Inuit Art and the Quest for Canadian Sovereignty


  • Patrick Lennox Centre for Military and Strategic Studies University of Calgary


This paper outlines the experience of Inuit art exhibitions abroad and examines the ways in which the Canadian state crafted and framed those exhibitions throughout the Cold War. The involvement of the Canadian state in the development and promotion of Inuit art dates back to the early years of the Cold War. The practice of presenting foreign dignitaries with gifts of Inuit art projects is the subtlest manner of projecting Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, and the presentation of Inuit art to foreign dignitaries has become almost part of Canadian diplomatic protocol. As a result Canada’s image in the world is decidedly linked with the Arctic and the Inuit people. The body of Inuit art that has developed over the last fifty years, and that has been projected both at home and abroad, is an essential aspect of Canada’s national identity, and a symbolic demonstration of lived sovereignty in the Arctic.