in groups of three on a "search and source" activity, using the reference information provided, to find the "missing information." Using the Activity Sheet, they can then share the information to make sure they have found all the required facts.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Divide the students into groups of three.
  • Provide each group with a copy of Reference 3 - parts A and B.
  • Provide each student with a copy of Activity Sheet - Lesson 3.
  • Allow them 15 minutes to search and find the required information.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Share the information collected through the activity sheets.
  • Ask the students to make corrections and place the final copy in their journals.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students to review Mala's explanation about the Inuktitut (language of Inuit) words for one, two and several Inuit.
  • Ask them to think about the reasons Inuit developed these words. Discuss possible answers.
  • Ask them to think about a name that would suit them, and reflect their own community.
  • Ask them to adapt the name for one, two or several people. Share the names the next session.

Lesson 3: Mala Narrative

Mala, an Inuk Boy

Listen to this story (2:27')

Download: MP3 format (2.25 Mb)

Mala, an Inuk Boy

Hi, it's Mala here. I just thought of some other things to tell you. Where I live, we call ourselves Inuit and one Inuit person is an Inuk. This means I'm an Inuk boy.

Less than 50 years ago, we were all called Eskimos. From what I've heard, Eskimo means "raw meat eaters" in an Aboriginal language. They called us that because my ancestors sometimes ate raw meat, sort of like eating sushi. So if you hear the word Eskimo, it's an old word.

Many people only know the word Eskimo. That's why I use it sometimes, so visitors to Salluit, or my friends I write to on the Internet can understand me. Visitors can't drive to our town because Salluit is at the northern end of Quebec and there's no road. People mostly come and go by plane. A lot of food comes in by plane too. In the Arctic, we can't farm like you can because it's too cold. But now we can buy fruit, vegetables and even vitamins in the grocery store.

As I mentioned before, Inuk means one person. An Inuk is one person — man or woman. Inuuk means two people. And, the word Inuit means more than two people, or "the people." In my language, this way of speaking is very important, and is included even with our verbs to show whether one, two or many people are involved.

Lesson 3: Reference - Part A

Locating Salluit, Nunavik

Nunavik Footnote 1

Nunavik is an area of over 500,000 square kilometres, located north of the 55th parallel in Northern Quebec. It has been inhabited by Inuit for at least 4,000 years.

The first Inuit migrated to the Nunavik region by crossing Hudson Strait from Baffin Island into what is now Northern Quebec. They quickly established their camps on this rich hunting ground. Over the centuries, groups of Inuit moved south along the Labrador coast and down the east coast of Ungava Bay. At the same time, other groups navigating the western waters of Hudson Strait, landed in the area around Ivujivik. These people eventually occupied the rich hunting grounds on the east coast of Hudson Bay and on the west coast of Ungava Bay.

Seven or eight hundred years ago, the Thule people also came to Nunavik, bringing with them the qajaq and their long, skin-covered umiaq. Here, they built permanent settlements that were larger than the earlier inhabitants' nomadic camps.

But, it was not until the 17th century that the Nunavik Inuit began to make contact with the few European explorers and whalers who travelled through parts of their land. Gradually, with the arrival of fur traders and missionaries, the lives of the Nunavik Inuit began to change. The impact of Christianity and the growing dependence of Inuit on southern trade goods was felt.

By the end of the 1950s, most Quebec Inuit had moved from their traditional camps into a dozen or so communities situated along the coast of Nunavik. Schools, nursing stations and stores were built. Since that time, one settlement has been closed and two more established so there are now 14 communities in the area. Hunting and fishing practices still continue, and each community has a building where excess food is stored and made available to those needing it. Sharing continues to be an important Inuit value.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975 brought Inuit a more secure future and stimulated political activism. Today, there is a growing desire among the approximately 9,750 Nunavik Inuit to gain control of their own region, as have Inuit living in the newly formed territory of Nunavut.

Inuktitut is the dominant language in all the Nunavik communities. Children learn subjects in their own language until Grade 3 and then are schooled primarily in English or French. Inuit teachers and counsellors are trained via a joint partnership between the Kativik School Board and the Faculty of Education of McGill University. Many teachers also go on to create and test language and other classroom materials for Inuit. As well, the Kativik School Board constantly revises the official school curriculum so it meets the traditional as well as contemporary needs of its pupils.

Lesson 3: Reference - Part B

Salluit: A Nunavik Coastal Village

Salluit is the fifth largest Inuit community in Nunavik. It is situated on the northwestern tip of Quebec that juts up into Hudson Strait, just before the Atlantic-fed, salt waters of the Strait begin pouring down into Hudson Bay.

There is some disagreement among the Elders about the origin of the name Salluit. But, here is one story as to how it got its name. Before anyone actually lived in Salluit, certain hunters reported that it was an area of abundant game. When others went there to hunt, they found nothing. The word Salluit refers to this false promise of good hunting grounds.

This coastal community is surrounded by mountains, which means one cannot see far inland, and there is a natural inclination to look toward the surrounding waters. The municipality rests on a very small piece of land. Its 600 to 700 residents have built their houses close together and get their water from cold, delicious streams. Most of Salluit's inhabitants, the Sallumiut, speak Inuktitut.

In 1958, archaeological work was carried out on Qikirtaq Island, a small island at the entrance of Sugluk Inlet. The evidence collected showed that people of the Dorset period must have occupied the area around Salluit from about 800 BCE to 1000 CE. For example, the Sugluk Maskette, a tiny mask only 2 cm in size and carved out of ivory, was excavated from these sites and dates back to about 400 BCE.

The recent history of Salluit began in 1925 when an independent trader opened his post there. Competition was fierce, however, and the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) quickly established its own post on the far shore of Sugluk Inlet. In 1930, the HBC built a combined store and dwelling at the present Salluit site. But, the golden years of fur trading came to an end around 1936 when the price of pelts dropped.

Although a Catholic mission was set up in Salluit in 1930, it only remained open for some 20 years. In 1955, an Anglican mission was established, and two years later a federal day school was opened. As more public services became available, Inuit began settling in the small community. The first residential houses were built in 1959. Many Sallumiut joined together in 1968 to open a co-operative store. Salluit legally became a municipality in 1979.

Lesson 3: Activity Sheet

Locating Salluit, Nunavik

Work with your groups of three to find the missing information below.

  1. Nunavik covers an area of over _________________ square kilometres, and has been inhabited by Inuit for ___________ years.

  2. Seven hundred years ago, the Thule people came to what is now Northern Quebec, and brought with them the ____________________ and their long, skin-covered __________.

  3. Two events that changed the lives of early Inuit were:

    ______________________________ , ______________________________

  4. There are now ________ communities in Nunavik.

  5. The dominant language of the Nunavik communities is ________________________________.

  6. Salluit is the ________ largest community in Nunavik.

  7. Some think the name Salluit came from the following story:



  8. A tiny mask, found in the Salluit area, shows the people of the Dorset period must have occupied Salluit territory from as early as ___________________.

  9. In 1930, the __________________________________ opened stores to trade furs, which lasted until about 1936 when the trade in furs dropped dramatically.

  10. The first school in Salluit opened in ___________________. Salluit legally became a municipality in ___________________.

Lesson 4: Inuit Time Line

Making the Connection

Ask the students to share their new names in singular and plural forms. Ask them to share something that has grabbed their attention so far.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify on a time line the various historical landmarks for Inuit and their arrival in what is now Canada's Arctic.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 4
  • Reference 4 - one copy per group
  • Several strips of chart paper (about 10 cm wide)
  • Glue

Step One: State the Purpose

  • Inuit history is rich and eventful. To help students gain a full understanding of the challenges and changes these people underwent as they settled in what is now Canada, it is important to look at the major events in this process.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that they will be working in groups to create a visual time line highlighting key events in Inuit history.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Divide the students into groups of three or four.
  • Provide each group with three or four strips of chart paper and some glue.
  • Give each group Reference 4.
  • Ask them to read through the materials, identify key dates and events and note them on the paper strips, creating an ordered time line.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Ask the students to post their completed time lines around the room. Have them select a spokesperson to share the information with the rest of the class.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students what surprised them the most about the facts they discovered today.
  • Ask the students how they think these historical events have affected the Inuit way of life today.
  • Have them write their thoughts in their journals and be prepared to share them next session.

Lesson 4: Mala Narrative

Where Did We Come From?

Listen to this story (3:36')

Download: MP3 format (3.3 Mb)

Where Did We Come From?

When I have a question about something, I usually go to see my grandparents. Although, when I'm at my grandparents' place, it's impolite to ask questions right away. One day, I remember sitting with my grandmother having tea and eating bannock (a type of bread). After sitting with her for a while, I asked my grandmother: "Where did we come from?"

She looked at me thoughtfully and then explained: "When I was a small child, my grandfather used to tell me stories which were important to us," she began. Both my grandparents often say this to me.

As she began explaining, I found myself thinking to myself: "My grandmother was once a small girl! I can't imagine her being small. It seems like my grandmother has always been old and wise - the same with my parents."

My grandmother explained to me that there were several different types of people before us and that they came from the west. One group used to be called Tuniit. She said they used to be smaller than Inuit but much stronger. "You can still see huge boulders that had been moved that are in the places where they used to live," she continued. I wonder how strong these people were and how big. My grandmother said that when the present Inuit came long ago, the Tuniit made way for them. I sometimes wonder where the Tuniit are now. Why can't we see them and why don't we come across them when we travel, if they're still around?

"Some people from down south call this group the Dorset people. We now live where these people used to live. They know this because people came from down south and started to dig in the ground where the Dorset lived. The Dorset didn't have any iron to work with because they survived only on things from this environment," my grandmother also explained.

I also remember that while she was telling these stories, a song came on the radio. It was a song by Jobie Arnaituk from Kangirsujuaq, the next community east of Salluit. He sang about his grandfather who went out hunting seal at the ice floe. The ice floe became cut off from the main sea ice. He got taken away and gets lost. That's how "he came eastwards," he said in the song.

