Inukitut-language daycare finally open in capital

Small footprints mean big news for Iqaluit parents


The toddler crawling around the floor of Tumikuluit Saipaaqivik didn't care who was speaking. He was more interested in the toys.

But the dozens of politicians, parents and supporters who crammed inside the home of Iqaluit's new Inuktitut-language daycare were much more attentive.

While Inuktitut-language daycares in smaller Nunavut communities are commonplace, Looee Arreak, chair of the Iqaluit Inuktitut Daycare Society, said it's harder to steep Inuit kids in their own culture here because of the dominance of English in the capital.

"We've heard time and time again from parents and we've experienced it ourselves: when the children are at home they speak Inuktitut and when we take them to the daycare they lose their language."

Nunavut commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson recalled an attempt in the early 1970s to found a similar daycare in Iqaluit that was a result of Inuit families moving into new communities. Now, after the creation of Nunavut, and with more Inuit families having both parents working waged jobs, Inuktitut-language daycare is a necessity, she said.

"Traditionally it is our responsibility to look after our own children," she said.

And Education Minister Ed Picco, who's sat on daycare boards in the past and whose children attended Inuktitut-language daycare when the family lived in Hall Beach, said it's high time for such a facility.

"We've waited a long time for an Inuktitut daycare," he said. "It's fantastic."

Tumikuluit Saipaaqivik, which translates into "small footprints," has room for 20 kids: four infants and 16 toddlers. Waiting for the children is an Inuktitut-language curriculum developed by Leena Evic at the Piruvik Centre, culturally-relevant toys and regular visits by elders who will share stories and play string games. Not only that, the entire facility is laid out like the inside of an igloo.

All this means huge demand for spaces at the centre. At $40 a day, the cost is the same as any other daycare in the city, and land-claim beneficiaries qualify for a subsidy from the Kakivak Association.

"It's been full a long time ago," Arreak said.

Because of the Inuktitut-language curriculum, the centre qualifies for funding from the Department of Culture,Language, Elders and Youth. The Qikiqtaani Inuit Association and Kakivak Association have also chipped in, Arreak said.

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