Names, Numbers, and Northern Policy: Inuit, Project Surname, and the Politics of Identity


118 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895686-31-8
DDC 323.1'1971071




David R. Hutchinson is a professor in the Teacher Education Program at
the Arctic College in Fort Smith, N.W.T.


This book examines the history, design, and impact of government
registering and renaming policies, and, in particular, the absence of
full Inuit consultation and consent. Early attempts at registering
high-Arctic aboriginal peoples through fingerprinting and discs are
discussed comprehensively, as is the most recent federal government
renaming initiative: Project Surname.

The author discusses the impact of federal renaming policies on
traditional Inuit naming practices, and how such policies ultimately
served to undermine Inuit cultural identity. Further, there is a
discussion of the federal government’s push to register the Inuit, and
Canada’s claim to high-Arctic sovereignty, which the author correlates
with the motives underscoring the federal government’s controversial
Inuit relocation initiatives. The causes of significant Inuit cultural
changes are exposed as the work of ordinary federal government employees
operating under the misguided impression that they are working in the
best interests of aboriginal peoples. In terms of failed
federal-government Inuit policies, the author reveals how Canadian
history tends to repeat itself. The trick now is to encourage those who
are currently responsible for fronting similar policies (including
aboriginal politicians) to better see the folly of their ways, perhaps
in part by reading this book.


Alia, Valerie., “Names, Numbers, and Northern Policy: Inuit, Project Surname, and the Politics of Identity,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 28, 2023,