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Tag: inuktitut

A nation within a nation

Well, well. June 24th. Bonne St-Jean for those of you in the Belle Province. Last night was poker night and let me tell you no one was celebrating the statutory holiday, except for the qalunaat  (translates into “big eyes brows”, refers to the Scots from the early 1900s who worked for the Hudson’s Bay, and now commonly used for White). If Québec ever materialized its hopes to become a nation, I wonder how the Inuit of the province would react.

There’s always a feeling of second or third class citizen.

Inuktitut Syllabics

Inuktitut Syllabics

Clearly, there’s a rift between how Québec attempts to protect la langue de Molière (Bill 101) and the reality in Nunavik. This comes up over and over in my interviews, as concerns regarding language are omnipresent. One participant in particular was very vocal about this:

They know of the language barrier. It’s just Québec being “anal” about keeping the language laws… The oppressed becomes the oppressor.

I found that last segment to be particularly interesting. In my eyes, there would be no one better government than Québec to understand the struggles of keeping your language alive. Instead of providing services in Inuktitut, or at the very least in English, some government representatives apparently refuse to speak anything else than French. Language becomes yet another obstacle for local businesses or non-profit organizations to overcome.

According to another participant:

[…] The assimilation policies are still very strong. The programs are based on that. The education system: from kindergarten to grade 3, you have Inuktitut only. From grade 3 to grade 11 is either English or French. You have, I would say, 80% of the funding for education to fund a foreign language. You see, anybody younger than me, will have 25%-30% less fluency in Inuktitut.

This doesn’t stop Nunavik from being the single one region in Canada where fluency in Inuktitut is the highest. Nevertheless, according to locals, this is slowly fading.

Inuit Language ability in Canada

My own standpoint towards the issue is paradoxical. Despite acknowledging the significance of local dialects, interviews I conducted were all in English, except for one in Inuktitut. This puts me in a relative position of power towards participants less at ease in Shakespeare’s tongue. As reported in Young & Temple’s Qualitative Research and Translation Dilemmas: “The interaction between languages is part of the establishment and maintenance of hierarchical relationships with English often used as the yardstick for meaning.” Language also acts as a non-negligible bias as it often filters out individuals of lower socio-economic status. I’m currently trying to collaborate with locals who would act as interpreters and would lead group discussions with women and elders in Inuktitut.

I would like to close this segment with an inspiring excerpt from an interview I conducted this week:

Many times we want to stay in one identity as Inuit. But we are many. We are living many identities. As long as you have your values as Inuk, you’re safe because you’re always going to change.

In other news, I ate some mattaq (beluga), caught a nice trout, and messed up my haircut so I now look like a skinhead.



June 3rd: Discovery

Over the past few days, I have been going around town, introducing myself and explaining the reason for my stay. Everyone in the community is very receptive to the project as it relates to local economic initiatives meaning development for and by the community. My inuktitut is improving constantly. Here are some useful words:

  • Thank you – Nakurmiik
  • How are you? – Kanwipiit
  • Delicious – Mammaktu
  • Caribou – Tuktuk

Of course, mammaktu and tuktuk are intrinsically linked. However, I’ve been told that the most delicious food is beluga… It’s hard to come by!

So far, I have met with the town manager, the president of the landholding corporation for the municipality, social workers and craftsmen/women. I even went for a yoga session at the family center! Coming out of there around 9pm, the light is magnificent and I opt for a small bike ride, towards the sun which is attracting me like a magnet.

Monument dedicated to "the Exiles of Inukjuak who were taken away from their homeland"

Monument dedicated to “the Exiles of Inukjuak who were taken away from their homeland”

I discover a small monument to commemorate the relocation of Inuit families from Inukjuak that happened in 1953 and 1955, in an attempt from Canada to assert sovereignty in the Arctic. The impacts of colonization remain palpable. According to teachers and employment coordinators, motivation and confidence are low among the youth. Of course, it does not help when the job prospects are truck driver or store clerk. So far, I’ve seen amazingly talented individuals. Maybe it’s more about harnessing the clear potential available in the community.

Endless Tundra

Endless Tundra

I’ve also had the opportunity to get out of town and explore the small cabins for hunting and fishing outside of the village. The tundra seems infinite. My curiosity to discover what lies on the other side of each hill is excessive. Once at the top, the same landscape of endless tundra offers itself to the viewer.

“Does this view ever get old?”, I ask my host. “Never.”

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