Lesson 4: Reference

Inuit Time Line

Many archaeologists believe that about 10,000 years ago, bands of nomadic hunters from Siberia followed animals migrating across the Bering Strait to Alaska. As the Ice Age glaciers retreated, but before much of the strait became submerged under their melting waters, these hunters pursued the herds that came to eat the vegetation covering this land bridge. Eventually, these hunters, the first of the North American Inuit, arrived in Alaska to form coastal communities. Most adopted a culture based on the resources of the ocean and hunted the sea animals.

Some 4,000 years ago, Inuit groups began spreading all across the Canadian Arctic and as far east as Greenland. Hunters of musk-oxen and caribou, these Pre-Dorset peoples brought their Alaskan ancestors' ocean-based culture with them.

Then, these peoples were succeeded by, or mixed with, Inuit of the Dorset culture, who were called the Tuniit. This newer culture appeared across the Arctic about 3,000 years ago and also survived on the sea's resources. These Dorset peoples built quite large, permanent winter homes, probably covered with sod. In summer, they lived in rectangular tents made from the hides of local animals. Very fine miniature carvings have been unearthed at Dorset sites. Inuit oral history describes the Dorset people as amazingly strong, yet very gentle. For some as yet unexplained reason, they disappeared from most of the Arctic, some 1,000 years ago.

About 800 to 1,000 years ago, the last wave of Inuit to sweep across the Canadian Arctic began. These people were the Thule, ancestors of the modern Inuit. They introduced such new technologies as the dog team, the qamutik (dog sled), the igluvigaq (snow house) and more advanced weaponry. But, like all the earlier groups, they spoke dialects of Inuktitut, the Inuit language.

With the arrival of explorers such as Martin Frobisher in the late 16th century and Henry Hudson in the early 1600s, traditional Inuit culture slowly began to change. After these men, other Europeans, such as William Baffin and Thomas James, came looking for the legendary and elusive Northwest Passage, a hoped-for northern route around the Americas that would provide easy access to the riches of Asia. Although all these explorers left their names on the maps of the Arctic, none had much impact on Inuit life.

Next came the whalers who were in the Arctic from the mid-18th to the late 19th century. The smartest of these captains hired the skilful Inuit seamen and gave them whaling boats. These boats were much the same size and shape as the umiaq — a long, sealskin-covered, open boat used to carry camping gear from site to site — but made of wood and metal.

This was the time when Inuit life began to change rapidly. In what is now Kivalliq (formerly the Keewatin District), even the Ahiarmiut (called People of the Deer or Caribou People by some Inuit), began hearing about the whalers. Kivalliq is situated across from Nunavik on the west coast of Hudson Bay. The Ahiarmiut were the only group of Inuit living in the interior. Gradually, many of them moved to the coast and gave up their traditions of migrating with the caribou. They worked in places where whale blubber was processed into oil to be sold in the south and in Europe. For the first time, Inuit, who always used every part of a harvested whale, were seeing most of its body thrown away. These southern whalers only wanted the oil and the whalebone. They left the huge carcass to sink into the sea, showing the whale no respect.

The fur traders came next, setting up their posts throughout the Canadian Arctic. Many groups of Inuit had already acquired guns, but the traders introduced them everywhere. They also provided traps and ammunition that could be paid for later, when hunters returned with their furs.

Missionaries followed the traders, complicating the Inuit world even more. For example, the missionaries worked to change the Inuit belief system. For centuries, Inuit had believed all natural things had spirits that were to be respected. Now, the missionaries told them these time-honoured beliefs were untrue.

In Greenland and Labrador, Moravian missionaries created a Roman alphabet for the Inuit dialects that were spoken there. They used this new alphabet to write books and set up schools where the alphabet could be taught. They were followed by some Anglican missionaries in Northern Quebec, who wanted to create an alphabet for Inuktitut (the Inuit language). These Quebec Anglicans didn't use the Roman alphabet, but the syllabic one (see syllabary on page 83) made for the Manitoba Cree by James Evans in 1845. They used its 50 or so picture-like signs to represent Inuktitut sounds.

Finally, in 1883, E.J. Peck completed the Inuit syllabary and began teaching it to the people of Great Whale River around Cumberland Sound. This community is now called Kuujjuaraapik in Inuktitut and Whapmagoostui in the Cree language. These Inuit learned to write in syllabics very quickly. Soon, they were using this system to send messages to friends and relatives via the whaling ships.

In the 1940s, the Canadian government began to take a strong interest in the Arctic, in part because of the need to protect the Arctic during World War II. They established Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) posts in the High Arctic to defend these northern lands, but also to provide services they believed Inuit needed. The government set up schools and nursing stations. Inuit children were required to go to school; this meant families had to move into settlements and give up the traditions of their nomadic lifestyle.

Lesson 5: Inuit Around the World

Making the Connection

Ask the students to review the things they learned about the history of Inuit. Have them find a partner and share the thoughts recorded in their journals. Ask students to share with others.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify on a map the various Inuit settlements in Canada's Arctic
  • relate at least five interesting facts about an Inuit community and its people
  • give the names of the various Inuit settlements and groups in the Arctic.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 5 - one copy per student
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 5 - one for each group
  • References 5-A to 5-F - one for each group
  • A map of Canada and the world
  • Removable stickers

Step One: State the Purpose

  • Explain that to gain a clear understanding of Inuit today, it is important to learn about the various Inuit groups in the Arctic and where they are located.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Tell the students they will be working in groups to learn the names and locations of the various Inuit groups in the Arctic. Explain that they will have an activity sheet to guide them in collecting information they will then share with the rest of the class. Remind them they will each be responsible for retrieving the information and playing a part in relating it to the class.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Divide the class into six working groups.
  • Provide each group with a copy of Activity Sheet - Lesson 5, and one of resource sheets 5-A to 5-F.
  • Explain that they will have 15 minutes to read the information (select a group member to read), and answer the questions on the Activity Sheet. Remind them that they must also allow time to locate the Inuit group on the map.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Ask each group to share the name and location of the group they were studying.
  • Place a removable sticker on the map to identify the various communities.
  • Have the groups take turns sharing the interesting facts they have learned.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Emphasize for the children that the information shared through this lesson shows how rich and eventful Inuit history is. Ask them what three things they will take away from today's lesson that have helped them understand Inuit. Have them write these things in their journals and be prepared to share them next lesson.

Lesson 5: Mala Narrative

Mala Goes to Kuujjuaq

Listen to this story (3:18')

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Mala Goes to Kuujjuaq

This summer, I went on a trip to Kuujjuaq. I flew there with my school soccer team for an indoor soccer tournament with teams from around Nunavik. We had to play lots of games because we got all the way to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, we lost to a really good team from Ivujivik. I had lots of fun though and made some great new friends.

During my time in Kuujjuaq, I was staying with one of my uncle's family. Most nights I would play video games and eat potato chips with my cousins and their friends. One evening, we had to stop playing, because some other people were staying at the house. They were Inuit from a different country and they said they had come to Kuujjuaq and were also going to stay with my uncle's family.

One of them asked me where I was from. "I'm from Salluit," I said. "Where are you from?" She said that she was from Nuuk, Greenland. I was really curious so I asked: "What is it like living in Greenland?"

"Well, to start with I speak Inuktitut too," she added. "However, Greenland is a little different, because it's part of Denmark, so I also speak Danish."

This group of Inuit from Greenland were in Kuujjuaq for a big international assembly of Inuit. This gathering was no ordinary get-together. This big meeting was for Inuit from Siberia (Russia), Alaska (United States), Canada and Greenland. I never knew there were Inuit that lived in Russia! They said their meeting was for something called the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which meets every four years.

I sat there for a little while longer and heard more about Inuit from other countries and why they have these meetings. They explained about the meetings by saying: "They show that Inuit are working together to make a safe future for the whole Arctic." After awhile we went back to playing video games.

As I was falling asleep that night, I remember thinking that maybe one day I'll take part in a big assembly and get to meet lots of Inuit from other countries.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part A
The Yupik and Chukchi of Siberia

The Yupik live along the eastern shore of the Chukchi Peninsula in Siberia and on Saint Lawrence Island in Alaska. They were mainly a maritime people who hunted sea mammals from large seagoing canoes in the spring and fall. They also caught land animals and sea birds and ate eggs and edible plants.

During the Soviet period, the communist government weakened the Yupik way of life, closed down their villages, and forced them to assimilate with newcomers from the south. Today, the Yupik are regaining elements of their own culture, and there is a strong movement supporting the return to their own communities.

The Chukchi are Inuit who have inhabited the extreme northeast of Siberia for about 7,000 years. Traditionally, they were reindeer herders who traded their reindeer products with the coastal people for fish, oil and walrus skins. Their way of life is often hard, but they are a proud, self-sufficient people, quick to defend their freedom. An interesting fact about the Chukchi is that the men and women pronounce their words differently.

The Chukchi lived close to the Siberian Yupik and have adopted their techniques for fishing and hunting large sea mammals. The Chukchi, in turn, have influenced Yupik social organizations and material culture. This has happened gradually even though there were conflicts between the two groups. Yupik oral history speaks of the hot-tempered Chukchi and the peaceful Yupik.

In the 1920s, the Chukchi were reported to be a strong and healthy nation. Since then radioactive residue and heavy metals have entered the food chain causing a variety of illnesses. Only 40 percent of Chukchi childbirths are normal. These peoples have very high rates of alcoholism and suicide.

The Chukchi and Yupik were separated for many years by the Cold War, but since 1988 have renewed contact.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part B

The Yupik of Alaska

The Alaskan Yupik are closely related to the Siberian Yupik. Although they too have had to go through many extreme lifestyle changes, Yupik are now the most dominant Aboriginal group in Alaska. Fortunately, many have retained their language — Central Yupik. In school, about a third of their children learn Central Yupik as their first language.

Alaskan Yupik live in small coastal villages along the Bering Sea and the lower Yukon and Kuskokwin rivers. Although there are few roads, people are connected to the outside world via computers, telephones and daily airline flights. Many Yupik, whose ancestors were marine hunters, now work in schools and stores, for the government and in commercial fishing. However, some Yupik live much as their ancestors did, by hunting walrus, moose and caribou, although usually with the help of modern technology. Yupiks do some whaling, but not as much as they once did. They also fish for salmon and trout, and gather wild vegetables, berries and eggs. Community events bring the people together, helping children understand and take pride in their culture.

