Archive for the ‘Inuit’ Category

Photos by Patrice Halley

This is one shot from the stunning photo essay by Patrice Halley was featured on the ICTMN site this week. It takes viewers on an Inuit mussel dig in the Bay of Wakeham.

The Nunavut Department of Education in Canada recently certified five Inuit elders as Innait Inuksiutilirijiit, or teachers.

The distinction gives the elders the ability to become active instructors in the schools, connecting their knowledge to the formal education, ICTMN reports.

The Education Act passed in 2008 allows the certification. Elders are incorporated into the system to help preserve the culture and values of the Inuit.

    “Today is a great day for learning in Nunavut,” said Premier Eva Aariak in a statement after the February 2 ceremony. “The certification and recognition of Elders and their expertise is an important step in creating a Nunavut education system that is founded in Inuit culture, language and traditions.”

    Mary Akumalik, Sinea Kownirk, Serapio Ittusardjuat, Letia Tikivik and Sheepa Ishulutaq, all from Iqaluit, were the first Elders to be awarded this certification under the new Education Act, which stipulates in Section 102 that District Education Authorities (DEAs) may employ Elders to assist in teaching about Inuit culture, tradition and knowledge, the release said.

    On a par with faculty as well as the principal, guidance counselors and student support assistants, certified elders may participate in instruction of school programs, in concert with teachers and other school personnel.

Jenna Cederberg


The map above is titled “Sleeping on the Couch,” and that says it all.

It’s part of a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada on housing overcrowding in Canada’s North.

“Almost all social and health problems increase dramatically when combined with overcrowded housing,” Gilles Rhéaume, the conference board’s vice-president for public policy, tells Nunatsiaq News. “Crowded housing is an issue that clearly demonstrates a north-south divide in Canada.”

According to the report:

    In Statistics Canada’s Keewatin census division, which covers the Kivalliq region in Nunavut, 25 per cent of homes have six or more people living in them— the highest percentage of overcrowding in Canada.

    Close behind are regions in five provinces which also have census divisions showing that 10 per cent or more of the homes are overcrowded.

    These census divisions are:

    * Northern Manitoba (Division No. 23 Churchill) – 20 per cent
    * Northern Saskatchewan (Division No. 18, including La Ronge) – 18 per cent
    * Northern Newfoundland and Labrador (Division No. 11 Nunatsiavut area) – 14 per cent
    * Northern Quebec (Nunavik) – 14 per cent
    * Northwestern Alberta (Division No. 17) – 10 per cent

“Sleeping on the Couch” is the fifth map in a series from the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North.

Gwen Florio

The sporran is the furry pouch on the front of the kilt. (Getty Images photo)

The sporran is the furry pouch on the front of the kilt. (Getty Images photo)

The things you learn doing this blog.

For instance, did you know that the sporran, the fur-covered pouch on the front of a kilt, is made of sealskin? (For that matter, did you even know it was called a sporran? I sure didn’t.)

And that Europe has a ban on the importation of sealskin products?

What’s a kilt-clad Scot to do?

Enter the Inuit, according to a report by Randy Boswell in the Nunatsiaq News:

    The plan to seek continued sealskin shipments through Inuit suppliers was revealed Sept. 20 in British media reports quoting Ian Chisholm, a leading Aberdeen kilt maker and industry spokesman.

    Describing the proposed Inuit supply chain as a potential “lifesaver” for kilt makers, Chisholm pointed to special exemptions for Inuit hunters under the European ban, which has been slammed by the Canadian government and Inuit organizations.

Until the possibility of obtaining sealskins from the Inuit arose, kilt makers were facing the end of an era for traditional sporrans. Apparently synthetics or rabbit fur just won’t do.

“Nothing beats sealskin,” Chisholm says. “It has a quality of its own. It has a beautiful luster against the tartans of the kilts.”

There you have it.

Gwen Florio

A Quebec archeologist has unearthed the ghostly carving of a face left buried on a remote Arctic island inhabited nearly 1,000 years ago by the long-lost Dorset, or Tuniit, culture — the people who disappeared from the eastern Arctic when the ancestors of today's Inuit arrived in what is now Canada. (Robert Frechette/Avataq Cultural Institute)

A Quebec archeologist has unearthed the ghostly carving of a face left buried on a remote Arctic island inhabited nearly 1,000 years ago by the long-lost Dorset, or Tuniit, culture — the people who disappeared from the eastern Arctic when the ancestors of today's Inuit arrived in what is now Canada. (Robert Frechette/Avataq Cultural Institute)

The Nunatsiaq News, of Nunavut, reports that a Quebec archeologist working on a remote Arctic island inhabited nearly 1,000 years ago by the extinct Dorset – or Tuniit – culture has unearthed a significant find, a carving of a face.

As Randy Boswell of Postmedia News writes here, the Tuniit mysteriously vanished from Canada’s North after the ancestors of modern-day Inuit arrived. Of the carving, he writes:

    The small, elaborately sculpted “maskette” — possibly worn as an amulet by a shaman serving as a Dorset tribe’s guide to the spiritworld — is believed to have been made from walrus ivory and was found on one of the Nuvuk Islands at the northwestern tip of Quebec’s Ungava Peninsula.

    Traces of the long-lost Dorset people, who are known to have evolved an artistically advanced society despite their harsh Arctic living conditions, are among the most prized discoveries in Canadian archaeology.

    And the carved face, possibly meant to depict a female elder who provided leadership to her community, represents a particularly evocative image, with ears, eyes, nose and mouth all clearly defined on the elongated piece of ivory.

