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David F. Pelly Writer, Researcher, Historian, Photographer


Projects and Contracts
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2013 to 2015 - Paalirmiut Project, Arviat,  partially funded by the Arviat Heritage Society, to preserve and celebrate the unique Paalirmiut culture and heritage.

2010 to 2014 - History of Ukkusiksalik,  initially funded by Parks Canada, to write a comprehensive history of the area for use in the new National Park. This work ultimately led to preparation of the book Ukkusiksalik based on the oral-history collected in the 1990s, under contract to Dundurn Press.

2009 to 2013 - Community Tourism Package Development,  funded by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., working as community liaison together with The Tourism Company of Toronto, to help the community of Arviat design and develop a community-based, sustainable tourism package up to a market-ready standard.

2009 - Porter Family Oral History Project. Gjoa Haven, funded by the Government of Nunavut, intended to begin the process of recording the history of this important central Arctic family.

2008 to 2009 - Community Tourism Package Development, funded by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., working together with The Tourism Company of Toronto, to help three communities in Nunavut (Arviat, Cape Dorset, and Gjoa Haven) each work collectively to design and develop a community-based, sustainable tourism package/component up to a market-ready standard.

2004 to 2007 Old Way North, a major historical geography research project, funded by the Quetico Foundation (Toronto) and the Oberholtzer Foundation (Minnesota), examining the time and place witnessed by Ernest Oberholtzer as he travelled through northern Manitoba and southern Nunavut in 1912.  This research ultimately led to the writing and publication of The Old Way North in 2008 under contract to the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The copious files of research findings are now held in the archives of the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation, Minnesota.

2005 - Akiliniq Place Names Project (on contract to the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization, funded by the Department of CLEY, Government of Nunavut) to document traditional land use and place names in the Akiliniq region of the Thelon valley, west of Baker Lake.

2003 to 2005 – Hanningajuq Project (on contract to the Hunters & Trappers Organization, Baker Lake, funded by World Wildlife Fund Canada, Kivalliq Inuit Association and others) documenting traditional land-use, place names, legends and personal histories from all the surviving Inuit elders who formerly lived and hunted in Hanningajuq, now an uninhabited section of the Back River, in the central barrenlands, 300km northwest of Baker Lake, Nunavut.

2004 – Erebus & Terror National Historic Site (on contract to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.) to consult with the community of Gjoa Haven and document the collective ideas and preferences held by the community with regard to how it might benefit from proximity to the National Historic Site, given that an Inuit Impact & Benefit Agreement is to be negotiated in the near future. (Notably, this contract was executed prior to discovery of the two ships.)

2004 – Netsilik Lake Project (on contract to the Inuit Heritage Trust), documenting Inuit elders’ stories and memories from a traditional area near Taloyoak on the Boothia Peninsula.

2003 to 2004 – Perry River Project (on contract to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.) documenting the experiences of seven Inuit families forced to relocate to Gjoa Haven when the trading post at Perry River, on the Arctic coast, closed in 1967.

2003 – Northwest Passage film project, to assist with co-ordination in Gjoa Haven for two films based on the centenary of Amundsen’s arrival there in 1903, en route to becoming the first man to successfully sail through the Northwest Passage.

2002Story and script-advisor, and on-camera presenter, for a documentary film aired by History Television, about John Hornby and Edgar Christian and their tragic deaths on the banks of the Thelon River in 1928.

2002Sole contractor to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) responsible for conducting a background study and developing an implementation strategy for the NCC to establish an effective role and/or presence in Nunavut.

1997 to 2001 – Sacred Hunt, commissioned by Douglas& McIntyre/GreyStone, published internationally in October 2001.  The book is based entirely on Inuit traditional knowledge, gathered during four years of work from numerous direct sources across Nunavut, Greenland and Alaska. 

2001 – Photo Exhibition: The Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, requested a selection of photographs—principally Arctic landscapes and Inuit elders—to accompany and enhance the exhibition of Inuit prints depicting the Legend of Uvajuq.  Thematically, this exhibition represented David’s notion that the Arctic is a landscape of stories, and those stories have been carried to us by the elders who learned them from their grandparents, and so on. Subsequently the photographs toured to several venues in Japan and proved to be very popular with the Japanese audience. The opening in Tokyo was attended by HRH the Prince and Princess Takamado.

1998 to 2001 – Development of the Cambridge Bay Cultural Centre.  David was a central player in the planning of a new Cultural Centre in Cambridge Bay: determining architectural requirements and liaising with Pin Matthews Architects in Yellowknife; arranging and co-ordinating the exhibit design process and acting as liaison between the design team in Toronto and the elders in Cambridge Bay; writing funding proposals to raise in excess of $100,000 from federal granting agencies and organizing a corporate fund-raising campaign which raised $54,000 from the private sector for the Cultural Centre’s heritage displays; meeting as Cambridge Bay's representative with museum specialists in Ottawa (at the Canadian Museum Association, Canadian Conservation Institute, & Canadian Museum of Civilization) and Yellowknife (Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre) to identify and assess Cambridge Bay's needs and objectives.

1996 to 2001 - Served as a volunteer Director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society (KHS), an organization striving to ensure that Inuit history, traditional knowledge, culture and heritage are preserved and celebrated in Cambridge Bay.  For five years, David led the Society's efforts to conduct oral-history projects, initiated and facilitated the publication of a nationally distributed book, organized the production of three internationally broadcast documentary films, and arranged an internationally touring art exhibition based on an Inuit legend.  He proposed the ongoing Iqaluktuuq project, used his contacts in the archaeological profession to forge a partnership between the KHS and the University of Toronto, Department of Anthropology, which has undertaken a multi-year examination of one of Nunavut's most important heritage sites, of both historic and pre-historic significance. 

