Dunning, Norma

Author, researcher and professor born in Québec in 1959.

Norma Dunning, also known as Norma Jean Marie Dunning, was born in Québec in 1959 to an Inuit family. Her mother is originally from Whale Cove (now Tikiraqjuaq) a hamlet located close to Rankin Inlet (now Kangiqtiniq), in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. Norma Dunning's father was a member of the Canadian Army and the family travelled with his postings. Four of Norma Dunning's siblings were born in Churchill, Manitoba, and they grew up in several remote Québec towns. In her youth, Norma Dunning read and wrote poetry as well as stories and this activity was an essential part of her life. As a young adult, she started a family and it was only later, when her son enrolled in college that she decided to pursue a university education.

In 2009, at the age of 50, Norma Dunning began her studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton developing her two passions: academic research in Native Studies and Education Sciences, and creative writing, which she has been practicing since her youth. In 2012, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native Studies with an Aboriginal Self-Governance Certification. In 2014, she finished a Master's thesis in Native Studies devoted to the Inuit perspective on the Canadian Eskimo identification system, a registration system imposed on the Inuit of Canada between 1941 and 1978. She then completed a PhD, devoting her thesis to the academic careers of Inuit students. In 2014, she traveled to several Aboriginal communities in Alberta to write their history as part of the First Nations Development Fund Grant Program. Since 2012, she has taught education sciences and Aboriginal studies courses at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) and has provided many media interviews. After completing her PhD in 2019, Norma Dunning joined NorQuest College in Edmonton, where she was responsible for curriculum development in Native Studies. She is now professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

During her undergraduate years, Norma Dunning completed a minor in Creative Writing. Poetry allows her to preserve the stories of her culture and keep them in an intimate setting. In 2017, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, a collection of sixteen stories that blend the contemporary realities of Inuit societies with the memory of Inuit cosmology, was published. The book will be translated into French and published by Mémoire d’encrier in 2021. In 2020, Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity was published: it is both an autobiographical book and the genesis of a literary work, in which Norma Dunning analyzes the difficulty of literary production without betraying her origins and oral culture or bowing to criticism. Its title Eskimo Pie refers to an example of Inuit stereotyping, but also to her two poems, in which she proposes a modern vision of her culture and community. Norma Dunning's poetry has been the subject of public readings. Norma Dunning has published several articles in which she questions her own poetic practice, and her poems have been displayed in online periodicals or blogs. Her interest in literary creation also encourages her to read and analyze the works of other Inuit authors, and even to make them known through republication. In 2015, she published a review of the English edition of Sanaaq (2014) by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk and collaborated on the republication (2019) of My Life Among the Qallunaat (1978) by Minnie Aodla Freeman.

When she was vice-president of Inuit Edmontonmiut, Norma Dunning publicly took a stand against racist stereotypes of Inuit people. She was outspoken about the need to rename the Edmonton Eskimos, a local football team whose name was changed to the Edmonton Football Team in 2020.

Norma Dunning is a mother of three sons and a grandmother of four. Since 2018, she divides her life between her professional work and her literary work. A new collection of short stories, Tainna: The Unseen Ones, Short Stories, is due out in 2021 and an essay on Eskimo Identification System will be published in 2022.

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