The Inupiaq of Alaska

There is archaeological evidence of the Inupiaq in Alaska over a 10,000-year period. Inupiaq communities made up the northernmost villages in Alaska, along Norton Sound, and stretched south to the Canadian border. The larger populations were found along sea mammal routes. The Inupiaq hunted the bowhead whale in skin-covered boats and harpooned and dragged 50-tonne whales to the shore. Some people stayed in the coastal settlements, while others chose a more nomadic life.

Today, about a third of the Inupiaq live in towns and cities, but two thirds live in ancestral villages and in larger centres built on top of ancient trading sites. Many are still salmon fishers, reindeer herders, and caribou or maritime hunters. As in the past, many women work with fur, sew clothing for their families and make birchbark baskets.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part C

The Inuvialuit or Mackenzie Inuit

Inuvialuit lands cover some 800 kilometres from the Alaskan border to the Arctic islands of Amundsen Gulf, and include the Mackenzie Delta where the modern towns of Aklavik, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk are found. This is the richest area of the Arctic in vegetation, sea animals and probably also in land animals. Because of these plentiful food resources, people live here in larger communities.

Although the Inuvialuit constructed snow houses, their permanent homes were made with driftwood logs covered with sod. Larger villages would have had a dance house some 20 metres in length.

When Europeans first met them in the 18th century, there were about 2,500 Inuvialuit. For about 500 years, they had lived in relative peace and plenty, avoiding and being avoided by their enemies to the south, the Dene. European contact brought diseases that decimated the Inuvialuit population for a time. Today, there are about 3,000 Inuvialuit, and their lands now stretch to Holman Island in the Central Arctic.

Central Arctic Inuit

The Inuinnat (Copper Inuit) and the Netsilik (People of the Seal) were the last of their culture to be influenced by Europeans. They occupy the North-Central Arctic and are closely related to the Inuvialuit.

The Copper Inuit have occupied Banks and Victoria islands and the near mainland for 1,000 years. In the late 19th century, their population of about 800 people would divide up into groups of 50 or so during the spring and summer. They did this to travel inland to fish and hunt musk-oxen and caribou. In winter, several of these hunting groups would join together, building snow-house villages on the sea ice where they hunted seals.

Their name comes from the copper they used to fashion knives and other artifacts they traded even in faraway Alaska. Contact with Europeans in the early 20th century changed the lifestyle of the Copper Inuit from one of independent subsistence hunting to one based on trapping tied to the fur trade. Today, they live in the villages of Sachs Harbour, Cambridge Bay, Holman, Coppermine and Bathurst Inlet.

The Netsilik are the People of the Seal, but like their neighbours, the Copper Inuit (Inuinnat), they also hunted caribou, musk-oxen and polar bear. They journeyed over, and had an intimate knowledge of, their 259,000-square-kilometre territory, between Victoria Strait, Committee Bay and Somerset Island. The Netsilik tended to form small hunting groups that scattered over this vast area. Although they often travelled great distances to acquire southern goods from the early explorers, their traditional ways were not endangered until 1923, when the first Hudson's Bay Company post was established on King William Island. Today, the Netsilik live mainly in the villages of Spence Bay, Pelly Bay and Gjoa Haven.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part D

Nunavut Inuit

On April 1, 1999, Nunavut came into being! Nunavut — Canada's third territory — consists of almost two million square kilometres (almost one fifth of Canada's land mass) in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. It includes three regions: Qikiqtaalik (Baffin Island), Kivalliq (Keewatin District) and Kitikmeot (the Central Arctic).

The history of Baffin Island Inuit in this region goes back at least 4,000 years. The first of these nomadic people lived in skin tents, and not in an igluvigaq. Nor did they travel by dog sled, as later Baffin Inuit groups did.

The first known contact between Baffin Island Inuit and Europeans took place in the 16th century when British explorers, searching for the Northwest Passage, landed near what is today called Iqaluit. Then came the whalers, fur traders and missionaries who brought with them their southern goods. But it was not until the 20th century that Inuit felt the full impact of these newcomers. During this period, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) set up their stations, the federal government introduced a southern school system and trading posts reinvented themselves as stores.

During World War II, the U.S. Air Force built a base at Frobisher Bay, which had an impact on Inuit of this area. Today, Frobisher Bay has been renamed Iqaluit and is the capital of Nunavut. Inuktitut is the language used in most of the kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms of Nunavut. Problems experienced in the south are widespread here as well. Homelessness, for example, is on the increase in Iqaluit. But now, with the creation of Nunavut, Inuit can oversee their own lands and are actively working to restore their culture and values.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part E

Labrador Inuit

In contrast to most Inuit, Labrador Inuit have been in contact with Europeans for centuries. Labrador Inuit had contact with Basque whalers and fishermen in southern Labrador as early as 1540. Although the two groups sometimes traded peacefully in the north, their relations were generally hostile throughout the 17th century. Inuit would raid fishing stations, which were abandoned during the winter, taking everything they considered useful. When the fleet returned, the fishermen killed some Inuit. However, Inuit had been introduced to European goods and were ready to trade for more of them. The main trade item was whalebone from the Greenland whale. In Europe, whalebone was used to make corset staves, brushes and other high-priced goods.

Although groups of Inuit travelled as far south as the Strait of Belle Isle in the summer, they returned to the Arctic every winter and carried on their traditional winter hunts. There were no non-Inuit in this area until the Moravian missionaries established their first Labrador station in 1771, founding the village of Nain. Between 1771 and 1902, seven other missions were opened on the Labrador coast. Although the missionaries' main goal was to spread Christianity, they also operated trading posts to help pay for the missions, provided medical care and maintained schools where they taught reading.

Moravian trading posts were sold to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1926, and after Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, the federal government took over Inuit schooling and medical services. For 150 years, schools had taught in Inuktitut. As of 1949, however, all instruction was given in English and the people consequently began to lose their first language. Only in the last two decades has Inuktitut again become part of the curriculum. The Labrador Inuit Association is supporting a concerted effort to preserve the Inuit language and culture.

Lesson 5: Reference - Part F

Inuit of Kalaallit Nunaannit (Greenland)

The first Inuit migrated to Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaannit) about 4,500 years ago. Over the centuries, they were followed by two other waves of migration. All these groups settled on this island's rich hunting grounds. About 1,100 years ago, the Thule people, the forefathers of modern Greenlanders, settled the western and eastern portions of Greenland. The Thule had a more advanced culture than those already there. Using the qajaq and umiaq, the Thule peoples hunted sea mammals like their chief prey, the 40-tonne Greenlandic whale.

Unlike the earlier nomadic groups, the Thule created larger, and for the first time, permanent settlements. This resulted in a more centralized social structure, headed by a chosen leader. The last Inuit migration from Alaska and Canada to Greenland took place some 200 to 300 years ago when the present polar peoples, the Inughuit, arrived to live in and around the settlements of the Thule on the northwest coast.

Norse farmers arrived from Iceland around 1000. They established their Eastern Settlement in the south and, later, their Western Settlement in the Nuuk region. Eventually, Greenland's climate grew steadily colder, and it became impossible to grow crops and raise cattle there. Then, due to European political problems, the Norwegian ships supplying these Norse settlers stopped coming. By the 1300s, the Western Settlement began to dwindle. The Eastern Settlement lasted into the early 1400s. The Norse that remained in Greenland were absorbed into the Inuit populations. Many of today's Greenlanders are of mixed Inuit and Scandinavian ancestry.

In the centuries that followed, explorers and whalers sailed along Greenland's coasts, but Aboriginal life continued undisturbed, as it had for centuries. Around 1948, concerted efforts began to modernize Greenland or Kalaallit Nunaannit, as it is called in the Inuit language. There is therefore a good health care system today, and a healthier population overall. Fishing has become a major Greenlandic industry.

Greenlanders have one of the oldest newspapers in the world, the Atuagagdliutit, which first began publishing in 1861. They have a highly developed Greenlandic literature and, in 1960, had a literacy rate of 98 percent. Greenland is an autonomous nation and a member of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Greenland Home Rule Government, formed in 1979, has complete legislative power over Greenland's internal affairs.

Inuit Around the World

Lesson 5: Activity Sheet

Using the provided reference sheets, work with your group to find the following information. Be prepared to present it to the class.

  1. What Inuit group(s) are you reading about?


  2. Where are they located? Give a written description and be able to show the class these locations on the map.



  3. List at least five things that you have learned about these people.



Lesson 6: Temperature and Permafrost

Making the Connection

Ask the students to read over the comments they made on the things they have learned so far about Inuit. Ask them to share their thoughts with the class.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the students will be able to:

  • define the terms "permafrost," "tree line" and "Aurora Borealis"
  • describe the climate and vegetation typical of Nunavik
  • demonstrate an understanding of the climate of the Arctic through various means.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 6 - one copy per student
  • Reference 6 - one copy per student
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 6 - one copy per student
  • Reference books and any additional information collected for this unit

Step One: State the Purpose

  • A unique feature of Canada's Arctic is the climate. By learning about the climate and its impact on northern vegetation, students will be better able to understand what it is like to live in an Inuit community.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that they will be working alone, and can choose one of several activities.
  • Tell them they are to read Reference 6 and then decide which activity they would like to complete.

Step Three: The Procedure

* Note: Because students will be encouraged to look for additional information or materials for this exercise, it may take more than one lesson to complete.

  • Pass out copies of Reference 6.
  • Pass out copies of the Activity Options on Activity Sheet - Lesson 6.
  • Read Mala Narrative - Lesson 6 out loud to the class.
  • Allow sufficient time for students to review the reference material, decide on an activity and then complete it.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Once the activities are completed, share the results with the class.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask students to think whether completing this activity has helped them to learn more about Inuit, and understand and appreciate the relationship between climate, vegetation and lifestyle.
  • Have them write their thoughts in their journals and be prepared to share them next session.

