Inuit Culture Is the Focus of Three-Day Celebration of Indigenous Peoples

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale will celebrate the lifestyles and traditions of native peoples in a three-day event focusing on Inuit culture.

The Indigenous Peoples Weekend will take place Friday-Saturday, Oct. 10-11, and Monday, Oct. 13. The program will include a documentary and talk by award-winning Canadian filmmaker John Houston ‘75 B.A.; a mini-film festival on Inuit life; and a celebration of Inuit art, dance and music.

Documentary screening

Houston’s “Songs in Stone: An Arctic Journey Home,” will be screened on Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Yale Peabody Museum auditorium, 170 Whitney Ave. A question-and-answer session with Houston will follow the screening, after which a reception will be held in his honor. The screening and reception are free and open to all.

Houston directed and co-wrote “Songs in Stone,” his first film, which won the Best Arts/Entertainment Award at the 2000 Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival. The one-hour documentary, shot mainly on Baffin Island in the wilds of the Canadian Arctic, pays tribute to the sculptors and printmakers of Cape Dorset, and to Houston’s parents, the late James and Alma Houston, whose historic collaboration launched Inuit art onto the world stage.

Born on Baffin Island and immersed in native tradition at an early age, Houston brings to his films a unique perspective on Inuit culture, focusing on the gap that separates it from Western cultures and on the need for creativity to bridge that divide. “Songs in Stone” launched an Arctic trilogy instrumental in promoting and preserving Inuit oral tradition. The films have garnered numerous awards plus nominations for Geminis and the International Emmy.

Houston’s visit is co-sponsored by the Peabody Museum, the Department of Anthropology, the Woodward Fund, the Silliman College Master’s Office and the Film Studies Program.

Inuit Film Festival

A mini-film festival will be held 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St.

There will be two featured films: “Nanook of the North” and “Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).” The former, dated 1922, is a silent, black-and-white film by Robert J. Flaherty about the struggles of the Inuit Nanook and his family; it has been credited with being the first-ever full-length documentary. The latter, about the Igloolik community on a small island in the north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic that shows archaeological evidence of 4,000 years of continuous habitation, was filmed in 2001 by Zacharias Kunuk. It is Canada’s first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed and acted by Inuit collaborators.

Commentary and discussion will follow the screenings, which are free and open to the public.

Cultural celebration

The Yale Peabody Museum will present its annual Celebration of Native American Cultures on Monday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This year’s program will focus on the Inuit peoples of the Canadian Arctic. The event will feature music and dance performances, a display of Inuit art and sculpture, and crafts and games for children.

Special events will include story-telling by filmmaker Houston, who has worked to preserve and promote Inuit oral tradition, 11 a.m.-noon in the auditorium; a performance by the Unity of Nations Drum Group of the Mohegan Tribe, noon-1 p.m. in the museum’s Great Hall; and a presentation about Inuit culture and marine mammals, designed for children, by Caleb Pungowiyi, Yup’ik Eskimo, former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and advocate for Native concerns.

Events are free with museum admission ($7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for children ages 3-18 and college students, and free for children under age 3, Peabody Museum members and Yale I.D. holders). For further information, visit or call (203) 432-5050.

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