Yupiit and Inuit have developed political and cultural strategies for withstanding oppression, based on their distinct histories of settler colonialism. Yupiit have struggled for educational reform and economic independence from the U.S. after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 extinguished Indigenous land claims statewide and paved the way for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Inuit have worked for political sovereignty over the territory of Nunavut, established in 1999 following the largest Aboriginal land claim settlement in Canadian history.

Resilience is the capacity to react to hardship with strength and resourcefulness. Through strategies such as humor and altruism, Yupiit and Inuit strengthen their cultures under settler colonialism. They work for the common good, in line with worldviews that value the collective over the individual. While resistance to colonial governments can drive necessary political change, resilience makes daily life bearable. By visualizing cultural memories, stories, and values, the artists in this exhibition communicate resilience to one another and their global audiences.

Hunting Geese / Sharpening the Ulu


Mayoreak Ashoona (Inuk, b. 1946)

Ink on paper

Museums Collections, Gift of Frederick & Lucy S Herman

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

Long Journey Home

c. 1974 – 1992

Pudlo Pudlat (Inuk, 1916 – 1992)

Crayon on paper

Museums Collections, Gift of Frederick & Lucy S Herman

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

Pudlat is celebrated for his whimsical portrayals of modernity in the Arctic. In this drawing, figures travel home on foot and by plane. The circular space at upper right contains two rows of nearly identical pre-fabricated houses. In the 1960s, Pudlat moved to Kinngait (Cape Dorset), where the Canadian government had constructed permanent housing to encourage Inuit to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle. The significance of the organic forms on the lower right is unclear, but they may allude to an ice cave or some other natural shelter.

Hungry Dogs in Camp

c. 1976

Qaunaq Mikkigak (Inuk, b. 1932)

Acrylic wash, felt marker, color pencil, on paper

Museums Collections, Gift of Frederick & Lucy Herman

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

Between 1950 and 1975, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) slaughtered an estimated 25,000 qimmit (sled dogs) while enforcing strict federal laws that regulated qimmiq handling. Organized under the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, Inuit continue to contest the government’s justification for the killings. In defiance of the RCMP ordinances, Mikkigak depicts qimmit moving freely in a hunting camp just one year after the killings ended. One of the qimmit runs untethered while others wrap themselves around the iglu (snow house) in an effort to reach the seal carcass in the foreground. Their movement anticipates a humorous situation in which the qimmit will tie themselves up, possibly entangling the tools and the two hunters with them. Mikkigak’s drawing of a commonplace interaction between Inuit and qimmit reflects the familial love and intimacy that they share. The playful expression of this bond is poignant against the backdrop of a tragic history.



Johnny Pootoogook (Inuk, b. 1970)


Museums Collection, Gift of Carol A. Heppenstall

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

An inukshuk is a large stone formation made to look like a human. It typically marks a path, food source, or sacred place. It has long been used to guide hunters in the unpredictable conditions of the Arctic. Inuit have featured an inukshuk on the official flag of Nunavut since establishing sovereignty over the territory in 1999. Through this bestowed iconicity, the inukshuk has become a symbol of Inuit strength, leadership, and motivation.

Family in Pre-Fab House (Eating)


Annie Pootoogook (Inuk, 1969 – 2016)

Graphite and ink on paper

Gift of Frederick & Lucy S Herman

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

In this drawing, Pootoogook shows an Inuit family eating in the kitchen of a pre-fabricated house. The Canadian government supplied such homes when relocating Inuit to permanent settlements in the twentieth century. The regulated grid and labeled foods call attention to the many challenges Inuit faced under government pressure to assimilate. Despite the Qallunaat (non-Inuit) products and furniture on display, the family sits on the ground and uses uluit (cutting tools) to eat fish and other native foods. In sharing a nutritious, wild-caught meal, Inuit reject processed Qallunaat foods, an act of subversion and cultural resilience.

Broad Blade Ulu


Unknown Artist (Yup’ik)

Wood and metal

Museums Collections, Gift of Mabel & Harley McKeague

Uluit (cutting tools) are used by Yupiit and Inuit across the United States, Canada, and Greenland. The rounded blade of this ulu allows it to be rocked back and forth across the material being cut, slicing through thick meat and skins with less pressure than a straight blade. Based on the wear of the blade and handle, it was likely used as a tool before it entered the University of Delaware collection. At some point, the entire ulu was painted with a metallic silver paint. The handle was then painted with a layer of white over the silver paint. This intervention into the presentation of the ulu was likely done by Mabel McKeague to make the blade visibly shiny and appealing. She used this ulu in lectures and demonstrations of Yup’ik objects for audiences in the contiguous United States after her work in Alaska was completed.

A Highlight Essay by Victoria Sunnergren

Kudlik (Oil Lamp)


Mayureak Ashoona (Inuk, b. 1946)


Museums Collections, Gift of Anthony & Teresa DeFazio

Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts

This sculptural object is a kudlik, an oil lamp that Inuit use to heat the home and cook food. Women dip tufts of Arctic cotton and other small plants in oil and light them on fire along the carved edge of the stone. Young girls are given miniature lamps to play with as children, which they exchange for full-size lamps when they reach puberty. Amid introduced technologies in recent years, the kudlik has become a symbol of Inuit cultural resilience. Women continue to teach the important skills of lighting and tending lamps during gatherings

Kneeling Girl Holding Kudlik


Sailassie Tukai (Inuk, 1919 – 1994)


Museums Collections, Gift of Anthony & Teresa DeFazio

Reproduced with the permission of Annie Tukai

“We used to have play qullit (oil lamps), which were made from soapstone. We would use them when we were playing in a play tent … We would get them fueled and light them up as we played; we were trying to be as realistic as we possibly could.” – Zipporah Piungittuq Inuksuk, Amitturmiut, 2004.