The Eskimo Identification Tag (Disc number) was developed by the Government of Canada in the 1940/50’s as a means of identifying Inuit for census purposes. From my understanding, Inuit of the Eastern and Western Arctic traditionally had one name which created confusion for government officials, especially if Inuit were identified as having the same name as another community member. It was only in 1970 that Project Surname commenced. The Eskimo Identification Tag program allowed the Government to list the name of each individual with a unique number which was effectively a precursor to the Social Insurance Number of today. Inuit people either wore or had to memorize their Eskimo Identification Number. The photos and portraits in this exhibition provide the history (living history) of the Eskimo Identification Tag and its effect on Inuit communities and individuals (whether positive or negative).
This exhibition allows part of Inuit history to be told, to be shared and debated in a way that, I think, has never be done before. This is significant for me because it is important to bring forth events, issues, history and programming that effected (and continues to effect) Inuit. Exhibiting both the E-numbers and portraits of my fellow Inuit gives me the opportunity to bridge the gap between a number and a person – it gives voice and identity to Inuit, to recent history. As well, this exhibition has afforded me an opportunity to explore, enhance and to develop my vision for Inuit photography as a new art form, a contemporary medium, in essence, a new canon.
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