Lesson 6: Mala Narrative

Mala Goes Ice Fishing

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Mala Goes Ice Fishing

During the spring, one of my favourite things to do is to go ice fishing. When spring comes, the days become much longer and the sun is warmer even though the ice is still thick on the sea. People love to be out because there's so much more light compared to winter, and everyone can still travel on the sea ice. I don't even want to stay in much to play video games or watch TV! Once the spring comes, it seems like my friends and I are always outside.

The last time I went ice fishing, I went with my brother, Ittuq. He always comes on his snowmobile to pick me up, because we need to travel a bit to get to the good fishing spots. I usually run down the long set of steps at our house and jump on the sled he pulls behind him. Snowmobiles pull sleds with a long rope, which we have adapted here by using an iron bar welded together to make a hitch.

Ittuq is a really good driver, so as we ride down the streets to the sea ice, I comfortably sit on the sled and watch all the houses go by. The houses in Salluit have a big open space between them and the ground. The houses are lifted up a bit off the ground so the ground underneath the house doesn't melt in the summer. My science teacher says that if the houses were just built on the ground, it would melt the permafrost and the houses would sink. Permafrost means the ground is frozen all the time, even in summer.

Once we reach the sea ice, my brother speeds up and we head off toward a lake inland to the ice fishing spot. The temperature in spring can still sometimes be as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius and much colder, if it's windy.

When we get to the spot, there are often holes that have already been made. If they haven't been used that day, the holes have a layer of ice formed on the top that we have to break. This happens because the cold air freezes the water at the top of the hole. Once the water in the hole is clear of ice, down the fishing line goes. It has to go down quite a bit because the ice is really thick. The ice at these holes can be about one metre thick or sometimes less depending on where one is fishing.

Then, you just have to wait. At that spot, we were trying to catch arctic char. It's a really tasty fish that looks like a kind of salmon. Sometimes, it takes a while before you catch anything and sometimes you have to go and make another hole at a different spot. I don't mind waiting though. I can close my eyes while I'm fishing and feel the warm sun on my face. I love ice fishing in spring.

Lesson 6: Reference

Temperature and Permafrost

Nunavik is Quebec's arctic region. There are 14 communities all located along the coast. Inuit who live here depend on numerous bodies of water (Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Ungava Bay and the region's many rivers and lakes) for their survival. In winter, they travel over stretches of sea ice to go hunting. In summer, they fish the ice-cold bays and rivers.

The soil just a few centimetres beneath Nunavik's landscape stays permanently frozen. It is called "permafrost." The top few centimetres — called the active layer where tiny tundra flowers grow — thaw out during the short arctic summer. But underneath the tundra's thin skin is a rocky zone of frozen earth that never warms up enough to melt. This underlying layer of permafrost remains as hard and waterproof as concrete.

A tree line also divides the Nunavik region. This means that north of the tree line, no trees can survive the cold. Only small shrubs, grasses and plants grow low to the ground. South of the tree line, there are clusters of small, stunted trees. In reality, the tree line doesn't form one straight dividing line, but is an in-between area with patches of dwarfed trees interspersed with pockets of tundra.

During a Nunavik summer, there is more light. The sun dips just below the horizon very late at night, so it never gets completely dark. This allows Inuit to take advantage of long summer days to travel and hunt. Average temperatures in the summer are a high of about 12 degrees Celsius and a low of 4 degrees Celsius. In winter, however, the sun rises for only a few brief hours. Colourful northern lights — the famous and elusive Aurora Borealis — fill the night sky during this long, cold period. The first snow falls around the middle of September and sometimes earlier. The average temperature in winter is minus 25 degrees Celsius. However, temperatures can plunge to minus 60 degrees Celsius.

Lesson 6: Activity Sheet

Temperature and Permafrost
Some Suggested Learning Activities

Select one of the following, and use the resources available to you to complete the activity.

1. Lightning of the North

The Aurora Borealis is a unique northern experience. Early European explorers often viewed the "dancing lights" with awe. However, a clear scientific explanation accounts for this phenomenon. Consult reference material so you can describe how and why this specific atmospheric effect occurs. Are there any sounds associated with this experience? Can you represent the Aurora Borealis visually?

2. The Hard Truth

Permafrost is sometimes difficult to understand fully. How might this condition influence how Inuit live? What difficulties might Inuit encounter when they build houses, put in power cables or use piped-in water? Describe how you would recommend a new house be built in Salluit, keeping these conditions in mind. Illustrate your design.

3. Namesakes

Over the last 300 years or so, many European explorers left their mark on the Arctic. Explorers such as Frobisher, Hudson, James and Franklin are remembered to this day through geographic features named in their honour. From any of the circumpolar regions, select a river or lake that has been named after a person and write a report about this individual. Be sure to indicate what the person had done to be recognized in this way. Do some research to establish if the waterway you have chosen is known by an Inuktitut word also, and whether the name has recently been changed back to the traditional name. Why are many place names north of the 55th parallel changing?

4. What's in a Name?

On January 1, 1987, the municipality of Frobisher Bay in what is now the territory of Nunavut, became officially known as Iqaluit. This new name, meaning "place of fish" in Inuktitut, was long used by Inuit to describe this major centre of the Eastern Arctic located on Baffin Island. Over the last 40 years, many European place names like Frobisher Bay have been replaced by the original Inuit words used to describe them. Try to find more examples of place names that have been changed back to Inuit words. Think about the meaning of the names Inuit gave to these places, and what these names meant to the people who created them. Why do you think Inuit would want the original Inuktitut names to replace English and French ones?

5. Poetry, Please

Can you find a poem that illustrates the beauty of one or more aspects of the Arctic? Perhaps this poet was influenced by the vast distances, or the crackling sound of ice at night, or the baying of the sled dogs, or maybe even the almost silent swoosh of the snowy owl. Find a poem that appeals to you and draw a group of pictures that illustrate the images you imagined while reading the poem.

6. It's All in a Name

Mala's narrative shows you how language and terminology are important to him and his people. Mala also discusses the names that have been used in the past to describe him and his people. According to Mala, the word "Eskimo" is not one that flatters his people. It was given to them by outsiders unfamiliar with Inuit culture and traditions. Why, in your view, are some names unflattering while others are complimentary? Who should decide what names and terms we use to describe Canadian citizens?

7. Water, Water Everywhere

What is the difference between saltwater and freshwater? Where does the salt come from that makes saltwater salty? What sea creatures live in each of the two kinds of water? How might the water differences affect the lives of Inuit?

Lesson 7: The Importance of Family

Making the Connection

Ask the students to find a partner and share their responses to the "Think About It" activity from the previous lesson. Ask for volunteers to share with the larger group.

Note: As with all discussions related to family, this topic could be sensitive for some students. You know your students best. If you feel this activity may be too difficult for some students to complete, please modify or skip it as you see fit.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • relate specific information that identifies the family unit in Inuit culture
  • express an understanding and appreciation for the importance of family in Inuit culture
  • use the Inuit family model to relate to their own family.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 7 - one copy
  • Reference 7 - one copy per student
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 7 A, B and C - one copy per student

Step One: State the Purpose

The family unit in Inuit culture is very important. The information related in this lesson will help students understand and appreciate the strong ties that exist and the specific roles of family members in Inuit culture.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

Tell the students they are going to learn more about the family in Inuit culture. Explain that, like all cultures, Inuit culture has more than one definition of the family unit. The account they are going to hear is about one family and its structure.

Explain that they will be asked to complete an activity that relates to this account, and is also supported by additional information provided in Reference 4.

Their task will be to select one of the suggested activities and complete it for their journal.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Read the account entitled Mala Visits His Grandparents to the class.
  • Distribute Reference 7 - The Role of the Family.
  • Distribute the Activity Sheets - Lesson 7, A, B and C.
  • Ask students to select an activity that interests them and complete it in their journals.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Ask the students to share the completed activities in small groups. This will help them feel more comfortable, than sharing with the whole class.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students to think about whether there is someone in their family they consider to be an isumataq or "knowledgeable adviser." Have them write in their journal about why they chose this person.

Lesson 7: Mala Narrative

Mala Visits His Grandparents

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Mala Visits His Grandparents

My social studies teacher says our Elders are our most important teachers. So, she gave us this for homework: "Ask an Elder to explain your kinship names." She wants me to find out why we called some people, angak (uncle) and some people najatsaq (girl cousin). I decided to ask my anaanatsiaq, that is, my maternal grandmother for help.

This wasn't hard to do, because I always go to see her and Grandfather every day. They just live down the road. I usually stop in on the way home from school to see how they're doing, and if they need any help. That's my job as their grandson. Plus, my grandmother makes the best bannock in Salluit.

Today, coming up the snowy street, I follow the skid marks left by a speeding fourwheeler. Soon, I see the usual smoke rising from the metal chimney of their onestorey, wood-frame house. A big, spotted husky comes bounding around the back of their oil tank. She wags her tail at me, trailed by her fat pup who jumps up, pawing my left knee. I shoo them off and enter the house.

Grandmother greets me affectionately, which makes me feel good as always. Grandfather looks up from his net making and says: "Grandson, what did you do today?"

"Ah, just the usual school stuff, except that my new social studies teacher wants me to ask you something."

"Oh, what's that?" asks Grandmother, looking a bit puzzled, as she offers me a steaming mug of tea and a big slice of her just-baked bannock. The slice is still warm, so the blueberry jam I smear over it melts into tasty perfection. Trying to talk with my mouth full, I manage: "She wants you to explain my kinship names. Everybody in class has to ask an Elder to explain them."

Grandmother nods as she picks up a sealskin mitt and continues her sewing. "Let's start right here with your maternal grandfather. He is your mother's father (ataatatsiaq). I am your maternal grandmother (anaanatsiaq), because I am your mother's mother. Your father is ataata and your mother is anaana. Ittuq, your older brother, is angajuk. Quppaq, your little brother, is nukaq. Tunu, your sister, is naja.

"All your mother's sisters and her girl cousins are your maternal aunts (ajakuluk)," she adds, getting up to offer me more bannock. "All your mother's brothers and her boy cousins are your maternal uncles (angak)."

I am making mental notes of all of this and trying to keep all the relationships straight in my head, but it's a lot to learn. Fortunately, just then, I am rescued by the telephone. Grandfather puts down the net he has been patiently knotting and gets up to answer. It's your ataata, Mala. He wants you to go home and help him check the fishing nets."

