Teachers Lesson Plans

Contemporary Inuit Sculpture


  • Movements of earliest Inuit ancestors from Siberia to Alaska


  • Establishment of Inuit culture on the north coast of Alaska


  • First movement of Inuit east into Canada and as far east as Greenland


  • Second movement of Inuit east from Alaska into Canada


  • Whalers, and later traders and settlers, on the Labrador coast


  • William Frobisher is the first European explorer to go into the Arctic.


  • The Hudson’s Bay Company is granted a charter over Rupert’s Land.

With exploration, and thanks to the fur trade, the region came to be divided into two parts: Rupert’s Land, which included all the lands draining into Hudson’s Bay, and the Northwest Territory, which included the lands draining into the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. (The Atlas of Canada Online) (The Territorial Evolution of Canada, 1870)


  • The Hudson’s Bay Company surrenders Rupert’s Land to the Government of Canada.


  • Decline of whaling


  • Transition from whaling to fur trading as the primary source of outside contact for the Inuit


  • The Hudson’s Bay Company opens a trading post in Cape Dorset.


  • Era of high economic return from fur trading and entry of early government officials in the North, primarily police


  • Decline of the fur-trading economy


  • Building of air bases in the Canadian Arctic for resupplying European war planes
  • Karoo Ashevak is born in Taloyoak.

Karoo Ashevak, who had a promising career, died tragically in a house fire in 1974. Today he is still regarded as one of the most original Inuit sculptors. (Taloyoak, Nunavut)


  • James Houston, a young Canadian artist, travels to Arctic Quebec (Nunavik) to paint. He returns with sculptures from Inukjuak and shows them to members of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Montreal (which became the Canadian Guild of Crafts, Quebec, in 1971). Houston makes other trips to the North on behalf of the Guild, which collects and exhibits the works he brings back from his trips (Inukjuak, Nunavik)


  • On November 21, the Canadian Handicrafts Guild opens an eclectic experimental exhibition of what was then called "Eskimo crafts". In a way, it marks the official birth of contemporary Inuit sculpture because various parties concerned, including the Canadian government, begin to realize that crafts may be a potential source of income for the Inuit.


  • Beginning of the rapid development of stone sculpture, creation of Inuit marketing and distribution cooperatives, experimentation with new ideas and considerable success. A flourishing economy emerges along with a new art form.


  • The federal government appoints James Houston administrator of the southwest section of Baffin Island. James and Alma Houston move to Cape Dorset and actively encourage the region’s sculptors and artisans.


  • The first trial prints (including stencils) are produced in Cape Dorset at James Houston’s initiative.


  • The Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Canadian Museum of Civilization (National Museum of Man) begin to collect, study and exhibit Inuit works of art.
  • The 1959 collection of Cape Dorset prints is exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts then sent to art dealers for sale. The success of this project makes it a model for similar initiatives in communities such as Povungituk, Holman, Baker Lake and Pangnirtung.


  • Expansion of the role of government. Beginning of the movement of Inuit from the land into larger communities.


  • Signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Land Claim Agreement


  • Recognition of Aboriginal rights in Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, within the Canadian Constitution.
  • Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak receives the Order of Canada.

In recognition of her contribution to Inuit culture, Kenojuak is made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honour for lifetime achievement. (Cape Dorset)


  • Pudlo Pudlat is the first Inuit artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada — Pudlo: Thirty Years of Drawing.


  • Signing of the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (Eastern and Central Arctic), which contains specific references to the creation of a Nunavut Territory in 1999


  • The Nuvavut Territory and government come into existence.
  • Inuit artist Kiawak Ashoona receives a Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize in recognition of his continuing and outstanding contribution to Canada’s cultural and intellectual heritage.

Chronology: Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, The Inuit of Canada, 1995

On Aptil 1, 1999, Nunavut becomes Canada’s newest territory. Covering about 1.9 million square kilometres of land and water, and spanning three time zones, Nunavut is home to about 22,000 people. The name means "our land" in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit, who make up 85% of the population of Nunavut. (Natural Resources Canada) (Nunavut)