Nunavik conference to help Inuit youth “take their values back”
Two-day meeting will gather youth and elders in Kangiqsujuaq April 17 to April 18
Louisa Cookie-Brown has spent much of her career working to support elders and at-risk Inuit.
But the Nunavik elder, originally from Kuujjuaraapik, said she’s noticed a movement in recent years, particularly among the region’s youth, to heal from past trauma and to “take their values back.”
“Young people have shown their strength and hunger,” she said. “And we elders have to wake up and respond.”
And she has. Cookie-Brown has been appointed as an elder representative to the Qarjuit Youth Council’s board of directors. Next week, she is one of about a dozen elders taking part in a two-day youth and elder retreat, coordinated by the youth council.
The group wants to bridge a important gap—Inuit identity and values, and how they’re seen from Nunavik’s eldest to its youngest generation.
Alicia Aragutak, president of the Qarjuit Youth Council, said the council has heard Nunavik youth ask very clearly for help connecting with their roots.
“It was very evident that Inuit identity and culture isn’t really present in our society today,” she said.
“We have very proud Inuit youth but … we can’t really elaborate on that topic. There’s always that gap.”
On April 17 and April 18, 11 elders and 27 youth will sit together in Kangiqsujuaq’s community hall. The event will start with elders sharing their past and present.
“They’ll talk about all kinds of things; how they were educated, how they show love and coping mechanisms,” Aragutak said. “And then we’ll ask the youth the same questions, to see the commonalities and differences.”
Cookie-Brown wants to highlight the traditional ways of life that once defined Inuit.
As Inuit were settled into communities, they lost a lot, Cookie-Brown recalled, from their self-governing systems to their methods of travelling and harvesting.
“As our values were taken away, there was a lot of hurt,” she said. “It weakened us, and when that happened, [Inuit] started to compete.
“We are very strong people because we survived with all that was taken away,” she said. “It will take time to recover all the things we’ve have lost.”
Alison Mesher, 23, originally from Kuujjuaq, is a hairdressing student based in Montreal who has registered for the conference.
For her, it’s a chance to learn more about traditional Inuit values that have been lost.
“I don’t really hear anyone speaking about their past,” Mesher said. “My parents never really talked about our history.”
The two-day retreat also aims to come up with action items on how Inuit youth can better connect with their culture in their home communities.
Mesher would love to see the event participants come up with some ideas for new programming and activities that can be offered to Inuit youth in Nunavik communities, to keep youth busy and build their confidence.
Like Mesher and Cookie-Brown, the event’s participants are mostly women.
Originally, the gathering was targeted at young men, but organizers found more interest among young women—as Aragutak said is the case with many of Qarjuit’s events.
“This is one of our challenges—to get more young men involved,” she said.