"See you tomorrow," I say, as I put on my boots, reach for my parka and make for the door.

The next day, I stop by on my way home from school as usual. Grandfather has gone off on his snowmobile, but Grandmother is rolling out pie dough on a piece of wax paper she has spread over the checkered oilcloth covering her kitchen table. She dusts the flour from her hands and goes to get me my usual after-school snack of bannock and tea. "You know, we'd better finish your social studies project today, Mala. Yesterday, we never did get to your father's side of the family."

"I know. Guess I should make some notes," I say, reaching into my backpack for a pen and some paper. "It's a bit more complicated than I thought, and I keep getting the names mixed up."

Grandmother smiles knowingly and begins: "Your father's father is your paternal grandfather (ataatatsiaq). Your father's mother is your paternal grandmother (aana). All your father's sisters and his girl cousins are your paternal aunts (atsa). And all your father's brothers and his boy cousins are your paternal uncles (akkak)."

"What about my father's brother's children?" I ask.

"Qatak (cousin). Just use the word qatak. And here, what you call these paternal cousins depends on whether you are male or female. Let's use you. You're a boy, so all your uncles and aunts' sons are your qatak. All your uncles and aunts' daughters are your najatsaq."

"What does my sister, Tunu, call her boy cousins?" I ask.

"For a girl, all her paternal uncles and aunts' sons are her aniksaq. All their daughters are her qatak."

Grandmother begins kneading the dough into a flat shape. Picking up a knife to shape it for the waiting tin plate, she says: "And the most important of all is the person who helped your mother when you were being born. She's your arnaqutik. She encourages you, and you're the pride of her heart, especially when you do something for the first time, or catch your first animal! A girl calls her her sanaji."

I thought hard. It all seemed confusing again. "But, Grandmother," I ask, the qallunaaqs, not my cousins, but the non-Aboriginal people. We call them qallunaaqs. "They don't seem to use as many of these terms."

Grandmother looks up from her pie. "Qallunaaqs (non-Aboriginal people) are more particular about using a name to indicate whether someone is a boy or a girl. Their names like Annie, Mary and Susie are always used for girls. Johnny, Tommy and Bobby, for example, are always for boys. But, Mala is your name. It is also the name of your ajakuluk (maternal aunt) who's a woman. And it's important when you speak of your ajakuluk that you refer to her correctly. These terms are an important part of respecting our family."

"Okay. I think I'm getting it."

"Can I warm up your tea?"

Lesson 7: Reference

Traditional Roles of Family Members in Inuit Life

Are there certain jobs, functions or activities for which specific people in your family are responsible? Does your father do the grocery shopping? Does your mother coach a local sports team? Each family has its own way of dividing up jobs so everyone makes a realistic and meaningful contribution.

Over long periods of time, roles and responsibilities can change, especially as the needs of the family evolve. The list below outlines the roles and responsibilities of a traditional Inuit family. This list may not totally represent all Inuit families today, but it indicates how traditional families were structured so they could interact with, and survive in, their harsh climate.

Father's role

  • Head of the household, co-provider, protector, adviser, instructor.
  • Listens to the advice of Elders and his parents.

Mother's role

  • Head of the home, co-provider, protector, adviser in the absence of husband, instructor, seamstress and child rearer.

Children's roles

  • Oldest son: Learns to become co-provider, protector, adviser and instructor from father and from advice of grandparents, Elders and older people.
  • Oldest daughter: Learns to become a co-provider, protector, adviser, instructor and seamstress to aid mother, and helps to look after younger siblings and cousins.
  • Younger son: Helps with male-role chores in the home according to his ability; learns male roles through play, experiments and his own mistakes, and through advice from older men and women.
  • Younger daughter: Helps with female-role chores in the home according to her ability; learns female role through play, experiments and her own mistakes, and through advice from other girls and women; will also get advice about dangers from older males.
  • Baby: Gets everybody's attention.

Grandparents and Elders' roles

  • Have gone through life with all of its joys and hardships; are the isumataqs or knowledgeable advisers on how to live everyday life; observe social problems and guide outcomes.

Lesson 7: Activity Sheet - Part A

Some Suggested Learning Activities

1. Family Roles

What are the roles and responsibilities of members of your own family? Are there some jobs that everyone does at different times? Are particular activities done only by certain family members? Who decided on the roles and can these responsibilities be changed? Make a list of all the family members you see or communicate with each day, and what responsibilities each one has. Be sure to include your own responsibilities.

2. Family List

Many families are what might be called "extended." Make a list of those people who are part of your immediate and extended family. How do you imagine their family roles to be similar or different from your own?

3. Family Tree

As Mala's narrative shows clearly, family relationships are important in Inuit society. Design your own family tree or genealogical table showing three generations, that is, yourself, your parents and your grandparents. Your family tree will help you understand the relationships in your immediate social unit.

4. Letter to Mala

Write a letter to Mala describing, in as much detail as possible, the various roles and responsibilities of people in your home. Be sure to explain the words you use for each member of your family.

5. Inuit Family Tree 1

Using the model of an Inuit family tree (Part B) and other resources provided, try with a couple of classmates to figure out the names of each relative, and put that name in the appropriate box. (The correct answers are provided in Part C).

6. Inuit Family Tree 2

Write in the names of relatives you have in the Inuit family tree model (Activity Sheet - Lesson 7 - Part B) provided using Part C as a reference.

Lesson 7: Activity Sheet - Part B

Inuit Family Tree (without translation)

Inuit Family Tree Model (without translation

Lesson 7: Activity Sheet - Part C

Inuit Family Tree (with translation)

Inuit Family Tree Model (with translation)

Lesson 8: Virtual Museum Tour

Making the Connection

Review the previous lesson by asking the students if they were surprised by anything they learned about the family unit in Inuit culture. Share several responses. Ask if anyone would like to share the response they wrote in their journal about someone in their family who could be considered a "knowledgeable adviser" or isumataq. Share.

Note: This activity can only be completed if the students have access to the Internet.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the students will be able to:

  • access the Virtual Museum Web site as a source of information
  • describe the images and information they have accessed and relate these to what they have already learned about Inuit.

Materials Required

  • Access to computers with Internet capabilities
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 8 - one copy per student

Step One: State the Purpose

As part of a comprehensive effort to introduce the students to the history, culture and traditions of Inuit, this lesson reinforces the concepts they have already learned and adds new information. By viewing the information and images on this Web site, students will gain insights through a virtual tour.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

Depending on the availability of computers with Internet access, you may choose to have students work at this activity in small groups, or even as an additional option for a suggested activity from any previous lesson.

The task will be to access the Virtual Museum Web site, identify the Inuit information provided and complete the Reflections Sheet, highlighting what they have learned from the experience.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Ask the students to log on to their Internet provider.
  • Have them access the Web site (
  • When the home page comes up, ask them to explore the site by following the various gateway icons.
  • Explain that after they have viewed the site, they are to complete the Reflections Activity Sheet - Lesson 8.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Have the students explore the site and complete the Reflections Sheet to be shared during the next lesson.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students if they think that having access to the Virtual Museum has helped them appreciate and understand Inuit culture. In what way? Share.

Lesson 8: Activity Sheet

Virtual Museum Tour - Reflections

As you surf your way through the Virtual Museum Tour, use this Reflections Sheet as a guide for recording your thoughts.

How to get there:

  • Log on to Virtual Museum Canada.
  • When you get to the home page, click on VMC Exhibits.
  • Search for Inuit links.
  • Use the rest of the period to explore the categories that interest you the most.

When you have completed your virtual tour, answer the following and place this Reflections Sheet in your journal.

1. Three new things that I learned about Inuit while visiting this site were:

1) ______________________________________________________

2) ______________________________________________________

3) ______________________________________________________

4) ______________________________________________________

2. The most interesting item I observed while viewing this site was:

_______________________________________________________ , because


3. I think the Virtual Museum is a unique way to learn about Inuit, because:



Lesson 9: Getting Around

Making the Connection

Ask the students to retrieve their Reflections Activity Sheet from the previous lesson. Take a few minutes to share the information they had the opportunity to learn or reinforce through the Virtual Museum.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify means of transportation, both past and present, that Inuit employ to hunt and travel
  • explain the pros and cons of various means of transportation used by Inuit
  • compare and contrast the means of travel in Canada's Arctic with the methods they use in their own community.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 9 - one copy per group
  • Reference 9 - one copy per group

Step One: State the Purpose

  • Learning about past and present means of Inuit transportation will give the students another perspective for exploring Inuit traditions and comparing this to their own life experiences.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Have the students work in small groups to take turns reading portions of the narrative from Mala. Once they are finished, ask them to compose a one-page story about an adventure Mala or his ancestors might have had, involving a form of transportation (past or present).

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Pass out the copies of Reference 9.
  • Explain to the students that they are to take turns reading aloud the various sections of the reference sheet.
  • After the reading, they may use the rest of the period to write a story or tale involving a form of transportation included in the selection.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Share the stories with the rest of the class.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students to think about whether they would like to travel as Inuit do. Why or why not?
  • Have them share their thoughts with their working group.

Lesson 9: Mala Narrative


Listen to this story (2:59')

Download: MP3 format (2.74 Mb)


During winter, I often go hunting with my father. We use his new snowmobile. My father bought it at the community co-op store last summer. This store is in a small building full to the top with all sorts of things to buy: food, snowmobiles, rifles and bullets for hunting, and anything else you would need up here in Salluit.

These days, most Inuit travel by snowmobile in the winter, canoes and boats in the summer and airplanes in all seasons. However, I've heard stories from my parents and grandparents about how they used to travel only a few decades ago. It still amazes me how Inuit built their own methods of travelling.

Dog teams were used to travel in the wintertime and are still used by a few people. They are different from region to region though. In my region, the dogs would be harnessed with all ropes fanned out from the sled, because we live in a treeless area. In wooded regions, Inuit have their dogs harnessed in a single row. That way, the ropes don't get tangled among the trees. The dogs pull a qamutik, which is a wooden sled built without the use of any nails. Today, we'd use a snowmobile to pull the qamutik instead. It carries all our hunting gear and the game we catch.

