Nunatsiaq News
FEATURES: Nunavik May 08, 2018 - 10:30 am

Nunavik Sivunitsavut’s all-female grad group learns and bonds

“We’re like a family here”

Fifteen young people from Nunavik—all women—will celebrate their graduation from Nunavik Sivunitsavut at a ceremony on May 18. Eighteen people had started the course last fall. Program organizers said they have made more efforts to seek male applicants and that
Fifteen young people from Nunavik—all women—will celebrate their graduation from Nunavik Sivunitsavut at a ceremony on May 18. Eighteen people had started the course last fall. Program organizers said they have made more efforts to seek male applicants and that "20 per cent" of next year's class will be male. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

MONTREAL—As a single mother, Mary Saunders used to do her homework at night when her daughter was asleep.

The 24-year-old Nunavik Sivunitsavut student from Kuujjuaq remembered how she would whisper with her roommate after dark when studying, so as not to wake the sleeping children.

Roommates and classmates at Montreal’s new post-secondary program for Inuit students from Nunavik were happy to have each other for support to overcome the challenges of studying far from their Nunavik homes.

But they also had their NS teachers and other classmates, who, over the last year, have grown into a close-knit team.

“We’re like a family here,” is a common refrain, which five of the students separately told Nunatsiaq News.

Saunders and her NS class “family” are set to graduate May 18. Out of the 18 students originally enrolled in NS’s first year, 15 have stuck it out to the end and graduated.

“This 72 per cent completion rate is excellent if you compare it to the overall completion rate of Nunavik students sponsored by the school board at the post-secondary level, which has been around 50 per cent for many years now,” said Jade Duchesneau-Bernier, the communications coordinator for Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the regional school board in Nunavik.

Over the last five years, 264 students received a high school diploma, Duchesneau-Bernier said.

Of the Nunavik high school graduates who start college, about half continue their studies beyond the first year. This year, all the Nunavik students who completed their first-year of NS are women.

But since then, NS has made extra efforts since then to recruit more male students, so there will be more male students next year.

“We are happy to say that this year 20 per cent of those who were successful in their application are men, compared to five per cent last year,” Duchesneau-Bernier said.

The program’s achievements are remarkable, she said, noting the value of the courses in Inuit and circumpolar history, politics, governance, culture and language.

“Over the past two semesters, we have witnessed each and every student bloom as their sense of identity and leadership skills strengthened,” Duchesneau-Bernier said.

“The skills and knowledge they acquire prepare them to either transition into the Nunavik workforce or to further their education at the post-secondary level.”

Taking their cue from Ottawa’s Nunavut Sivuniksavut program for Nunavut Inuit, Quebec’s NS staff members help students cope with moving to the city from Nunavik for a post-secondary education.

A social worker and student life animateur work closely with the students to help them adjust to urban life and work through the challenges that come with living far away from family.

Learning about decolonization and the impacts of residential schooling on current Inuit was tough for some of the students, said Paasa Lemire, a 20-year-old NS student from Kuujjuaq.

It was sometimes difficult to not cry while learning about some parts of Inuit history, said Lemire. But she said she recognizes the importance of this knowledge.

Her best friend Allison May, another NS student from Kuujjuaq, also said she saw the value of the course work, even if some parts triggered difficult emotions.

Lemire and May said they plan to study at Dawson College in community and social work because of what they learned at NS.

They said they want to take their education back to Kuujjuaq afterwards to serve their community with an Inuit-specific focus.

“One angle we had not really anticipated before courses started last year is the impact that the course content can have on students,” Duchesneau-Bernier said.

Jason Annahatak, the director of Kativik School Board’s post-secondary department, plans to introduce an extra space in the programming next year for this purpose.

“We want to create a weekly workshop space for the students to express how they feel about the course material, to check in and debrief,” Annahatak told Nunatsiaq News.

Neevie Simigak, 19, from Kangirsuk said her year at NS changed her as a person.