1999 - Uvajuq: The Origin of Death.  A KHS project, this book documents much of the history of the Cambridge Bay area and its people, based on oral-history research which David undertook in 1996 with elders in Cambridge Bay.  The central theme is a legend which traditionally offered Inuit of this area an explanation for the history of their people and their way of life.  Apart from editing the text, David also arranged to commission Ulukhaktok-based artist Elsie Anaginak Klengenberg to produce 20 prints depicting the legend.  These prints were subsequently used in a documentary film, in the book, and in an exhibition mounted by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which toured across Canada and to Japan. The book and the associated exhibition were an enormous success. 

1998 - "Kitikmeot" film series, consisting of three one-hour television documentaries, co-produced by the KHS with award-winning filmmaker Vic Pelletier: "The Voyage of the Stone," "The Drum Dancer," and "Uvajuq: The Origin of Death."  David proposed the film series, wrote the story-lines and scripts, and worked closely with the film producer during the filming, editing and final production.  All three films deal with Inuit heritage, including both historical perspectives and contemporary efforts to preserve an awareness of history.  The films have been broadcast internationally (Canada, US, Europe and Australia) in English and French. 

1997 to 1998 – Taqramiut Productions Inc: appeared on-camera for a film about a walrus hunt by Inuit from Ivujivik, in northern Quebec, and then worked collaboratively on the script for the ultimate film, broadcast in Canada and France, in French and English. Subsequently contracted by Taqramiut Productions to prepare a treatment for a film on “Inuit of the Circumpolar World” and to conduct field research for the portion of the film to be shot in Greenland.

1996 - Thelon: A River Sanctuary.  This book is an historical biography of a place, a river valley in the central barrenlands of Nunavut.  Research for this book covered pre-historic use by Native peoples, travels by white explorers, recent use by and stories from Inuit (mostly now in Baker Lake), and the historical development of the area.  The book has been widely recognized as the most comprehensive history available of this central barrenlands region.

1996 – Photo Exhibition: Upon publication of Thelon: A River Sanctuary, a private gallery in Ottawa put up a show of Thelon and barrenlands photographs, in part to celebrate the book and in part to support the campaign to save the Thelon Sanctuary.  The exhibition subsequently travelled to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife and to the gallery of the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association in Merrickville, Ontario.

1996 to 1997 - Mt. Pelly Oral History Project (NWT Government contract).  A combined oral-history and archaeological project, in association with the KHS, and working with elders in Cambridge Bay, to document the traditional knowledge, the legends, and the historic use of the area surrounding Mt. Pelly, known by Inuit as Uvajuq, near Cambridge Bay.

1996 - Ukkusiksalik [Wager Bay] Oral History Project (Parks Canada contract).  Follow-up to the 1991-92 project (below), involving travel in Wager Bay with five elders and their families, to old campsites and hunting grounds, to record stories and memories at these historic sites, then to produce a comprehensive historical synthesis entitled "The History of Ukkusiksalik."

1993 - Canadian Geographic magazine assignment to write the cover story explaining to Canadians across the country the historic significance of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the creation of the new territory Nunavut.  This article continues to be a principal source of information on the subject for schools and universities across Canada.

1992 - The Kazan: Journey into an Emerging Land. This book documents the history of the Kazan River valley, its geological origins, the archaeological record of pre-historic Native use, and offers a modern-day perspective on this river, arguably the most heavily used by Inuit anywhere in Nunavut.  Based on extensive research and personal experience in the area, David proposed the book, wrote the first and last chapters, and the edited the other chapters as contributed by assorted experts. 

1991 to 1992 - Wager Bay Oral History Project (Parks Canada contract).  A two-volume oral history and historical analysis of the proposed National Park surrounding Wager Bay, based on interviews with 20 Inuit elders, former residents of the area, conducted over a two-year period of community visits in the Kivalliq region.

1990 to 1991 - Heritage Rivers (NWT Government contract).  Acted as script advisor and rivers consultant for a joint production by the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. and Southpaw Film Productions on two heritage rivers in Nunavut: the Kazan and Thelon Rivers.

1988 to 1989 - Keewatin Profiles (NWT Government contract). Researched and wrote a volume of community descriptions and individual biographies based on two years of historical and community research and interviews in the seven hamlets of the Keewatin (now Kivalliq) Region.

1988 – Operation Raleigh. David led an international expedition on the Kazan River with the principal goal of conducting the first-ever systematic survey of archaeological sites along a 300 km stretch of the river.  His team included two archaeologists and several volunteers from eleven different countries.  The work ultimately led to the designation of the Kazan as a Canadian Heritage River, and to establishment of a National Historic Site at Piqqiq.

1986 – Co-curator for an exhibition of drawings by Baker Lake artist Ruth Annaqtuusi Tulurialik, organized by the Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario, which toured nationally.

1986 - Qikaaluktut: Images of Inuit Life.  While living in Baker Lake in the mid-1980s, David researched and wrote stories of traditional Inuit life on the land, largely through the collection of oral-history from elders, which were then compiled into this book, illustrated by the well-known artist Ruth Annaqtuusi Tulurialik.  It was a Canadian bestseller, and is still used in schools in the Kivalliq region.