I remember my grandfather once saying that when their winter homes started to melt at the end of winter, they used to travel to their spring hunting grounds while they could still travel by dog team. As a matter of fact, Inuit used to carry all their household belongings piled high, wrapped in skins and tied down to a qamutik with bearded sealskin rope.

Thinking of all these things makes me want to go hunting. In fact, my father said we may be going out to hunt tomorrow if the weather is good.

Lesson 9: Reference

Getting Around

Only some 35 years ago, Inuit were travelling primarily by dog team. They harnessed their hardy dogs to sleds (qamutiit) that they pulled. (Qamutiit is the plural of qamutik.) Today, dog teams take tourists for rides and also compete in races. Now, Inuit rely on snowmobiles and other kinds of all-terrain vehicles for travel. In winter, a snowmobile, for example, can transport you from one location to the next much faster than dog teams. There are nevertheless pros and cons to both these forms of transportation.

Dog teams are slower, and you need food to feed to your dogs. But the dogs will get you home, even in a blizzard! If you have no dogs, you must walk — no matter how great the distance — and carry your essential belongings and supplies with you on your back. Although the much faster snowmobile gets you there quickly, it does not get you home in a blizzard. When you're lost on the bitterly cold tundra in a blinding whiteout, speed is no comfort. Speed will not direct you home. And if your snowmobile breaks down, or runs out of gas, you live by your wits!

In the summertime, Inuit travel and hunt in canoes and motorboats. They add outboard motors to help them get to places quickly. Around 45 years ago, Inuit still used the long, slender, light, buoyant boat called a qajaq. You've probably seen a qajaq on television. Some Greenland Inuit still use them today. Good ideas live on!

Many people assume a qajaq can carry only one person. In fact, it can transport five people, depending on total weight. Slender people and children are put down inside the qajaq, so they are facing the entrance hole. Two others can lie on their stomachs on top of the qajaq and hold on to the entrance hole for dear life. You don't risk this position when the water's rough. When it is rough you would usually paddle along the coastline in a qajaq, while others of your party walked along the shore, following you to the next destination.

A few decades ago, several Inuit families would co-own a 10-metre, dieselpowered, wooden trap-boat. They would use it to transport five or six households and all their belongings from one campsite to the next, following whichever animals were plentiful - whether beluga whales on the coast, or fish going upriver to spawn. When they reached a new campsite, everyone helped to put up the tents.

Lesson 10: Wildlife in the Arctic

Making the Connection

  • Recap for the students what they have learned so far: locating Salluit and other communities in Nunavik on the map; studying the history of Inuit and the major events that have influenced their lives; looking at the climate and vegetation, the family unit and means of transportation; and touring the Virtual Museum with its visual images and artifacts from Inuit culture.
  • Explain that they will now take a look at the wildlife in Nunavik. Ask them what animals they believe are found near Canada's Inuit communities. Share.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • name the various animals that inhabit the northern region of Nunavik
  • explain the connection between the Inuit way of life and the animals in their environment.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 10 - one copy
  • Reference 10 - one copy
  • Activity Sheet, Lesson 10 (parts A and B) - one copy per student
  • A variety of books, magazines and other reference materials highlighting aspects of life in Canada's northern Inuit communities

Step One: State the Purpose

Animals have traditionally played a very important role in the hunting and camping lifestyle of Inuit. To help students understand the connection between Inuit and the animals that inhabit their territory, they need an accurate account of the species of wildlife that are indigenous to these areas.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that for this lesson, they will be using books, magazines, the Internet and other reference materials to research an animal found in the vicinity of Inuit communities.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Read Mala Narrative and Reference 10, Wildlife in the Arctic, to the class.
  • Provide them each with Activity Sheet - Lesson 10, Parts A and B.
  • Allow time for research and retrieval of information (possibly more than one period).

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Ask the students to form groups of four and share the information each one found.

Step Five: Think About It

Think about how certain species have adapted to help them survive in their habitat. Point out that just as the arctic grouse has grown feathers on its feet to keep warm in the circumpolar region, so animals in our region of the country have adapted to their environment as well. Ask them to suggest one animal that lives in our region and is able to change or adapt to its surroundings. Have them explain how it does so in their journal and be prepared to share the information next lesson.

Lesson 10: Wildlife in the Arctic

Wildlife in the Arctic

Listen to this story (3:36')

Download: MP3 format (3.3 Mb)

Wildlife in the Arctic

There are a lot of different types of wildlife in the Salluit region. You can find them in the sea, on the land, in freshwater lakes and streams, and in the air. Some are seasonal, meaning you can only find them around at particular times of the year. However, there are always some around allowing us to survive on the animals we hunt all year.

There are animals and birds that migrate seasonally, not all at the same time, fortunately. It seems like some of them rotate. For example, Canada geese come up in the spring and go down south in the fall. Some birds stay, like ravens, snowy owls and ptarmigan. Sometimes, you can even see waterfowl in the severe cold as long as there's water and shelter for them to survive.

There's all sorts of fish as well! Fish stay in freshwater lakes year round while some fish migrate from the lakes to the seawater and back. Amazing!

There are also sea animals that pass by on their way to their breeding places. One of the most important migrating land animals is the caribou. A caribou is bigger than a reindeer, but smaller than an elk. You can see one on the Canadian 25 cent coin! We can truly say that the caribou helps us live, since we use all parts of it.

Caribou meat is really tasty, while the caribou skin is used to make outer garments: parkas, amauti (a women's garment to carry a baby on her back), mittens and boots. When the fur is thick, we can also use it as a mattress, which is nice and warm. The bone, when it is broken, is very sharp and can be used to make cutting tools. It can be shaped into a needle too. The hind lower leg bones are made into scrapers to soften the skins and the antlers can be made into handles and fasteners that hold wooden things together. The ligaments of the caribou become sinew which is a natural thread to sew things.

Nothing is wasted, everything is precious.

Lesson 10: Reference

Wildlife in the Arctic

On average above the tree line, there are only about 20 species of land mammals. There is a similarly small number of plant species, compared to other regions on Earth. The Arctic's ecosystem is therefore less diverse and more fragile. If one species gets disrupted, it can have wide-ranging impacts on the others. Each species is often closely connected to, yet confined by, the short summer growing season.

It is during this brief summer that life really explodes in the Arctic. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds descend on the region. Some, like the arctic tern, have travelled from as far south as Antarctica. Others, such as the migrating caribou, have followed the same north-south routes for hundreds of years. The Arctic Ocean partially loses its ice cover during this time and sea life abounds in the places where ice meets open water.

Even though the summer months are particularly vibrant, animals that don't migrate still have to survive throughout the rest of the year. In this time of intense cold and snow, we can observe the perfect adaptation of certain animals to their harsh environment. Many hibernate, like the lemmings, but others, like the caribou, continue to forage for food, digging away snow to find lichens to eat. Some animals transform their fur coats by changing colour and adding bulk, while others change their plumage from summer colours to winter white. The ptarmigan, a small arctic grouse, has grown feathers on its feet that keep them warm, like a pair of downy slippers on a long winter's night.

Inuit are closely linked to all the animals of the Far North through the intricate and delicate food chain. They belong to this fragile web of arctic life as does the wolf or the whale. All these creatures are interdependent.

Over the centuries, Inuit developed a vast store of knowledge about ecology. They have had to observe the local animals and plants very carefully and very closely to survive in the harsh, snowy, barren land.

Lesson 10: Activity Sheet - Part A

Wildlife in the Arctic - Part A

Complete the research in your journals, using the following questions as a guide for your information.

  1. What animal have you chosen to research?
  2. In your journal, either draw a detailed diagram of the animal, or write a detailed description.
  3. Describe the habitat of this animal.
  4. What does it eat?
  5. Does it have any natural enemies? If so, what are they?
  6. How has this animal adapted to the climate and vegetation of the arctic?
  7. Could this animal survive where you live? Give reasons for your answers.
  8. What did you learn about this animal that you would like to share with the group (at least three things)?

Lesson 10: Activity Sheet - Part B

Wildlife in the Arctic - Part B

This exercise gets us to find out and graph the total weight of each type of animal and bird caught by Mala's family in one year. Using the chart below, create a bar graph comparing the total weight of each type. Begin by listing the types on the x axis and the total weight for each type on the y axis at the bottom of this page. All the information you need is in the following chart. By weight, which animal or bird did Mala's family hunt the most?

Wildlife Chart
Species Weight / Individual Number Caught
Wolf 35 kg 2
Walrus 1,400 kg 1
Arctic Fox 5.5 kg 4
Bearded Seal 270 kg 7
Ptarmigan 1 kg 22
Caribou 100 kg 28

Title: _________________________________________

Diagram - 3,000 kg with y axis and x axis

Lesson 11: Traditional and Modern Homes in an Inuit Community

Making the Connection

Ask the students to retrieve the paragraphs they wrote about wildlife adaptations and share them with the group. Propose the idea that people also make adaptations in their daily lives to thrive in their respective habitats.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the traditional homes that Inuit used to accommodate their nomadic lifestyle
  • describe a "typical" home in an Inuit community today
  • relate similarities and differences between life in the circumpolar region and life in their own community.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 11 - one copy per group
  • Reference 11 - one copy per group
  • Wooden coffee sticks
  • Paper towels
  • Small stones (if available)
  • Sugar cubes or pre-cut Styrofoam pieces
  • Nail files
  • White glue

Step One: State the Purpose

  • To correct misconceptions about the way Inuit of today live, it is important that students see images of both traditional and contemporary Inuit homes. Students can then better appreciate the traditional dwellings and link the learning experience to the nomadic life Inuit led in the past.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that today, they will be learning about traditional Inuit homes and structures. Tell them that in their small groups, they will construct replicas of either a tent or an igluvigaq to help them understand and appreciate life in the nomadic hunting culture of early Inuit.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Provide each group with a copy of Narrative, Lesson 11, as well as Reference 11, and read the Narrative aloud to them as they follow along.
  • Explain that they are to decide as a group whether they will construct a tent or an igluvigaq, using the instructions in Reference 11 as a guide.
  • Provide them with the necessary materials, and ask them to build a structure that closely resembles the ones they see in the document. Explain that because we do not have sealskin, whalebones, a pana (knife for cutting snow blocks) or ice blocks, they will have to adapt, using the materials provided and any other classroom materials they feel will be helpful.
  • Give them the rest of the period to complete their constructions.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Share the completed structures, asking each group to identify the key characteristics of the shelter as they were explained in Reference 11.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students whether they found this task easy or hard. Why? How did working in a group affect the process? Ask them to think about what additional challenges Inuit would have to deal with when constructing their tent or igluvigaq?
  • Have them record these questions and answers in their journals to be shared next lesson.