She already spoke Inuktitut fluently, but often uses English words in between. She said the program opened her eyes to the ways in which Inuktitut needs to be preserved, and that she feels drawn toward doing that work now.

“I used to not know about colonization and it changed me,” Simigak said. She said the program made her more aware, in particular, of not wanting to lose her language.

When she started living in Montreal, Simigak realized most people in the city barely know about Inuit.

“I want to educate people in the South about us through writing,” Simigak said.

For those considering applying to NS in the future, Simigak only has words of encouragement.

“If you want to learn more about yourself, your culture and your history, then going to NS is the perfect place,” Simigak said.

“When I came to NS, I made a family. I will be visiting NS even when I am not in NS any more.”

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(17) Comments:

#1. Posted by Alookee on May 08, 2018

Awesome women! Congratulations! <3

#2. Posted by Imagine that on May 08, 2018

Imagine the outrage if it as all men.

#3. Posted by Boy named Sue on May 08, 2018

Congratulations to the grads! Just wondering where the males are for this program?

#4. Posted by Young Men on May 08, 2018

Many young men are in the smoke sheds, which are also workshops. 
It happened a few years after smoking at home was band.  They began to gather and smoke some dope.  It was just one of those odd things that happened. 

It is not just young men who are absent from social and community life.  Men also are less present in social and community life.  They have to come back to their father role and do it well.

#5. Posted by Sounds good on May 09, 2018

This program sounds good, but I’m not yet impressed. I’m concerned that it will interfere with students getting a higher education. Just look at the John Abbott programs over the years. These program stopped the Inuit student right in their studies, in that most didn’t go any further in their studies. They go back to the community believing that they accomplish a good education, which in fact it’s just the start of an education. Most of that programs material should have been taught in high school in the first place. False hope is always alive and well in Nunavik mentality. Oh , I hope it proves me wrong, but I’m not sure it will.

#6. Posted by False hope on May 09, 2018

Yes, to comment #5. To look at the faces of theses young females, and see that they are taken in to this program with a false hope. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of those that designed this falseness towards our young people. Our young people are always pushed into these dead end designs, they’re not even aware. No wonder we keep going backwards in our struggles.

#7. Posted by I rather not to. on May 09, 2018

I rather not have my child take this program. I rather my child go to an education whereby a world wide interaction with other cultures. I don’t want my child being fed a prerequisite for hatred. This decolonization stuff has gone into an illness. Kids are growing up with hatred, and being fed more as young adults.

#8. Posted by Segregation on May 09, 2018

40 years ago, we were send south to schools, segregated from the main stream. We accomplished nothing. A few of us, that did accomplish were able to convince the system to allow the non- segregated to happen. This segregation will accomplish nothing for Nunavik, nothing for inuit. This program is nothing more than someone’s misunderstanding about how the human harmony and interaction are to be place healthily in this world. This has to stop, for all inuit to go forward and grow into educated people. We have to seek out theses people that are designing this terrible set backs for inuit. We have to make them stop. We have to educate inuit to be aware of such backward gestures that are keeping us uneducated and behind the main stream. Yes, we need to be aware of how our history was, but we also need to be aware that we are still being lead down the corridor of nowhere.

#9. Posted by Ex Student on May 09, 2018

The thing I most appreciate about NS was seeing the workings of a
Southern city and visiting Panama at the end of the semester.
My elders have told me that a lot of what we do in life is up to
ourselves, a good work ethic, good money management, and keep
away from soul destroying addictions.
As my grandfather quotes “You probably won’t have a perfect life, but
then again who the heck does.”
Talking for myself, I have no regrets about the NS program, better
than doing nothing.

#10. Posted by Boy named Sue on May 09, 2018

Yes #4 when most of the suicides are young men they seem to really be lost but not much programs or services for them. It’s great that these young ladies are doing good in this program but I am a little disappointed that not one young man went through with it. I wonder why that is?

