Nunavut body honours elders for contributions to culture, heritage
“Many of the elders have worked within the schools teaching skills to younger children and generally sharing their knowledge”
The Inuit Heritage Trust has recognized three Nunavut elders for their contributions to the territory.
Sally Qimmiu’naaq Webster of Baker Lake, Inuk Aiyout of Taloyoak and Susan Avingaq of Igloolik are the 2017 recipients of the Inuit Heritage Trust’s elder awards.
The program, which gives out awards every two years, aims to recognize the work of Inuit elders who help Nunavummiut understand Inuit culture and heritage, the Inuit Heritage Trust said.
Community members and heritage organizations from throughout Nunavut recommend potential candidates to the Inuit Heritage Trust. An elder is then chosen from each of the three regions. The award includes a plaque of recognition and a $1,500 prize for each recipient.
“Many of the elders have worked within the schools teaching skills to younger children and generally sharing their knowledge,” the Inuit Heritage Trust said of all elders recognized by the program. “They have also played an invaluable role to the work of IHT in sharing traditional knowledge about place names, archaeology, oral history and how to appropriately deal with Inuit cultural materials.”
Here is some background for each recipient:
Sally Qimmiu’naaq Webster was born at Aberdeen Lake, west of the Kivalliq community of Baker Lake.
“Sally has worked tirelessly over the years sharing her knowledge and culture with Inuit in various communities in Nunavut,” says a biography released by the Inuit Heritage Trust.
At a community level, Webster has worked as a teacher’s assistant and as a ladies group coordinator for the Nunavut Arctic College.
As an entrepreneur, she managed her own business—Baker Lake Fine Arts and Crafts—where the featured works of female Inuit artists from the community of about 2,000 have been promoted to larger galleries, museums and private collections.
Webster, a mother of five children and grandmother of seven, currently lives in Ottawa where she worked with the Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
She was an advisor and editor of Sanatujut: Pride in Women’s Work and Our Boots: An Inuit Women’s Art.
And she has also served as a heritage advisor for Inuit students pursuing post secondary education at masters and doctorate levels.
“As an elder she is often invited to open meetings with a prayer and light the qulliq,” said the IHT release.
Webster has led the qulliq-lighting ceremony for gatherings at the United Nations, at two first ministers’ conferences, as well as for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, among others.
Inuk Aiyout is from the western Nunavut community of Taloyoak.
“He loves to go out on the land, tell stories of the past, speak Inuktitut and teach young children about the past,” said the Inuit Heritage Trust release, which included comments submitted by his award nominator.
“He teaches about how to survive, how to make an iglu, how to make qamutiks, how to make hunting tools, how to hunt seals, caribous, whales, bear, etc.”
Aiyout does all this even though he only has one arm.
The nominator said Aiyout gives generously of his time as a mentor, despite struggling through his own personal loss.
Aiyout lost a daughter and two young grandchildren to a house fire in 2012. His wife passed away shortly afterward.
“He is able to still get up and teach a lot of young people in our community of Inuit cultures and tradition,” says a biography from the Inuit Heritage Trust.
Susan Avingaq of Igloolik is a unilingual elder who was born in an igloo in 1942 and raised on the land.
Her award biography called her an ambassador for arts in Nunavut, a role she has filled internationally while attending arts festivals in Finland, Mexico and Toronto, as well as throughout Nunavut.
“She is a most valued team member of Isuma Productions, Arnait Video Productions as well as Qaggiq Arts Society,” her brother-in-law wrote. “Over the years she has been a singer, actor, storyteller, a writer, a teacher, a film producer, author of children’s books, fashion designer, costume designer [and] a seamstress.”
Avingaq has eight children, and is a grandmother and a great grandmother. Her book, Fishing with Grandma, was published last year by Inhabit Media in English and Inuktitut.
She also teaches Inuit culture and arts at schools in Igloolik.