Lesson 11: Mala Narrative

Mala Makes an Igluvigaq with His Father

Listen to this story (4:46')

Download: MP3 format (4.37 Mb)

I'm really excited today. My father has been asked by the school principal to help with Culture Day. It is organized by my school so students can learn more about who they are and where they come from, and be proud of who they are. My father was asked to build an igluvigaq, a snow house.

He had already gone out to choose the right spot. He said it was really important to find the right type of snow to build the igluvigaq and have a spot where the igluvigaq won't be buried by the snow when there's a blizzard. As my classmates and I arrived, he began explaining that the igluvigaq needed to be the right size so it would be warm enough for the number of people living in it. He continued to say that you have to have a good idea where you want the entrance, because the blocks that will be used to make the walls will be cut out from the eventual floor of the igluvigaq. There's lots of planning in making an igluvigaq, and there are many ways of doing it.

My father showed the pana, a snow knife that is larger than a kitchen knife, and is used to make the igluvigaq. He eventually cut the first block out of the snow, but it's not a square. The first block is more like a triangle. When it's placed in its spot, it stands up on its side with the long side going sideways and anchored down by cut up snow. The next block my father cut is placed next to it done the same way. These two blocks are cut at the top and slanted so each block is going higher than the first one. The top sides of these blocks are slanted inward so the walls will look like a dome. While blocks are being put in place, there are holes in between the blocks. These holes need to be patched from the outside with small pieces of snow. My father showed me how to do this part.

When the walls are up and the igluvigaq is almost done, a rounded block of snow is placed at the top and secured by slicing down on the snow and then pressing down. At the end, a small hole is cut at the top for ventilation. To have more light inside the igluvigaq, a brick of ice is chiselled out from a frozen lake or river! My father had already found one and placed it in the igluvigaq wall as he built it. At last, the doorway is cut out and out crawls my father!

He said to me that during his childhood, a wooden door was used. The final stage is the building of a shelter past the door to keep the wind from going directly in the igluvigaq." Look, it's done," I exclaimed.

My father replied: "Yes and all this hard work will vanish when the spring comes. It will melt away not to be seen until another is built in its place."

I really like days like this compared to days at school when we're in classes all the time.

Lesson 11: Reference

Traditional and Contemporary Inuit Homes

Lifestyles evolve over time as survival needs change. To co-exist with their environment, many Inuit families banded together at times to help each other, as well as to move to new hunting/fishing areas. Because of this nomadic lifestyle, permanent dwellings were not part of Inuit tradition. Basically, they used two forms of housing: the sealskin tent for summer and the igluvigaq for winter.

They made the typical sealskin tent by sewing together 10 to 15 sealskins, depending on size. About 11 wooden posts or large whalebones supported the skins. Rocks were then put around the bottom of the tent to hold it to the ground.

Inuit built the igluvigaq with large blocks of a specific type of hard snow. They cut the blocks of this wind-packed snow with a long, flat knife called a pana. First, they made a large circular hole in the snow. Then they placed the blocks to spiral up toward the dome, forming the walls and roof. Once the shelter was built, they dug a tunnel lower than the igluvigaq floor. It served both as the entrance passage and as a cold trap. Usually, they built a piece of ice into the wall to make a window, and carved a small, breathing hole out of the ceiling.

When the igluvigaq was finished, the family carefully arranged its belongings inside for maximum convenience. Whatever wasn't needed inside was kept outside. These unique shelters are still used for hunting and camping.

Village living demands a different kind of housing. Today in Salluit, there are modern wood-frame houses heated by oil or electricity. These homes have modern amenities, such as dishwashers, washing machines, televisions and microwave ovens. Unlike the traditional housing, which was very communal in nature, modern homes have separate rooms for specific functions.

Lesson 12: Hunting and Camping

Making the Connection

  • Share the insights the students recorded in their journals after constructing the tent or igluvigaq.
  • Remind the students that although some of these structures are still used today for hunting and camping, most modern-day Inuit live in wooden houses and enjoy the same amenities as they do.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the importance of hunting and camping in both traditional and modern-day Inuit communities
  • explain how modern conveniences, such as tools, motorboats, four-wheelers and snowmobiles have changed the way of life for Inuit
  • identify the pros and cons of traditional and modern methods of hunting and camping.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 12 - one copy

Step One: State the Purpose

  • Hunting and camping have long been important to Inuit. During their nomadic days, when they followed the wildlife and set up camp, they developed a deep respect for the land and its resources. In today's Inuit society, the love of the land and a deep appreciation for nature are still essential ways for young people to connect with their heritage.
  • Learning about this respect for nature is crucial in helping us understand another facet of Inuit culture.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that today, they will have an opportunity to appreciate the importance of hunting and camping in Inuit culture. Tell them they will be writing a five-day diary, highlighting an outdoor experience of either a traditional hunter and camper from many decades ago, or a modern-day hunter and camper.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Share Mala Narrative, Lesson 12, Mala Talks with His Ataatatsiaq about Hunting and Camping, with the class. Ask several students to take turns reading paragraphs as you share the master copy.
  • Tell them they can decide whether to write about an experience as a traditional Inuit hunter from many years ago, or a modern-day Inuit youth exploring the environment on a camping trip.
  • Tell them to use their journals to record a five-day experience in the form of a diary, focussing on the following:
    • getting to the site
    • setting up camp
    • the wildlife
    • reflections on the experience.
  • Have Mala Narrative, Lesson 12 available for their review, as well as other related materials collected for this unit.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • Give them the rest of the period to complete their accounts.
  • Explain that they will be sharing their work next lesson.

Step Five: Think About It

  • Ask the students to take a few minutes at the end of the period to reflect on the following:
    1. How has this activity helped them learn about Inuit relationships with nature? Share several responses.
    2. Which way of life do you think you would prefer: traditional or modern-day? Explain your answer. Share several responses.

Lesson 12: Mala Narrative

Mala Talks with His Ataatatsiaq about Hunting and Camping

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When I stopped by my grandparents' today, my anaanatsiaq was cooking a caribou stew with lots of tasty chunks of caribou. The whole kitchen smelled delicious. Maybe I can get my ataatatsiaq to tell me some of his stories, I think to myself. And so I begin: "Just before sunset today, my ataata came back from hunting. My ataata's been away for only two nights, but he says he was able to go a very long distance over the frozen sea ice because of his snowmobile. Could you tell me, Ataatatsiaq, how you used to go hunting before we had snowmobiles?"

Grandfather puts down a piece of greenish soapstone he had been carving, that is starting to look something like a walrus, and says: "In our way of doing things, traditional and modern hunting methods are fairly similar. We still hunt all the animals that we did centuries ago, like caribou, seal, walrus and others. The only differences are that we are no longer nomads and some of our tools have been modernized. Now that we live in communities, we don't follow our next meal around. But we still hunt for specific animals when they're in season. We, meaning those of us who have tasted the nomadic life," adds Grandfather a bit sadly, "still long to roam freely over the land."

Grandfather is quiet for a time, turning the soapstone over and over in his weathered hands. He is examining it to see how he is going to tease the walrus out of such a solid chunk of stone. "One thing that hasn't changed is our hunting responsibilities," he finally says. "Before you go out hunting, Mala, the most important thing to remember is to tell someone what you're going to hunt and which direction you're going to take. This is terribly important! That way, if you stay out longer than usual, someone will always come and check on you. That's responsibility number one!"

"In winter, if you're nowhere near a cabin, you must be prepared to build a small igluvigaq to stay in overnight. So, you must carry your pana, your igluvigaq-building knife, with you at all times. Don't leave home without it. That's responsibility number two."

"Traditionally, hunting was our way of life. We did not 'go' camping. We set up campsites in our hunting areas — one, or several camps during summer and winter — and we lived there doing all the preparations of caribou and sealskins there as well. Today, as you know, camping is a popular family activity. It is mostly done from late spring or early summer, right into the late autumn. But this depends so much on what animals are available and what the weather is like."

"Some Inuit nowadays," he continues, "have their own more or less permanent cabins on their chosen sites. They will strike off from their cabin, using it as a sort of base camp to do some nomadic camping, often carrying canvas tents on their backs as they go. But nobody stays out on the land as long as we used to do. Now, with our snowmobiles and all-terrain four-wheelers, we can come and go, to and from the community more or less as we please."

"Years ago, we used to travel by dog team in winter. Qamutiit were pulled by dogs with harnesses. Today, we rely on snowmobiles to get around. They're much faster, but there are pros and cons to both ways of travelling."

"Dog teams take more time, and you need lots of dog food. Also, you have to keep the dogs in good shape for the hard demands of pulling a sled over the ice and snow. But," he pauses, looking up from his carving emphatically, "there's a most important lesson to this: dogs will get you home even in a blizzard! Today, dog teams are used mostly for tourists and for competitive games."

"The snowmobile goes fast and gets you to where you want to go in no time. It is also noisy and needs to be fed just like dogs — only its food is oil and gas. But in a blizzard, Mala, a snowmobile doesn't know how to get you home. When you are lost on the tundra, speed doesn't matter. And," he adds, "if your snowmobile breaks down, or runs out of gas, you must live by your wits."

"In the summertime, we use our canoes and motorboats for hunting and travelling. Putting outboard motors on them means now we can get places faster" he says, smiling again as he continues carefully chiselling delicate grooves into the soapstone walrus's flippers.

"In the past, Inuit still used the qajaq a long, slender, light and buoyant boat. Some Akukittumiut, as we call the people of Kalallit Nunaannit (Greenland) still use them today."

