Igloolik residents celebrate language and sunshine


The sun is back in Igloolik ­ and Igloolik residents have honoured it with the kind of welcome usually associated with New Year’s Eve.

Almost all of the community turned out for the “Qaggiq” at Attagutaaluk School last week.

Igloolik’s oldest resident, 91-year old Rosie Iqallijuk, lit the flame of a special qulliq. This qulliq was surrounded by five other soapstone lamps set in the centre of the gym.

As a symbol of the return of sun and a new beginning, all qulliqs, except the central lamp, were extinguished. Then, a young student took a burning wick around to solemnly relight the others.

“With brighter days being back, we hope the light will be brighter in the future,” Lazarus Arreak, the president of the Qiqiqtani Inuit Association, told the gathering.

“We hope that alcohol and drugs will continue to do no more damage to our communities.”

The recent drug overdose of a young man in Igloolik had postponed the “Qaggiq” for several days.

The evening of traditional Inuit entertainment continued into the wee hours of the night, with ay-ya-ya singing, drum dancing, games, juggling and square dancing. There was also an informal fashion show of traditional clothing.

The Qaggiq was also the central event marking Inuktitut Language Week.

Igloolik is the only community in the Northwest Territories that sets aside a special time for language promotion.

Although many of the week’s planned events were postponed, the community radio has a series of language-related broadcasts in store. There will be segments on subjects like ice hunting, traditional clothing, and treatment of animals.

Otak will also host a phone-in show on the meanings of older, less well known, Inuktitut words.

And soon, a newsletter about Inuktitut will be distributed to everyone in the community.

Otak is concerned about the decline of the Inuktitut language in Igloolik.

Some younger people, she says, substitute English words for common Inuktitut words.

“They might even say ‘sitdown-illutit,’ for instance,” she says.

But, judging from the enthusiastic response of participants and performers at the Qaggiq, Inuit language and culture got a boost.

“I take the time to reflect on what it means to me,” said drum-dancer James Ungalaq.

“I’m happy that I am here today because of my mother, my father, my grandparents and my grea-grandparents, who brought me here today. It’s a chance to celebrate my forefathers.”

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