Cultural centre in Cambridge Bay eyes early 2024 opening

In 2019, the society partnered with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to develop plans for the cultural centre setting a net-zero target for the building. (Margaret Thompson/Kitikmeot Heritage Society)

By Jenna Dulewich · CBC News

Kuugalak designed to help preserve Inuinnaqtun language and culture

A new cultural centre in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is set to open in the new year.

Kuugalak, translating to little water, is the name for the $1.7 million building that has been years in the making. The centre is for the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society to host cultural programming and activities for Inuinnaqtun.

The society focuses on Inuinnaqtun revitalization, collaborations to preserve and renew Inuinnait culture, and community wellbeing. Officials are hopeful the first cultural program will be hosted in the new building this upcoming January.

“We’re very excited,” said Emily Angulalik, the society’s executive director.

“This is a dream for their building and it’s coming to a place now that they’ll have a work area to conduct and to promote and carry on our cultural programming, so yes we’re excited.”

An artist’s rendition shows the future Kuugalak cultural workspace in Cambridge Bay. (Submitted by the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society)

In 2019, the society partnered with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to develop plans for the cultural centre and set a net-zero emissions target for the building. Two years later, the design work began to bridge local and traditional Inuit knowledge with renewable and energy efficient materials. Construction started in 2022.

While officials are hopeful to host programming in January, there will still be ongoing construction to finish the outside portion, Angulalik said.

A grand opening is expected later in 2024.

Once the building is complete, it will be used to test and monitor how renewable and sustainable building materials perform in the Arctic, according to the society.

Since the idea of Kuugalak started, it has received funding from Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency’s (CanNor) Canada Community Revitalization Fund, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Government of Nunavut, the federal government and Indigenous Clean Energy.

Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society Elders in Residence overseeing construction at the Kuugalak site. From left Annie Atighioyak, Bessie Omilgoetok, Mary Kaotalok, Mabel Etegik. (Margaret Thompson/Kitikmeot Heritage Society)

Elders with Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq say they are looking forward to Kuugalak opening.

Bessie Omilgoetok, honorary chair with the society told CBC, that she can’t wait to see feasts and cultural programming in the new centre. She is also excited to have a new place in the community to gather and drink tea.

Omilgoetok spoke Inuinnaqtun while Angulalik translated to English.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the building in operation in the new year,” Omilgoetok said. “I’m excited because it’ll be a place for elders, as well as people from the community where we can sit and gather among each other.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Honorary degree caps a career spent preserving, promoting, Dene culture, language, CBC News

Finland: Sami joik, symphonic music fusion from Finland makes int’l debut in Ottawa, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Award-winning novel set in Sapmi to get Netflix treatment, Eye on the Arctic

United States: How Inuit culture helped unlock power of classical score for Inupiaq violinist, Eye on the Arctic

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