"Good ideas die hard," says Grandfather. "You would think a qajaq can carry only one person, but it will transport four others as well. Slender people and children slipped down inside with their heads toward the entrance hole. Two others lay on their stomachs on top of the qajaq. They had to face and hold onto the frame of the entrance hole for dear life. You didn't want to risk it when the waters got rough. If you were not crossing a vast stretch of choppy water between islands, you paddled in close to the shoreline. Others in your party walked along the shore, following you to your next destination."

"When I was a boy, our trap-boat, a 10-metre wooden boat run by a diesel engine, was used to transport about five to six households and all of their belongings between campsites. We were following whichever animals were plentiful, like beluga whales on the coast, or fish going up river to spawn."

"In my grandfather and grandmother's time, they used to travel from one campsite to another by umiaq. These were shaped like wooden boats, but instead had harbour sealskins as their shell. Mostly women, children and Elders used to travel in them, while the men would follow, lead or hunt in their qajaqs along the way. When the water was flat and there was no danger, an elderly man would man the rudder for the women who would row the umiaq. But if there was either rough or shallow water, or loose ice, the captain would man the rudder."

"Well that's about it," says Grandfather, who is starting to wrap up his walrus carving in an old handkerchief. He begins putting away his tools and says: "Grandmother's going to serve me my supper. Would you like to stay, Mala, for some caribou stew?"

Lesson 13: My Life - Mala's Life

Making the Connection

  • Ask the students to share their journal entries with a partner. Have them do so at least three more times, with new partners.
  • Ask the group: What did you hear that interested you? Why?
  • Share two or three accounts with the whole class. Explain that only by studying the history, culture and traditions of people can we truly learn to appreciate them. Ask them to give a "thumbs up" if they feel that they have significantly increased their knowledge about Inuit.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify accurately the location of Inuit communities in Canada's Arctic
  • list significant events in the history of Inuit
  • identify methods of transportation used by Inuit
  • discuss hunting and camping, and the impact they have had on the Inuit lifestyle
  • relate information about the structure of an Inuit family
  • discuss temperature and permafrost and relate the climatic challenges to animal adaptations in the Arctic.

Materials Required

  • Mala Narrative, Lesson 13 - one copy
  • Charts from Lesson 1

Step One: State the Purpose

  • An important objective is to compare students' original thoughts and ideas about how Inuit live in the Arctic to what they now know. For this reason, it is important for the students to return to the charts generated in Lesson 1, and review this information, checking for accuracy.

Step Two: Identify the Strategy

  • Explain that the students will be working in groups to identify any misconceptions or misinformation about Inuit generated in Lesson 1. They will then have an opportunity to correct this information, by developing a list of game questions to be used in a trivia challenge.

Step Three: The Procedure

  • Divide the students into groups of three.
  • Read Narrative, Lesson 13 aloud to the class.
  • Ask them to use the original information charts from Lesson 1, as well as their journal notes from this unit.
  • The challenge is to work with their group and prepare a list of 20 questions they feel will test the knowledge of their classmates about Inuit.

Step Four: The Learning Experience

  • After each group has prepared its questions, set up a game-show format in the classroom, and ask them to take turns being contestants.
  • Each contestant gets one chance to answer a given question. If he or she answers incorrectly, anyone from the audience can offer an answer.
  • The challenge is to see who gets more correct answers — the contestants or the audience!

Step Five: Think About It

  • Now that we have completed our unit on Inuit, ask the students to think about the following.
    1. Why do they feel it was important to learn this information?
    2. As a result of what they have recently learned, how have they gained a new understanding and appreciation for the people of Canada's Arctic?
    3. Ask students if they would like to trade places with Mala. What would they want to share with him about their lives in the South?
  • Have them share their thoughts with a partner. Ask volunteers to share with the larger group.

Lesson 13: Mala Narrative

Mala Says, Bye for Now

Well, I guess I'm running out of time. I'm glad I've been able to share some stories with you about my life here in Salluit. I hope you now have a better idea of what life is like in an Inuit community of Nunavik. I'm sure you've got lots of information to paint a good picture.

If you ever come this way, maybe we can go out ice fishing together or go out on a snowmobile trip with my ataatatsiaq. Maybe next time we meet you'll have some stories to share about where you come from.

Bye for now.


Glossary of Inuktitut Words (Nunavik)

Please note that the following definitions are for Inuktitut words as spoken in Nunavik and may differ from other regions with Inuktitut speakers.
Inuktitut Word [with phonetic pronunciation] Definition
aana ['ahh-na] Paternal grandmother
Ahiarmiut ['ah-ee-ar-mee-oot] A group of Inuit sometimes referred to as People of the Deer or Caribou People
ajakuluk ['ah-jak-oo-look] Maternal aunt
akkak ['ak-kah] Boy's uncle on father's side of family
Aklavik [ak-'la-vik] An Inuit community in the Northwest Territories
Akukittumiut ['ah-ku-'kit-tu-mee-yoot] People of Greenland
amauti [ah-'mah-tee] A woman's garment to carry a baby on her back
anaana [ah-'nahh-nah] Mother
anaanatsiaq [ah-'nahh-nat-see-ah] Maternal grandmother
angajuk ['ang-ah-yuk] If male, older brother or if female, older sister
angak ['ang-ak] Maternal uncle
aniksaq ['ah-nik-sah] All of a girl's uncles and aunts' sons
arnaqutik ['ar-na-ku-teek] The person who helped the mother when a boy was being born
ataata ['ah-taa-ta] Father
ataatatsiaq ['ah-taa-tat-see-ah] Paternal or maternal grandfather
atsa ['at-sa] Child's aunt on father's side of the family
Atuagagdliutit ['a-tua'gad-lee-oo-teet] Title of a newspaper in Greenland
Chukchi ['chuk-chee] An indigenous people of eastern Siberia in Russia
eskimo ['es-kee-mo] The older word used by non-Inuit to describe Inuit
igluvigaq [ig-'lu-vi-gah] A traditional Inuit dwelling made of snow
Inuinnat ['in-oo-ee-nat] A group of Inuit sometimes referred to as Copper Inuit of the Central Arctic
Inuit ['in-oo-eet] More than two Inuit people or describing a group of Inuit people no matter what nationality
Inuk ['in-uk] One Inuit person or singular person no matter what nationality
inuksuit ['in-uk-soo-eet] Many piles of rocks placed to perform a purpose (plural of inuksuk)
inuksuk ['in-uk-sook] A pile of rocks placed on the land to perform a purpose
Inuktitut ['in-uk-tee-toot] The language of the Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik
Inupiaq ['in-oo-pee-ah] The group of Inuit that live in northern Alaska
Inuuk ['in-uuk] Two Inuit people or two persons no matter what nationality
Inuvialuit ['in-oo-vee-al-oo-eet] The term used to describe the group of Inuit in the Northwest Territories
Inuvik [in'oo-vik] A community in the Northwest Territories
Iqaluit ['ee-ha-loo-eet] The capital of Nunavut
isumataq ['ee-soo-ma-tah] An elder Inuk
Ivujivik ['ee-voo-jee-vik] An Inuit community in Nunavik
Kalaallit Nunaannit ['ka-laa-leet 'nu-naan-neet] Greenland
Kitikmeot ['kee-tik-mee-yoot] The Western Arctic region of Nunavut next to the Northwest Territories
Kivalliq ['kee-val-lee] The Central Arctic region of Nunavut along the Hudson's Bay Coast
Kuujjuaq ['koo-joo-ah] An Inuit community in Nunavik
Kuujjuaraapik ['koo-joo-ar-aa-pik] An Inuit community in Nunavik
naja ['na-ya] A male's sister
najatsaq ['na-yat-sah] All of a boy's uncles and aunts' daughters
Netsilik ['net-see-lik] Term used to describe the group of Inuit in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut
nukaq ['noo-kah] If male, little brother or if female, little sister
Nunavik ['noo-na-vik] The region of Northern Quebec where Inuit live
Nunavut ['noo-na-vut] The territory of the Eastern Canadian Arctic
Nuuk ['noo-k] The capital of Greenland
pana ['pa-na] A knife used to build an igluvigaq
qajaq ['ha-yah] A long boat traditionally covered in skins that is sat in and paddled
qallunaaq ['hal-lu-nah] Term to describe non-Aboriginal people
qamutik ['ha-mu-teek] A sled pulled behind a snowmobile or dog team
qatak ['ha-tah] All of a girl's uncles and aunts' daughters or all of a boy's uncles and aunts' sons
Qikiqtaaluk ['hee-kee-taa-look] Baffin Island region of Nunavut
Salluit ['sa-luu-eet] An Inuit community in Nunavik
Sallumiut ['sa-luu-mee-yoot] The people of Salluit
sanaji ['sa-na-yee] The person who helped the mother when a girl was being born
Tuktoyaktuk ['tuk-toy-ak-tuk] An Inuit community in the Northwest Territories
Tuniit ['too-neet] The term used to describe the people who were in the north hundreds of years ago, but are no longer there. Also know as the Dorset people.
umiaq ['oo-mee-ah] A large boat traditionally made of skins that is rowed by Inuit
Yupik ['yoo-pik] Group of Inuit that live in western Alaska and eastern Russia

Details of Phonetic Pronunciation for Inuktitut Words

Inuktitut words have three forms: singular, dual and plural. The plural forms of the following four examples have been included to give you an idea of how words would change from one form to the next.

angajuk ('ang-a-yuk) plural: angajukka the ng sound is like the ng in 'sing' and j can sometimes be spoken as a y or a j.

qamutik ('hah-moo-tee-k) plural: qamutiit the "i" can be pronounced as an "e" and double letters refer to a longer sound.

umiaq ('oo-mee-ah) plural: umiat the "q" is pronounced much deeper in the throat compared to a "k" and the sound is clipped so it's almost like a "hard" 'h' sound.
amauti ('ah-'mah-tee) plural: amautiit the au sound is pronounced like the "aw" in 'saw'.

Standardized Inuktitut Syllabary Chart

Standardized Inuktitut

Standardized Inuktitut

Standardized Inuktitut. Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, Government of Nunavut

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