Her green eyes shone bright with pride when Nancy Saunders of Kuujjuaq, northern Quebec was throat singing with her friends and an elder in front of 50 guests at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 

“I never saw many Inuit elders do throat singing," Saunders said after she sang. "I was impressed by the sounds Audla Tullauqak is able to make.” 

Intangible cultural heritage

Avataq Cultural Institute president Charlie Angark and Makivik Corporation president, Jobie Tukkiapik accepted the honour on behalf of all the Inuit of Nunavik. (Left) Minister of Culture and Communications Maka Kotto, Elizabeth Larouche from Quebec Affaires autochtones, Charlie Arngak, Avataq Cultural Institute, JobieTukkiapik, Makivik Corporation, elder Audla Tullauqa, from Puvirnituq and Nancy Saunders. (Caroline Nepton / CBC)

Throat singing in a traditional way of making playful guttural sound, practised by Inuit women.

Nancy Saunders was honouring the knowledge of her elders, passed down for thousands of years from woman to woman.

Yesterday, Quebec recognized its first example of intangible cultural heritage: throat singing, katajjaniq.

Intangible Cultural Heritage as defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): 'Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.'

Quebec’s Culture and Communications minister, Maka Kotto explained why throat singing was chosen as the first designation after the creation of the Loi sur le patrimoine culturel (Cultural Heritage Law).

“Throat singing is an indisputable testimony of an incredible intangible cultural heritage and Inuit are the First Peoples of this land.” 

Avataq Cultural Institute president Charlie Angark and Makivik Corporation president, Jobie Tukkiapik accepted the honour on behalf of all the Inuit of Nunavik.

''When I was young throat singing was out...but now all the young Inuit girls are learning it. We are more and more proud to be Inuk.' - Singer and artist Taqralik Partridge of Kuujjaq

Quebec will designate many other examples of intangible cultural heritage in the coming months, but yesterday the spotlight shone on the Inuit gathered at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

“When I was young throat singing was out," said singer and artist Taqralik Partridge of Kuujjuaq. "It was considered old-fashioned. But now all the young Inuit girls are learning it. We are more and more proud to be Inuk.”

Nancy Saunders and Taqralik Partridge share a knowledge that has been passed down by women from time immemorial. When asked if she gets tired of talking about her culture and Inuit identity, Nancy Saunders laughs.

“I have a little agenda in my pocket and when people ask me about my community, I show them on a map and I talk about my culture."

"My culture is the best!” she adds, her eyes shining like little icicles in the January sun.