#11. Posted by To ex student on May 09, 2018

That’s great ex student. You saw the workings of a southern city , and a visit to another culture. Hope you are doing well in your education, or are a product today of your education. The concerns are real in that those of us with the concerns are so that way because of the many wrong turns made in vain of achievement for our young inuit. We want our young people to achieve the best in all they do. But we are concerned about programs that don’t address the issue, rather, theses programs keep us away from our full potential, and more dangerously making us believe it’s a good thing. We need to stay on our toes and criticize, until we see that this program is the best way. Right now , I don’t think it is. I think, it’s just a first thought, but not thought out well. Only looks and sounds good. We need to jump into the main stream, and be part of the real, not the segregation of our life away from the rest of society. Hard world out there, but we are part of it, not to be always hidden.

#12. Posted by Two sided story of life on May 09, 2018

It’s really bothersome that inuit are kept away from the truth in society. That’s exactly the nature of this program of studies. If you look at some other common every day aspects in Nunavik, it’s the same old story. Take a drivers education course in a place like Kuujjuaq: you have an instructor teaching people how to drive the proper way, and in Kuujjuaq there are rough roads, if it can be called a road, and the instructor don’t take the student on these roads, because they are not proper roads, yet it’s where the student will drive when they learn to drive. The student is taught to drive, not in reality, but in the code of southern quebec. Just think about what I just wrote, and think about reality, and the make believe as we live our life. Oh, don’t forget, that in Kuujjuaq, like other Nunavik communities, you don’t need to be a certain age or have a license to drive either. Null and void of all that could be taught and learnt.

#13. Posted by Deserve the best way on May 09, 2018

These young students deserve the best ways. They are opening their minds to learning what is set out for them. Some would say that the best of a student don’t really need a teacher, as they shall find their own education. But that’s not what we talk of here. In this we see that it’s a presentation of studies made for the student, and it’s like most presenting material made to learn. But this material is not in the best interest of secondary studies as a made for all inuit model. I agree with some comments above in that its more damaging than good. Imagine going away from your culture to learn about your culture. Not that it’s not a good thing, but it calls many other things into question. There are more questions that need answering. I want my kids to learn about the history of the dog slatter, not that it shouldn’t have happened, but it did happened, and nothing we can do to prevent that it did happen. But we can react to it in our best interests, and not succumb to the effects.

#14. Posted by North on May 09, 2018

Congrats to them all and this should also be sending off alarm bells in education that there are no men attending. A common route cause in many Northern Communities is men and boys failing to find there place in the education system.

#15. Posted by iThink on May 09, 2018

In my opinion getting out of the North to study is a really great feature of these programs. If you have never done it living in the south is surely challenging, but it offers an opportunity for personal growth and real confidence building. Living in a different environment, surrounded by a different culture also broadens your perspective. How can any of that been seen as negative?

#16. Posted by Older man on May 18, 2018

I am happy for these young ladies, but I find there is not enough concern that there are no young men represented, if we take this and reverse it and have only young men graduating and no young ladies at all I am sure it would really be in the news and people demanding that women be represented equally. I hope next school year more young men will take part.

#17. Posted by Minnie Kasudluak on May 20, 2018

Thank you and Thank you all for you thoughts. I am one of the first students of NS. I am pretty happy this program started. FYI, I have attend JAC before too. We are all entitled to our own opinion. With that being said. This is just the first one, the first try, the first step, one of the first post-secondary level studies based on Inuit traditional culture and history/past. And it’s credited. This is just the start. (I agree with Lizzie, in order to move forward, we have to know our past). This is going to be Inuit for Inuit/Inuit by Inuit program. This is implementing. This is just the beginning. We envision for the program one day be runned by all and only Inuit AND have the program to be studied in Nunavik. We(being Nunavimmiut) need and want higher education and better future right.?.
This is just one New program, because we (“we” being Nunavimmiut) need and want highly educated Inuit professionals e.g.. Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, CEO’s, Managers, Leaders, Judges, Pasters, self-g

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