International Inuit Day is an occasion to affirm Inuit voices across the circumpolar world, leader says

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International Inuit Day is also an important day to memorialize Eben Hopson, Sr., who had the “ingenuity and foresight” to recognize the importance of uniting Inuit voices and who founded the precursor to the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) says Dalee Sambo Dorough, the international chair of the organization, pictured here in an undated photo. (Bill Hess/Courtesy Inuit Circumpolar Council)
Thursday is International Inuit Day, a celebration set up to acknowledge and celebrate Inuit culture and contributions, but most importantly to affirm the voices of Inuit across the circumpolar world, says the organization that established the occasion.

“Inuit inhabit 40 per cent of the Arctic and in an era where exterior forces, be it countries or industries, are increasingly voicing their intentions concerning the lands we live in, Inuit need to have a united voice now more than ever and reaffirm our human rights,” says Dalee Sambo Dorough, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, in an phone interview with Eye on the Arctic. 

Different Inuit organizations and groups mark the occasion in different ways each year.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada’s national Inuit organization, has been marking the lead up to International Inuit Day by sharing videos daily on social media from their Inuit Nunangat Taimannganit video storytelling project.

“We observe (International Inuit Day) by promoting it through ITK’s social media platforms and also taking this opportunity to educate on who we are as Inuit in Canada,” says Kevin Kablutsiak, ITK’s director of communications.

Eben Hopson, Sr. pictured at the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference, in Barrow, Alaska in 1977. The ICC, which Hopson founded, chose his birthday, November 7, as International Inuit Day. (North Slope Borough/Courtesy ICC-Canada)
International initiative

International Inuit Day was established by the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the organization that represents the approximately 165,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia.

The motion was made at their 2006 General Assembly in Barrow (now called Utqiagvik), Alaska, “to urge all Inuit governments, agencies, and communities to annually proclaim this day as Inuit Day, and conduct appropriate ceremonies and celebrations.”

November 7 was chosen as it was the birth date of Eben Hopson Sr., founder of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the precursor to the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

“This day is also to memorialize him, for his ingenuity and foresight in the importance of uniting Inuit voices,” Dorough said.

Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada, the Canadian chapter of ICC, is planning to post a video marking the day on Facebook and Twitter, as well as asking people to post what they’re doing on International Inuit Day as they did last year during their #InuitDay2018 campaign.

Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), a counselling and resource centre for Inuit in Ottawa, Ontario, says the day is also a good occasion to think about the contributions, challenges and successes of Inuit in Canada who live outside of Canada’s four Arctic Inuit regions: the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, an area collectively referred to by Inuit as Inuit Nunangat. 

“At TI we recognize the regions outside of Inuit Nunangat (away from traditional homelands) as “The Fifth Region” and remind all that an Inuk is an Inuk is an Inuk regardless of geography and where they live,” said Joël Lamoureux TI’s communications manager. “Too often, Inuit outside of Inuit Nunangat are overlooked in celebratory days like International Inuit Day. “

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Seal meat, dinosaurs and friends: Nunavut Day celebrated in Canada’s eastern Arctic, CBC News

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in Alaska, Alaska Public Media

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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