Dr. Val Marie Johnson helps repatriate Inuit cultural materials in the Northwest Territories

Dr. Val Marie Johnson

Dr. Val Marie Johnson

Earlier this month, with funding from the Saint Mary's University Dean of Research and Dean of Arts, Dr. Val Marie Johnson—of the newly created Department of Social Justice & Community Studies—undertook a Community Research Outreach trip to Inuvik and Aklavik, in the homelands of the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in peoples in the Northwest Territories.

The principal purpose of Dr. Johnson’s trip was to share with community members her historical research on Shingle Point Eskimo Residential School, which operated in the region from 1929 to 1936, and to negotiate the return of copies of archival material documenting the School’s students and staff.

The materials shared with community members included many photos of the School’s students and staff, students’ colouring and drawings, staff and student letters, and School records on students. Dr. Johnson discovered the material in her research on relations between white women staff and Inuvialuit, Inuinnait, Iñupiat, and Gwich’in students and staff at the School.

"It's the living history of this region," Dr. Johnson told CBC North Radio while she was in Inuvik. "My desire is to have this material accessible to people whose living history this involves, as much as possible."

This cultural repatriation of the material is being arranged by collaboration between Dr. Johnson, the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives in Toronto, where the material is now housed, and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre in Inuvik. The Anglican Church operated the School.

Dr. Johnson also visited with community Elders and descendants of former Shingle Point students, and hosted community events in Inuvik and Aklavik about her research, the materials, and the plans for their new accessibility to community members in the region.