Inuit Authors and "Literature Development" in the Late 20th Century - Mini Aodla Freeman, Aliqa Illauq, Tiffany Larter, Keavy Martin, Pitseolak Pfeiffer, Julie Rak

3:00 PM, Friday 4 Oct 2019 (1 hour)
Break   04:00 PM to 04:15 PM (15 minutes)
Inuit literatures formed an important component of the federal government policy that shaped Inuit lives in the latter half of the 20th century, but how and why this was the case needs investigation. In 1972, then-Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jean Chrétien wrote of the government’s activities that, “In literature programs during [the past four years], we sought to encourage and advance Indian and Eskimo authors. Nearly a dozen books by Indian writers have appeared, and the names of Eskimo authors, Markoosie and Pitseolak are now known around the world.” Chrétien was referring to the “literature development” policy of the Social and Cultural Development Division of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which had a major impact on the production of Inuit literary texts from the late 1960s to the 1980s. In effect, the SCD Division was acting as a literary agent for Inuit writers. The SCD Division appeared to understand their work as a contribution to “development” in a number of ways.

While government policy policy led to the publication of numerous books, magazines and other resources by Inuit writers, its workings and outcomes deserve critical attention. What ideologies are at work in the goal of literary “development”? What kind of impact did these government-agents-turned-literary-agents have on Indigenous literary texts? Inversely, how did Inuit writers and editors strategically make use of these programs, mobilizing them to serve community goals? Finally, how does this example provide useful cautions about the way in which ‘benevolent’ policy-makers can also be, in the words of Mini Aodla Freeman, minittualuit—the ones who insist upon controlling things? In brief, this presentation will present the early findings of the ‘Government Agents, Literary Agents’ project.

Carleton University
Carleton University
University of Alberta

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