Portrait of a woman [Juunaisi] holding her R.C.M.P (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) identification #6010 🌹 1945
Prior to the first half of the 20th century, the Inuit did not use surnames. Traditional Inuit names reflected things of importance (family,spirits, animals, the environment) and were neither gender-specific nor recognized shared family names.
By the 1920s, there was a push by missionaries, fur trade employees and government officials to identify the Inuit in accordance with European norms and the patriarchal social model, not to mention the difficulty for a typical westerner to pronounce traditional Inuit given names.
In 1941, the federal government chose to register each Inuk with a unique numeric identifier, which was stamped on a disc or printed on a card. These identifiers were often called “Eskimo disc numbers” or ujamiit (ujamik) in Inuktitut. The Inuit were required to carry these numbers on their person, so they were often sewn onto clothing or hung from laces around the neck. These numbers were used until 1972.