CREATING PATTERNS OF CHANGE

The winter parka has long been a staple of survival for Inuinnait, and is deeply intertwined with our identity, culture and history. In 2017, Pitkuhirnikkut Ilihautiniq initiated the Patterns of Change program to research the stylistic and material evolution of the Inuinnait parka over the last 150 years. In addition to revitalizing important Inuinnaqtun language, skills and technologies involved in the making of historical parkas, the project served as a way to reflect on the various social changes that have impacted Inuinnait since contact with the western world.  

The Patterns of Change sewing program was managed by Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq's team of Elders in Residence, Mary Avalak, Mabel Etegik and Annie Atighioyak. From 2017 to 2019, these women oversaw the teaching of multiple community workshops designed to five Inuinnait parkas representing 30 year increments in the historical trajectory of Inuinnait. The creation of each parka was heavily researched, and meticulously sewn according to the materials, processes, and styles of the particular historical era they represent. For the earliest parka (1880), materials were harvested from the land and sewing tools made from the hammering of locally sourced copper. For a later parkas (1930 and 1950), historically accurate wool stockings, sewing machines and military issued winter supplies were located based on careful observation of historical photos and research into the era's Hudson Bay catalogues. 

Annie Atighioyak and Mabel Etegik with the recently completed Inuinnait Parka exhibit at Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq

Despite the sewing workshops' ​focus on historical accuracy, the purpose of this project was ultimately to transfer knowledge surrounding Inuinnait parkas into the future.  The Patterns of Change program worked extensively with language experts to document fine grained Inuinnaqtun terminology surrounding Inuinnait clothing and sewing techniques. Sewing workshops  encouraged participants to learn from Elders, but also to apply this knowledge towards the creation of parkas for their family and friends.  The final Patterns of Change exhibit is accompanied by an interactive community

sewing pattern library that encourages public tracing, borrowing, and exchange of sewing patterns.

Pamela Gross visits a collection of historical Inuinnait parkas at the Canadian Museum of History. 
The Inuinnaqtun translation course at Nunavut Arctic College works with Elders in Cambridge Bay to document the terminology surrounding parka manufacture. 

Annie Atighioyak and Mary Avalak creating parka patterns for the project's sewing library.