ICI May Close
Inuit cultural institute in danger of closing its doors

Marty Brown
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Nov 25/98) - Norman Ford is a worried man.

He's the executive director of the Inuit Cultural Institute, the man in charge of thousands of archival photographs documenting Inuit from the Keewatin years and years ago. He's in charges of thousands of video and audio cassettes that are now stored at the museum.

Oh, he says he has a building, compliments of MLA John Todd -- the old air terminal building now situated beside Williamson Lake -- but no money for renovations and a $75,000 deficit.

Money needed to control the interior environment that will keep the old photos, tapes and clothing in good condition has been cut, he says with frustration.

Before Nunavut, artifacts and documents were kept in a heated territorial government warehouse and in the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

But now there are 1,700 artifacts ready to come back to Nunavut and there isn't any place to put them, Ford says, adding, culture isn't a priority with the Nunavut government, just yet.

"We're just struggling to keep the doors open. We've contacted NTI, NITC, the territorial government and next week, I'm going to Ottawa to talk to DIAND. We're being optimistic, hoping to get the feds on side. We're also hoping NTI will help us."

Ollie Ittinuar, an on and off-again board member of ICI for the past 25 years, and president since 1987, said funding has become "more of a burden as years go by."

"ICI started as a cultural institute for all Inuit, now it seems like it's just Rankin Inlet," he says.

"ICI has board members from the Central Arctic and the High Arctic. In the beginning, 26 communities supported us, now there's only nine."

The federal government offered each community a choice of keeping the money for their own museum or interpretive centre or pooling it through ICI.

"ICI has to be the cultural institute in Nunavut," Ittinuar says emphatically.

If not, the doors will be closing in two years. Funding is in place for the next year, but with a $150,000 budget, not much can be done. Ford figures it will cost $290,000 to bring the old airport building up to code.

"What we need," Ford says, "is a man like David Webster. He not only did the fund-raising but got the building for the Inuit Cultural Centre in Baker Lake going as well -- all $400,000 of it. But he's busy. We need a professional fund-raiser."

Current projects now shelved at ICI include an Inuktitut dictionary ready to go to the printers, but the lack of funding means the dictionary -- something Ford notes will benefit Nunavut's government greatly -- won't be produced any time soon.

The president also has a 300-page manuscript, handwritten in syllabics, waiting for someone to type it up and print it. It's Ittinuar's autobiography.

There used to be receptionists, translator/interrupters, resource people, and, more importantly, a bookkeeper Ford says, but now he works in the ICI building along with Ittinuar, among boxes and boxes of valuable documents alone.

Last summer, Ford says he got some help from a Concordia University student who was working on her thesis. She wrote a preliminary condition report on the state of 866 old photographs. She reported to Ford that there was 476 loose photographs in a box along with an undetermined number of slides, negatives, contact sheets, mounted enlargements and photo albums.

Ford says he's remaining optimistic, though, and hopes his visit to Ottawa will not only see ICI being able to erase the deficit, but offer some hope that ICI can be built up again to what it was.

Peter Erneck, deputy minister of language, heritage and culture for the Nunavut government said right now the new government is very busy and could make no promises.