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Department of Anthropology, Arctic Studies Center

Smithsonian to Host the Inuit Studies Conference October 24-28, 2012

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Inuit Studies Conference

Fact Sheet

About the 18th Inuit Studies Conference

The Inuit Studies Conference (ISC) 2012 will be held in Washington, DC, from October 24 to October 28, 2012, across the Smithsonian campus on the National Mall. Taking place within a number of diverse cultural and educational settings, the conference will cover a broad spectrum of topics, including climate change and indigenous people; international cooperation in the Arctic; the role of Museums and museum collections in preserving Inuit languages, heritage, and culture; governmental programs in the northern regions and their interactions with local communities and Inuit cultural/political institutions.

Register on-site at the S. Dillon Ripley Center to attend sessions.

Can't make it to Washington? View selected sessions through our online conference website:


Public Events

In addition to the academic conference, the ISC will also feature a number of programs and events open to the public.

Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers and Dancers

The Paulatuk Moonlight Dancers are traditional Inuvialuit dancers. Ninety percent of the dancers consist of youth and children making this the youngest group in the Western Arctic. All members regardless of age can sing, drum and dance. There are over 70 freestyle and motion dances with Inuvialuit stories and history; each story is explained during the performance.

paulatukThe group was formed in 1995 and has performed in the Western Arctic; Point Barrow, Alaska; Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland; and the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany. More recently, they performed and welcomed the royal visitors, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in the Canadian city of Yellowknife July 2011.

The group is always in training, learning new and old songs in addition to choreographing novel dances to old songs. Elders and other Inuvialuit involved with drumming and dancing traditions teach and instruct new members how to continue telling stories through this form of music and dance.

The lead singer is Michael (Nolan) Green, a 24 years old, who made his first drum from cardboard at the age of 10 years old when a video on drum dancing inspired. Through his own interest in songs and rhythm, he developed a community of peers who learned the songs and dances Through his work with his community, Green helped revive drum dancing in Paulatuk. In 2002, he was nominated by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and received a Canada Youth Award from Canadian Heritage in recognition of his contributions to Inuvialuit culture.


Public Performance Date/Time
Sunday October 28, 2012
Millennium Stage (free and open to the public)
Kennedy Center, 6:00PM


Yup'ik Sewing Demostration

sewing groupJoin anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan with sewing specialists Martina John, Ruth Jimmie, Elsie Tommy and Albertina Dull as they demonstrate Yup’ik sewing techniques.

Martina John was born and raised in Umkumiut on Nelson Island. She is married to Paul John and together they have 9 children. In 1964 they moved to the new village of Toksook Bay where she lives today. She is an expert seamstress and continues to sew boots, parkas, hats, and qasperet (cloth parkas) for her family and friends.

Ruth Jimmie was also born and raised in Umkumiut on Nelson Island and moved to Toksook in 1964. She worked for the Nelson Island School and has one son, Paul. She is Martina John’s sister, in the Yup’ik tradition, as their mothers were sisters.

Elsie Tommy was born and raised on Nelson Island. Today she lives with her grown children in Newtok, just north of Nelson Island. She is an outstanding seamstress and a very knowledgeable and eloquent orator. Her stories are acclaimed as legendary.

Albertina Dull is the oldest person living today in Umkumiut on Nelson Island. She grew up living a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle. Today she lives with her grown daughters and continues to share what the years have taught her with the younger generation.


Public Performance Date/Time
Sunday October 28, 2012
Potomac Atrium, National Museum of American Indian


Northern Film Festival

The ISC committee in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian is proud to host the Northern Film Festival on Sunday October 28, 2012 in the Rasmuson Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Schedule for Sunday October 28, 2012


11:00-11:15 a.m.

Welcome: Remarks by Stephen Loring

11:20 a.m.-12:40 p.m.

History of the Iňupiat Project (2011)

12:45-1:15 p.m.

Once in a Lifetime Inuit in Nepal (2012)

1:35-1:45 p.m.

Native Time (2010)

1:45-2:40 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian: Film and Video Center Program of Selected Shorts from the Top of the world

2:45-3:30 p.m.

Diet of Souls (2004)

3:35-4:30 p.m.

A Case of Access (2010)

4:40-5:15 p.m.

