The Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society (PI/KHS) is set to enter its 25th year next month.
The society was incorporated on Mar. 6, 1996, and there is much to celebrate and to look
back upon from the past quarter-century.
The mission of the society is to preserve and renew Inuinnait knowledge, language and culture for the benefit of all Inuit.
“We address projects of critical importance to the revival of Inuit culture, language and history. We focus on the needs of Inuinnait,” said Lyndsey Friesen, Philanthropy and
Communications Manager with the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.
The PI/KHS, based out of the May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre in Cambridge Bay, has worked on a number of projects over the years seeking to help safeguard the region’s heritage.
A key component of preserving the culture of the central Arctic are its Elders who hold the knowledge to pass onto younger generations of Inuinnait.
“Our Elders have always been a keystone to Inuinnait culture, and have always held high
honour (and) respect that we still hold today,” wrote Pamela Gross, executive director of
“Having them be able to share and pass on our age-old knowledge is critical, and our Elders know this and we are blessed to have them up into their late 80s still contributing and sharing their wisdom with our younger generations.”
Gross adds that during typical non-Covid years “we have had upward of 24,000 to 33,000
people coming through the centre’s doors, whether to use the library, see the Cultural
Centre’s exhibits or to purchase in-house resources or traditional garments.
“We are the heartbeat of the community.”
In terms of the projects headed by PI/KHS over the years, it’s those that are on-the-land and those that help preserve the Inuinnaqtun language that come to mind.
“The projects that happen on the land, or sparking the excitement to pass and learn
Inuinnaqtun through our online platform: Uqarluta Inuinnaqtun,” Gross said.
“Engaging Elders and youth in projects like archaeology, interviewing Elders and knowledge holders or building Inuinnait objects stand out the most.”
Building towards a solid financial foundation for the PI/KHS’s future is also one of the goals the Society has been building towards, namely that of free enterprise.
One enterprise that is helping support PI/KHS is Kaapittiaq, meaning “Good Coffee” in
Inuinnaqtun, 75 percent of Kaapittiaq’s profits go towards supporting Inuinnaqtun as well as Inuinnait cultural programming and it’s “a good source of ethical, directly traded coffee that’s on a good mission.”
The company sources green beans from Indigenous farmers in Peru according to
Kaapittiaq’s website, while being an Inuit-owned and operated business.
“There are many things we hope to accomplish, however, passing on Inuinnaqtun is our first priority and we are working to create opportunities for more immersion. Any program that passes on Inuinnaqtun knowledge is a key way to strengthen our people and transmit our worldview.”
Gross and board president Emily Angulalik hope to build toward making a new cultural
centre in Cambridge Bay to work towards the goal of passing on Inuinnaqtun.
What they have accomplished during the last 25 years has grown beyond their own
expectations and “I am very proud of it,” Gross wrote.
“I am proud of how much work everyone has dedicated to create a space to make for the
growth of one’s learning and knowledge/ihuma (thought).”