NWT languages commissioner visits Nunavut

Aboriginal languages are disappearing, language watchdog says

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS

Use your language or lose your culture.

That’s the message NWT Languages Commissioner Judi Tutcho brought to schools in Igloolik, Iqaluit and Apex last week.

“Young people are learning to speak English and they’re not using their own language,” she told a group of sixth graders at Nakasuk School in Iqaluit Thursday.

“They say language is cheap. It’s free. If you sincerely feel you don’t want the language to die, you need to use it.”

The best way to do this, she said, is through speaking and cultural activities, especially when they involve elders in a community.

Celebrate language

Tutcho attended the Igloolik Qaggiq ’97 celebration last week to welcome the return of the sun and encourage the use of Inuktitut at home, school and work. Part of the celebration, though, was postponed because of a death in the community.

Tutcho, however, was impressed with the energy behind the idea.

“I’m going to be promoting Igloolik as a challenge to other communities in the NWT to do that. It’s a very unique idea.”

While on a stopover in Iqaluit, Tutcho took time to visit local schools and educational institutions.

“I take every opportunity I have to come out to the schools to give support and encouragement and hear the concerns people have about language.”

More aboriginal people needed

But they’re not new concerns and people still worry they can’t correspond with government in their own language. Tutcho said there’s also a lack of aboriginal teachers at the high school level and an absence of aboriginal men in the field of education.

“I’m not the only one. There are parents, teachers, schools and community and political leaders who need to say this is a priority.”

Tutcho said many aboriginal languages, such as Dogrib and Chipewyan, have a greater chance to be lost because they’re not used enough.

“Inuktitut will be alive a lot longer because the people use it and have fun with it.”

When the territories divide, Tutcho will not represent Nunavut. When asked by a student whether there will be one language to conduct business in Nunavut, Tutcho said that’s not her decision.

“It’s up to the Nunavut people which dialect they want to use, but if we can keep the language alive let’s work on that. Why bother with concentrating on dialects?”

However, that’s one of the first issues that must be dealt with by the Nunavut languages commissioner

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