The Meeting (2010)



Ripley Center Exhibitions: Concourse

October 10, 2012-November 27, 2012

Kinngait to Ulukhaktok: Artist as Cultural Historian
Through drawings and prints, Inuit graphic artists continue the oral tradition of the past. Like singers, storytellers, and poets before them, visual artists recall the challenges of the hunt, the knowing ways of humans and animals, and the importance of humor in meeting the demands of everyday life. This exhibition highlights a selection of work by Inuit artists from three major print-making communities in the Canadian Arctic: Kinngait/Cape Dorset; Qamanittuaq/Baker Lake; and Ulukhaktok/Holman. Through these prints, many of the artists portray their experience of life on the land, the centrality of the hunt, the skill of hunters and seamstresses, and the practice of shamanism.

Culture on Clothculture on cloth
The textiles displayed in this collection are both a unique and important documentation of the transition from one way of life to another. Sewing was a critical skill for women to create clothing and other necessary items for their family. The artists featured in this display utilized traditional Inuit women’s sewing practices to tell the stories of a people’s relationship with the land and a cultural imagination that is quickly falling into the annals of the pastNeedles were made from caribou parts and thread was fabricated from sinew.  Using vibrant colors and patterns, the wall hangings convey the stories and moments of the various artists highlighted in this display. 

Exploring the Eastern Inuit World
Photography is both a visual art form and a record. As an art form, Wilfred E. Richard interprets the land as a composition. His macro images capture animate and inanimate detail, portraying a sense of place and study of the Eastern Arctic. The images he has gathered reveal the splendor of a complex region of people, land, plants, and animals.

Photography also has the power to act as record, capturing a moment frozen in time. Richard believes that photographic images are less likely than language to lead to cultural misrepresentation. He presents the Eastern Arctic with the modern technology of photographs in order to capture a moment on the land within its own—rather than an interpreter’s—context of light, texture, pattern, and rhythm.

Richard’s work dwells on how the Eastern Arctic is increasingly under stress from the concomitant forces of global warming, ice melt, and extraction of oil, gas, and minerals from the land and water. His photography focuses on climate change as it affects the ways of life for northern people. Through his art, the north reveals itself as a relatively unspoiled place where harsh realities still prevail.

Ripley Center Exhibitions: International Gallery

October 22, 2012 –October 29, 2012

The International Gallery, located off of the Ripley Center's main concourse, will host traveling exhibitions from several outside organizations, providing conference participants a place to rest, converse, and enjoy refreshments. Participants are encouraged to wander the gallery and explore our three visiting exhibits.

ITK's "Polar Lines: The Inuit Editorial Cartoon Exhibition"
ITK's "Polar Lines" exhibition, located in the front portion of the International Gallery, features 100 cartoons organized in 10 thematic panels. The cartoons span 50 years of Canadian history and feature artists' perspectives on the Arctic, using the satirical graphic tradition of political cartoons.

Many Strong Voices: Arctic Edition
The Many Strong Voices panels, located in the back portion of the International Gallery, use photography and stories to highlight the impact of global environmental change upon the land and people of the Arctic and Small Island Developing States.

Morrow Sound: Sound Design Environments
MorrowSound, located in the back atrium and near the refreshments table of the International Gallery, provides sound design environments, many specifically from the Arctic. Charles Morrow Productions LLC plans, designs and builds projects in True 3D and other sound design environments. CMP creates immersive sound content, employs branded sound and can incorporate voices and music. Our original Soundscapes can bring to life natural environments, cityscapes and all places in between. We have performed our sound magic for museum installations, commercial soundtracks, performance sound, audio tours and new media.  MorrowSound can capture events in 3D and also blow-up 2D recordings of any age and format.  

National Museum of the American Indian

October 5, 2012 - January 2, 2013


Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben

In addition to the exhibitions in the International Gallery and the Ripley Concourse, the National Museum of the American Indian will host "Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories" in conjunction with the 18th Inuit Studies Conference. Abraham Anghik Ruben's stone, wood, and ivory sculptures portray journeys of exploration, migration and displacement through voyages across time, place, and spiritual realms.

Auxiliary Exhibitions

In addition to exhibitions that will be visible during the conference across the Smithsonian, a number of other venues will be hosting Arctic-themed exhibitions, including the following:

Inuit Ullumi: Inuit Today Contemporary Art from TD Bank Group’s Inuit Collection
October 25, 2012 – March 15, 2013
Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC

Inuit Images: Prints from the Canadian Arctic:A special exhibition to coincide with the 2012 Smithsonian Inuit Studies Conference.
Prints from communities: Cape Dorset, Pangnirtung, Baker Lake, Igloolik, Holman.
Woodrow Wilson Center, Canada Institute

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