“It may have had some kind of shamanic meaning, but of course we can only offer various possible explanations. Alternatively it could have served as a toy, or some kind of good luck amulet,” says Susan Lofthouse, an archeologist with the Montreal-based Avataq Cultural Institute.

The carving was discovered last year during a dig at a known Dorset dwelling site by a group, led by Lofthouse, of Inuit high school students from nearby Ivujivik, along with graduate students from Universite Laval and Universite de Montreal.

The maskette is just five centimeters high.

It’s thought that maybe horizontal lines etched below its mouth could represent facial tattoos historically worn by Inuit women, and maybe by Dorset, too.

Gwen Florio

Qisirtutauyaq (juniper), cloudberrry, crowberry and more – those are the flavors of herbal tea made in Nunavik that have earned a national culinary achievement award in Canada.

Sarah Rogers of Nunatsiaq News reports here that the honor to the Avataq cultural institute in Nunavik was among six Governor General’s awards given in Ottawa last month.

The ingredients used in the blends are harvested by people in Nunavik and shipped south. They sell under the name Northern Delights. As Rogers writes:

    Harvesting ingredients for the tea in Nunavik ( photo)

    Harvesting ingredients for the tea in Nunavik ( photo)

    Avataq was recognized under the “stewardship and sustainability” category for helping support traditional Inuit activities as well as preserve ancestral knowledge of plants in the region.

    “We’re all really happy,” said Taqralik Partridge, an Avataq spokesperson. “The teas have been really popular, but we needed an emphasis to take it to the next level.”

    Avataq’s president, Charlie Arngak, attended a June 23 awards ceremony at Rideau Hall, where the teas have been served for many years.

There are five flavors – ground juniper (qisirtutauyaq), Labrador tea (mamaittuqutik), cloudberry (arpiqutik), Arctic blend (ukiurtatuq) and crowberry (paurngaqutik.)

Read more about them here, where you’ll learn, among other things, that qisirtutauyaq is believed to be good for colds.

Rogers reports that Avataq hopes to expand to the U.S. market. Fingers crossed!

Gwen Florio

Enjoy the day!

Gwen Florio

Manitoba deputy premier Eric Robinson will be among those present today when for the national hearing of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in Winnipeg.

The idea, CBC reports here, is to expose and deal with the pain and suffering caused by residential schools. Robinson has first-hand experience with that. He was a student at the Jack River School in Norway House, Manitoba, where he was sexually abused by a priest. And yet, he counts himself relatively fortunate:

    “My father was a student at one of these places, went there for seven or eight years, never learned anything more than how to write his name, but he sure became a good farmhand.

    “My mother went … at the age of three. She came out when she was 18 to a world of alcoholism and drug abuse and she died alone on the streets of Winnipeg at the age of 31 when I was 11 years old.”

Some 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, about 85,000 still living, were forced to attend the government- and church-run schools, the last of which closed in 1996.

Some of those survivors filed a class-action lawsuit, and the $60 million commission is the result.

Gwen Florio

The town of Puvirnituq, in Nunavik. (Toronto Globe and Mail photo)

The town of Puvirnituq, in Nunavik. (Toronto Globe and Mail photo)

Turnover among non-Inuit teachers is as high as 75 percent at Puvirnituq’s Iguarsivik school in the Hudson Bay area of Nunavik, and teachers say they’re fed up.

Iguarsivik teacher Pierre-Luc Bélisle tells Jane George of the Nunatsiaq News, here, that two students punched him in the stomach last month, and were back in school two days later:

    “I thought there would be some consequence. I didn’t invent a story about a student. I am there to protect them, for their security, it’s my job,” said Bélisle, who felt his credibility as a teacher was put in doubt. “I think that’s unacceptable.”

    After learning nothing had been done, Bélisle, who had already filed a police report on the incident, went to a doctor who put him on a two-week leave.

Belisle, who arrived last year, plans to leave at school year’s end.

As George reports, 15 of the school’s 21 teachers are non-Inuit. The school has about 260 students from Grade 4 to Secondary 5. Turnover is about 75 percent among the non-Inuit teachers, at least five of whom have taken leave to deal with injuries and trauma, she writes. As George further reports:

    In recent years, Nunavik has experienced growing violence in its schools and against its students and teachers.

    Countless episodes of vandalism, harassment and bullying in school classrooms and playgrounds have gone largely unreported.

    The most horrific episodes include the shooting of a female teacher in Salluit in 2005 and the severe beating of a school principal in Kangiqsujuaq that same year. …

    Over the years, Iguarsivik has faced other waves of violence. In 1993 the school and community were wracked by a series of violent incidents, which saw one teacher assaulted and several teachers’ homes vandalized.

    Then, in 2006, student vandals ransacked the school, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

The school now has video surveillance, security entrance cards for staff, and hall monitors.

“The people who are losing out are the students,” says one teacher. “If we can’t help them, if there’s no follow-up by the administration, no program in the school against violence, how can we help educate the future citizens of Puvirnituq?”

Gwen Florio

Bookmark and Share

Takuginai is here – and today, by here, we mean right here on your computer. Takuginai, the popular Nunavut children’s show that runs in both Inuktitut and English, now has its own Web site.

Much like Sesame Street, Takuginai – which has been on the air for 25 years – uses a mix of puppets, people, and graphics to teach kids how to read and count.

Takuginai’s puppets include Johnny the Lemming, Granny and Grandpa, Pukki and Meesee, the Nunatsiaq News reports here.

Innuinaqtun and French versions of the Web site are also planned. The show is produced by the Inuit Broadcasting Corp.

Watch part of a Takuginai episode on smoking below. And, enjoy!

Gwen Florio