Native Village Youth and Education News

May 1, 2009 Issue 198
Volume 3

Nunavut at 10: An Unfinished Story
By the Associated Press
Condensed by Native Village

Nunavut: After the Second World War, the Inuit were demoralized and confused. Their pace of life had changed, and their way of life was shaken to the core. In two generations,
They traded life on the land for government-built communities.
They lost their dog teams that gave them the freedom of the tundra.
They accepted a new religion.
They were affected by an economy of money instead of mutual support.
Children were sent away to school.
Welfare and stipends took away self-sufficiency and values such as patience and self-control.
"Our freedom skills were just diminished," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a 2007 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But the creation of Nunavut offers a new Inuit voice insisting that it's heard. That voice is now becoming known on the world's cultural stage. Inuit people are finally catching up, and the signs of recovery are widespread:
The Inuit are unhappy with official explanations of why their sled dogs were slaughtered by the RMC in the 1950s and 1960s. They have created their own truth commission.
Inuit hunters, are unhappy with some research methods of southern scientists. They are now insisting that animals be treated with more respect.
Resource companies want to develop Nunavut's rich mineral reserves. They are realizing that local people want their share of jobs and benefits.
Inuit leaders such as Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukaak and Inuit Taparisat Kanatami President Mary Simon are national figures.
Inuit artists such as Annie Pootoogook win international praise for work that adapts traditional sources to modern life.
"It really makes me happy it lifts up my heart," said Pootoogook, the first Inuit artist to show work at  Montreal,  Switzerland and  Germany in a single year.

But Inuit culture is still in a fragile state:
Fluency in Inuktitut is rare
The old Arctic land skills are nearly forgotten.
Inuit Throat singer Tanya Tagak-Gillisis says the Inuit need to turn this new assertiveness inward and ask themselves hard questions. She said the Inuit inflict much harm on themselves, through everything from assault to fetal alcohol disorders. "We need to fight within ourselves ... Having conversations with each other is as important as speaking out to the world."

"We're coming from a time when things happened very quickly," Watt-Cloutier said. "We're coming from the ice age to the space age in just one lifetime.  We don't just take things at face value any more. We used to just say 'yes' to things coming into our lives, even though the impact took away from our own rich culture. We now are in a place, many of us, to say, 'No, this is not good for me.'

The old stereotype of the passive, easily led Inuk is finally dying out, said filmaker Zach Kunuk. Kunuk's Inuktitut-language film, "Atanarujuat" ("The Fast Runner") won the 2001 best first film award at the Cannes Film Festival.
"I think Inuit people are speaking out more since we got the land claim and we got our own territory," he said.
"I think Inuit gained confidence in our culture."

Tagak-Gillisis says the creation of Nunavut is just one part of an Inuit resurgence. "Since the creation of Nunavut and the passage of time, people have opened up to their culture again. People were taught to be ashamed. Now, people are thinking more logically and pulling themselves into the culture."





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