ISARUIT began in 2017 as the vision of five Inuit women who love to sew and who wanted to create a place and a space for Inuit sewers to meet together in a relaxed Inuit community atmosphere. a collective of Inuit women living in the Ottawa area who love to sew and believe that learning and using traditional Inuit sewing patterns and techniques, skin preparation skills and other crafts is life-giving because it is arts-enlivening. ISARUIT means ‘wings’ in Inuktitut. Our ISARUIT Inuit Women’s Sewing Centre was founded to give wings to Inuit living in the Ottawa area.
By 2018, the collective of Inuit women who were meeting together each week found space at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in the Vanier area of Ottawa, where they were welcomed and they could meet together. to share cultural insights and create traditional clothing and crafts together. The group’s drop in and formal instructional sessions allowed people to speak in Inuktitut freely, to explore their relationships with each other and to mend the lives of Ottawa area Inuit. Isaruit incorporated Dec 2018 and obtained a $100,000 Canada Council of the Arts grant to pursue a sewing instruction and drop in programs for Ottawa Inuit women. When Covid lockdowns interrupted, Isaruit pivoted to an online format, but realized a need for a robust website. Further CCA program funding to build a website and to reach out to the menfolk in the Ottawa Inuit community as well. Since 2019, Isaruit has worked with the City of Ottawa to reach out to older Inuit living in Ottawa as well and is beginning to partner with the City to enhance the presence of Inuit art and Inuit artists in the city, both with artistic installations, and with artistic mentoring to support Inuit artists in a holistic way. The original Isaruit visionaries asked for and accepted a new, second phase Board of Directors in Jan 2021 to step into their shoes to bring the orginal vision into reality. An April, 2021 Strategic Plan has been developed that includes not only women but also Inuit men who are artists living in the Ottawa area.
ISARUIT began as the vision of Aigah Attagutsiaq, Martha Flaherty, Malachi Kigutak, and Simona Arnatsiaq, By 2017 this collective of women was having drop ins for any Inuit women in Ottawa who wanted to join them, because they knew that learning and using traditional Inuit sewing patterns and techniques, skin preparation skills and other crafts is life-giving because it is arts-enlivening. ISARUIT means ‘wings’ in Inuktitut. Our ISARUIT Inuit Women’s Sewing Centre was founded to give wings to Inuit living in the Ottawa area. By 2018, Isaruit Inuit Women’s Sewing Group had registered as a Not For Profit corporation with Industry Canada, and began to make their vision for an Inuit style arts centre come alive.
The group was successful in obtaining a Canada Council of the Arts Creating, Knowing and Sharing grant in 2019 to launch its Sewing Project. After offering just three parka making sessions to Inuit in the Ottawa area, the Covid lockdown meant that Isaruit had to change its way of supporting sewing and other Inuit artists in the Ottawa area. With the help of a Canada Council of the Arts Covid Relief grant, Isaruit met this challenge by providing care packages of sewing materials to many women, and men, who needed materials to continue to make art at home. It was at this time that the Isaruit founders and staff began to realize the potential connecting power of virtual meetings both for the instruction and the support of Inuit artists, as much as people had access to devices and the Internet.
Isaruit began working with the Community Arts and Social Engagement program of the City of Ottawa, as well as with the Vanier Cultural Association in 2020, and conducted a virtual and face to face Elders’ Gathering of Inuit elders in the Ottawa area that was both well attended and well received, despite health protocols and restrictions. This event was pivotal in allowing Inuit in Ottawa to have a voice and to explore the potential of digital connections.
At the AGM In January, 2021 the group of Isaruit founders turned the direction of the group over to a new Board of Directors led by Natasha Latreille. It was decided by the new leadership to extend the original mandate of Isaruit to include not only women, but men as well, and to fulfill the great need for an organization that would connect and support Inuit visual artists virtually across all Inuit communities, including sewing groups such as the Inuit women’s sewing group in Ottawa. A new working name, Isaruit Inuit Arts: Pijunnarnivut was discovered while the new Board worked on a comprehensive Strategic Plan. In the spring of 2021, Isaruit Inuit Arts:Pijunarnivut Canada was successful in applying for a Canada Council of the Digital Now grant that has allowed the group to develop this present website, to become a lively, on line, Inuit Artists’ connection and supportive platform.