Nfld. & Labrador

Long-awaited Nunatsiavut cultural centre opens its doors in Nain

The doors swung open to the Illusuak Cultural Centre, nearly a decade in the making, in Nain on Thursday after President Johannes Lampe cut a sealskin ribbon with an ulu.

Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe cuts a sealskin ribbon with an ulu

Jim Lyall, Nunatsiavut ordinary member for Nain, left, and Rigolet AngajukKak Charlotte Wolfrey hold a sealskin ribbon as Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe prepares to cut it with an ulu to officially open the Illusuak Cultural Centre in Nain on Thursday afternoon. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A striking new building now completed on the banks of Nain's bay stands to preserve the Nunatsiavut people's language, history and culture.

The Illusuak Cultural Centre opened its doors Thursday afternoon to large crowd with a ceremony that included the cutting of a sealskin ribbon.

"By understanding where we came from and how we have survived as a people, Labrador Inuit and indeed the rest of the world will have a better appreciation of who we are as individuals and as a culture continuing to evolve in a modern society," said Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe, who cut the ribbon.

 

The $18-million building was conceived of in 2010 and was supposed to open in 2014, but faced several delays: decisions had to be made about how to properly tell the story of Nunatsiavut, and a fire suppression system to properly protect artifacts was a late addition.

You feel so a part of the water and the land as you look out and land and water is so important to us. It pulls you in, it changes throughout the day. - Belinda Webb

"We want to make sure artifacts are back in our home region so people can actually see them," said Belinda Webb, Nunatsiavut deputy minister of language, culture and tourism.

"That was really important." 

The Illusuak Cultural Centre sits on a foundation facing the Nain harbour. The building's design was inspired by a sod house, a traditional winter dwelling. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The building was designed by renowned architect Todd Saunders and takes its inspiration from a sod house, a traditional winter dwelling for Inuit people, and the English translation of the word illusuak.  

"It will be a centrepiece for the community, meant to be used as a living room that will give Inuit of all generations a place to gather and strengthen their connections to each other and to their culture," Lampe said.

Inside visitors are first met by a large mural of caribou. Beyond that are display cases holding traditional crafts, clothing and hunting tools alongside references to historically significant moments for Inuit people in Nunatsiavut

Floor-to-ceiling windows show a stunning view of Nain's harbour and Mt. Sophie, a view that shifts as the sun moves across the sky.

A large crowd gathers to witness the opening of the centre in Nain on Thursday. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"You feel so a part of the water and the land as you look out, and land and water is so important to us," said Webb.

 "It pulls you in. It changes throughout the day."

'Proud and honoured'

It was an emotional day for many as they got their first look inside the building. Greg Flowers, Nunatsiavut minister for education and economic development, found a personal connection.

Carvings by Chesley Flowers, his grandfather and adopted father, are one of five exhibits representing the five different Nunatsiavut communities.

"It means a lot I mean because he was just an ordinary person … and just made a living, and just to see his work live on and people can see what he did years after he passed away," Flowers said.

Greg Flowers was proud to see his grandfather's carvings displayed in the cultural centre as one of five pieces that represent the five Nunatsiavut communities. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"I'm just proud and honoured to see his collection will live on in Illusuak."

For Melissa Denniston, 16, the artifacts and the carvings stood out, showing what Nunatsiavut culture is about and why it's important to keep it alive, she said.

"It's really cool. It has a lot of history in it."

16-year-old Melissa Denniston checks out a large map of the Nunatsiavut land claims area with friends (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The building was funded by the Nunatsiavut government, the government of Canada and the Tasiujatsoak Trust.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said a sod house is a traditional summer dwelling. In fact, it is a winter dwelling.
    Nov 26, 2019 2:10 PM NT

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

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