(Amended project description, 31/03/2020)
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT
Since around AD 1300, traditional life for Inuit has changed dramatically due in part to climate change (both warming and cooling episodes) and—more recently—the impacts of settler colonialism. Through both archaeological and anthropological (ethnographic) fieldwork, I am investigating and reconstructing the long-term subsistence and settlement regimes of Amitturmiut/Iglulingmiut in northern Foxe Basin. The goal of this ethnoarchaeological project is to determine how and why some traditional practices, such as subsistence hunting, could be successfully adapted to social and ecological stresses, while others, such as traditional architecture and shamanic belief systems, faded away over time.
Such work requires not only focused archaeological investigation (survey and limited excavation), but also close collaboration with Inuit elders—many of whom are only a half century or so removed from a seasonally-mobile life on the land. The project began with a highly-successful season of pilot research with Iglulingmiut elders at Avvajja (NiHg-1) over the summer of 2018, and continued with larger-scale archaeological survey and excavation at the long-occupied hunting camp Uglit (NfHd-1) in 2019. I will continue this important research at the multicomponent sites Qaiqsut (NiHa-1) and Pingiqqalik (NgHd-1) from July to August 2020.
2019 RESEARCH AT UGLIT
Over the summer of 2019, I led archaeological fieldwork at Uglit, a large and well-preserved marine-mammal hunting camp approximately 45 kilometers southeast of Igloolik. In addition to myself, the field crew consisted of Dr. Scott Rufolo, an archaeologist and paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN); Dr. Rocco Palermo, a landscape archaeologist and GIS specialist at the University of Groningen; Ms. Matilda Siebrecht, an Arctic Centre PhD student I supervise who focuses on Arctic material culture analysis; Jelke Take, an undergraduate student from the Groningen Institute of Archaeology and Igloolik resident Mr. Salamon Mikki, an Inuk enrolled under the Nunavut Agreement, who serve as our guide and polar bear monitor. (Mr. Mikki’s immediate family also camped alongside us for the duration of the project.)
The work produced the most detailed cultural and topographic map of the area to date, as well as descriptions of hundreds of new Neo-Inuit house, tent-ring and cache features blanketing the length and breadth of the island. Ultimately, the results will provide valuable information on the Postclassic Thule Inuit experience in this resource-rich region. Thorough artifact and zooarchaeological analyses of the well-preserved material culture collected in 2019 are ongoing. All material is being securely held at the CMN’s Natural Heritage Campus in Gatineau, Quebec. As at Avvajja in 2018, no Inuit sod houses were dug within or otherwise disturbed over the course of the research. Notably, select artifacts we recovered from Uglit will be featured in Planet Ice, a major upcoming exhibit at the CMN.
Engagement with both elders and youth is a continued priority for the Limited Choices, Lasting Traditions project. For this reason, I worked closely with representatives of the Inuit Heritage Trust (IHT) in Iqaluit to facilitate a one-week archaeological field school during the 2019 field season for three local high-school students. Supervised in the field by our field crew and IHT staffer Ms. Zipporah Ungalaq, students gained a number of valuable, transferable skills. Importantly, Ms. Ungalaq and Mr. Mikki helped to transmit important cultural knowledge about the site both to the field school students and our crew. Indeed, among Iglulingmiut, there exists much traditional knowledge—transmitted orally by earlier generations—of Inuit life at Uglit and other sites the Foxe Basin region. For this reason, I traveled to Igloolik in February and March 2020 to interview a notable local elder (with a social science research license from NRI). I also consult with the Mayor, the Board of the Igloolik HTO and the wider community via a public presentation on the summer 2020 research plan.
PROPOSED RESEARCH AT QAIQSUT AND PINGIQQALIK (JULY 10th TO AUGUST 20th, 2020)
Qaiqsut (Qaersut, Kaersut) is a multicomponent (Dorset/Tuniit and Thule-to-historic Inuit (ca. AD 1280-1900) village site situated on the northern half of the southernmost island in a three-island chain at approximately 69.471234, -80.308345. (The chain is known in English as the Calthorpe Islands.) Sitting between approximately seven and 20 meters above sea level, the site was previously investigated in 1954 by Danish archaeologist Jorgen Meldgaard, who reported nine Paleo-Inuit houses (see NWT 54-148). The island was revisited by Sylvie Leblanc in 2012, and is well known among Iglulingmiut as a once-important campsite prior to the settlement of Igloolik in the 1960s. Second focus site for the project—Pingiqqalik (Pingerkalik, Pinger Point)—is a much larger multicomponent campsite situated on a peninsula of the same name some 38 kilometers southeast of Igloolik at approximately 69.096564, -81.261544. (I carried out research at the site’s robust Thule Inuit houses and middens over the summer of 2012). The cultural focus of fieldwork in 2020 will be the large, pristine Dorset/Tuniit component centered on the northern end of the peninsula.
The research plan at both sites is largely similar to that at Uglit in 2019. The goal is to collect information on the long-term use by both Paleo- and Neo-Inuit of the local areas and surrounding waters. These data, along with the traditional knowledge gained in Igloolik, will be compared with that of other sites nearby, including Uglit and Avvajja. Research will begin at Qaiqsut, after which the crew will relocate by boat to Pingiqqalik. I will lead a field crew of five, including me, Dr. Rufolo, Ms. Siebrecht, Mr. Take and a bear monitor and guide to be determined. Our goals include (a) mapping the sites using drone photogrammetry and DGPS technology and (b) limited testing of Dorset house and midden features (trash deposits) at both sites, as well as Thule Inuit middens at Qaiqsut. (Once again, we will not disturb any Inuit house features at either site.)
As in previous years, this work will be carried out with permits from the Department of Culture and Heritage (Archaeology and Paleontology Class II Permit), the Nunavut Research Institute, as well as clearance from the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) and the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB). Because both Qaiqsut and Pingiqqalik are located on Inuit Owned Lands (IOL), a land use exemption is being requested from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA). IHT has pledged to support another field school for Iglulingmiut youth at Qaiqsut this summer, with Ms. Ungalaq likely joining the project again. I met with an IHT representative in Iqaluit in February 2020 to discuss the collaboration further.
Analysis of the materials collected will continue to the end of 2020 at the CMN. Any delicate organic materials collected will be professionally conserved at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Ottawa.
I have 12 years of experience of active field and laboratory research in Arctic archaeology, and I have previously led (as Principal Investigator) successful archaeological field excavations and surveys in remote locales in northern Foxe Basin. This has involved designing research plans, selecting and training field crew members, managing camp logistics and supervising day-to-day fieldwork. I also have extensive experience managing, conserving and analysing large collections of artifacts and archaeofaunal material. Importantly, I have a demonstrated record of close collaboration with Inuit and government stakeholders. In the fall of 2013, I was granted special permission by the local Native authority to observe the traditional Yup’ik walrus hunt at Round Island (Qayassiq), Bristol Bay, Alaska; prior to this, no outside researcher had been allowed to document the hunt. In recent years, I have built particularly strong working relationships with Inuit elders and hunters in Igloolik and surrounding areas, and I look forward to continuing to integrate their perspectives into my research.
I also have experience working closely and productively with elders. In 2018, Nunavut Territorial Archaeologist Dr. Sylvie LeBlanc and I organized a reunion at Avvajja for Iglulingmiut with ancestral ties to the site; for an entire day, eight elders and approximately 140 of their relatives visited the site, feasted on country food, and traded stories about life in the region in the early 20th century.