The Arviat Film Society
Arviat is a predominantly Inuit city in the high western Arctic, and the third largest in Canada’s newest province, Nunavut. For more than two years, a group of volunteer Inuit youth in the community has dedicated time and energy to create multi-media projects aimed at investigating, documenting, and broadcasting local history from an Inuit point of view.
The Arviat Film Society grew out the Nanisiniq (meaning ‘journey of discovery’ in Inuktitut) Arviat History Project, which began in 2010. The Inuit elders of Arviat initiated the History Project in order to bridge the generational gap between themselves and local youth. They asked Dr. Frank Tester at University of British Columbia School of Social work to assist the project, which secured two-year funding from Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council.
According to the Nanisiniq Project website,
For decades, Inuit Elders have expressed concern about the knowledge Inuit youth have of their own social history and culture. This project brings together Inuit youth and Elders in an exploration of their history and culture from an Inuit point of view. The progress of the project and the insights and discoveries of Elders and youth are documented on this website. Elders and youth are also filming their experience and interviewing, not only Elders in their community, but Qablunaat [southerners] who came north in the late 1950s and 1960s, a period of phenomenal change among Aviarmiut. In about 10 years the Inuit of Arviat went from tents and igloos, land-based camps and a predominantly hunting culture, to living together in the settlement originally known as ‘Eskimo Point’ and now called Arviat. This is possibly the fastest rate of change for any group of Indigenous people, anywhere in the world, in all of recorded history. The impacts on culture, physical and mental health, social relations and well-being have been dramatic.
The Nanisiniq Project
The Nanisiniq Project, which has completed its production phase, brought together a volunteer team of five Inuit youth to train them in research and digital skills – including archival investigation, interviews, filming and editing. Together they produced over 100+ hours of footage from interviews with over fifty elders and traveled to four continents to better understand their indigenous identity. Not only did they hope to tell history from an Inuit perspective, but by doing so aimed to address the community’s social problems – such as high rates of suicide – by understanding the sources of those problems. The group has celebrated several successes, including the naming of one of their members, Curtis Konek, as a “national role model” for Global Dignity Canada. The youth team has also presented their findings and films in several international venues, including the 18th Annual Inuit Studies Conference in Washington D.C., the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, and the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal. The project was also highlighted in the 2012 Annual Report from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [pdf] as an example of “research talent and innovation.”
Many of the youth members of Nanisiniq now continue the mission of digital history preservation through the Arviat Film Society. According to project supporter Jamie Bell of Nunavut Arctic College, Nanisiniq and Arviat Film Society peers have been raising money for the last two years to support film, media, research, digital skills and career development training in their community. Together they’ve raised around $50,000, which they are using as seed money to fund the delivery of community-based media and communications workshops with professional trainers. TakingITGlobal, a Canadian organization that trains youth in digital skills, recently supported a successful arts workshop in the community with visiting artist Carmen Braden. Arviat Film Society’s next goal is to secure a community access television channel, with support of the local Co-op store. They hope to “develop more ways to build media-and-communications training in the community.”
You can learn more about the Arviat Film Society at:
And find more information on the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project at: