Under new lead, Inuktut task force makes final touches to draft syllabus
"This is a long-term process and this is really just the beginning"
The national task force working to standardize written Inuktut has a new language specialist at its helm.
Evelyn Papatsi Kublu-Hill is the new national language coordinator at Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami-led initiative to create a unified writing system for all Inuktut dialects.
She replaces outgoing coordinator Monica Ittusardjuat, who left the position earlier this year.
Kublu-Hill comes to the job in the final months before the draft syllabus is handed over to ITK’s board of directors for review.
“We’re still hoping to do some consultation,” Kublu-Hill said. “This is a long-term process and this is really just the beginning.”
The eight-member task force, whose members span Inuit Nunangat, agreed last winter on recommended spelling and common terminology in Roman orthography.
The group will meet a few more times this spring to work on terms of reference, before submitting the draft to ITK’s board this August.
“For them to come to this point, the task force has done a lot of work,” she said. “But they’ve done this together.”
Kublu-Hill comes by her passion for Inuktut and language naturally. Her mother, Alexina Kublu, is Nunavut’s former language commissioner and a long-time language instructor, while her step-father, Mick Mallon, is another leading Inuktitut-as-a-second-language teacher.
“My interest in language stemmed from them … growing up and listening to them speak,” Kublu-Hill said.
“My mom was always making sure we retained out language.”
Throughout her childhood, Kublu-Hill’s family lived in different communities across the North, so she had the advantage of being exposed to a number of Inuktut dialects.
Later, Kublu-Hill took Nunavut Arctic College’s interpreter-translator program in Iqaluit and she studied linguistics for a time before she went on to do translation for the federal government. She also supervised translators at the Government of Nunavut.
Kublu-Hill had been working as a freelancer in the Ottawa area for a while when Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq posted the coordinator job, with the departure of outgoing coordinator Monica Ittusardjuat.
“I really wanted to get back to the hands-on work,” she said. “I really enjoy the long-term goal, which is to strengthen our language.”
To Inuit who have raised concerns about the Inuktut standardization process or advocated to keep syllabics, Kublu-Hill is quick to note that nothing will be lost through AIT’s process.
“On a regional level, we’re not pushing for any changes. We’re looking at it as a national auxiliary writing system,” she said.
“They can continue speaking the way they speak, writing the way they write, and how they do that is entirely up to them,” she added.
“What we’re looking at as a long-term goal is for each region to be able to communicate clearly with each other. With the aims of promoting, preserving and strengthening our language.”
The task force members for Nunavik include Harry Tulugak, Rita Novalinga and Robbie Watt. Nunavut’s members are Susie Evyagotailuk and Lizzie Aliqatuqtuq, while AIT is looking to fill a third position.
Lillian Elias, Beverly Amos and Albert Elias represent the Inuvialuit region, and Sophie Tuglavina, Christine Nochasak and Sarah Townley serve from Nunatsiavut. The National Inuit Youth Council president Ruth Kaviok is the group’s youth representative.