Kinauvit?: What’s Your Name?

The Eskimo Disc System and a Daughter’s Search for her Grandmother

Reviewed by Danielle Chartier

Posted May 12, 2023

Like many Indigenous people in Canada, Dr. Norma Dunning’s family members hid their identity. Kinauvit?: What’s Your Name? portrays her journey to discover her Inuit heritage.

Besides being an award-winning writer, Dunning is a researcher and a professor of educational policy at the University of Alberta. She grew up in a military family that moved often, and it wasn’t until she was in grade ten in Winnipeg that she discovered her Inuit roots.

Her story in Kinauvit? begins in 2001, two years after her mother passed away, when she applied to the Nunavut beneficiary program for inclusion on the Inuit Enrolment List. When she was asked, “What was your disc number?” she did not have that information; nor did she have documentation of her mother’s birth in Churchill, Manitoba.

Dunning and her sons were enrolled two years later, but she continued her search for her Inuit grandmother and her research into the Eskimo Identification system. Her work exposed the impacts of ill-informed government decisions regarding the relocation of Inuit communities, as well as the destruction of Inuit naming traditions. Records from government sessions reveal how some officials assumed that all Indigenous peoples operated under the same rules and traditions, which of course is not the case.

Kinauvit? is a fascinating look into Inuit experience, combining historical research, personal memoir, and interviews with Elders. The book is well-researched with a supporting bibliography and appendices, and it allows readers to gain a better understanding of Inuit values and traditions.

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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