Kinauvit?: What’s Your Name? The Eskimo Disc System and a Daughter’s Search for her Grandmother by Dr. Norma Dunning is on the shortlist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s 2023 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Established in honour of the outspoken and popular MP from Windsor, Ontario, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize is awarded annually for an exceptional book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers. https://www.writerstrust.com/awards/shaughnessy-cohen-prize-for-political-writing/
“Norma Dunning shares a powerful and masterful story about the government of Canada’s implementation of Eskimo Identification Numbers — the little-known system that identified Inuit through digits on physical discs in place of their traditional names. With Kinauvit?, Dunning balances memoir and information, breaking ground with a uniquely Inuit story that contributes to the broader topic of Indigeneity in Canada, especially in the North. Deeply analyzed and with a matter-of-fact writing style, Kinauvit? is a must-read for all Canadians that shines a spotlight on a vital national story told through Dunning’s personal journey of discovery.”
— 2023 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize Jury (Terri E. Givens, Nik Nanos, and Jacques Poitras)
In 2001, Dr. Norma Dunning applied to the Nunavut Beneficiary program, requesting enrolment to legally solidify her existence as an Inuk woman. But in the process, she was faced with a question she could not answer, tied to a colonial institution retired decades ago: “What was your disc number?”
Still haunted by this question years later, Dunning took it upon herself to reach out to Inuit community members who experienced the Eskimo Identification Tag System first-hand, providing vital perspective and nuance to the scant records available on the subject. Written with incisive detail and passion, Dunning provides readers with a comprehensive look into a bureaucracy sustained by the Canadian government for over thirty years, neglected by history books but with lasting echoes revealed in Dunning’s intimate interviews with affected community members. Not one government has taken responsibility or apologized for the E-number system to date—a symbol of the blatant dehumanizing treatment of the smallest Indigenous population in Canada.
A necessary and timely offering, Kinauvit? provides a critical record and response to a significant piece of Canadian history, collecting years of research, interviews, and personal stories from an important voice in Canadian literature.
Dr. Norma Dunning is an Inuk writer as well as a scholar, researcher, professor, and grandmother. Her short story collection Tainna: The Unseen Ones won the 2021 Governor General’s Award for literature, and her previous short story collection, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories (University of Alberta Press, 2017), received the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for short stories and the Bronze Foreword INDIES Award for short stories. She lives in Edmonton, AB.