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Clyde River to get cultural school

Satellite sites to be established in Baker Lake, Arviat

By JANE GEORGE

Clyde River will be the home of Nunavut’s Piqqusilirivvik cultural school, Nunavut government officials announced this past Monday at a press conference in Iqaluit.

A plane-load of government ministers and reporters were weathered out of an “announcement” event in Clyde River, but that didn’t stop the community from celebrating the news anyway.

Baker Lake and Igloolik will serve as “satellite campuses” for the delivery of the school’s cultural programs, said Louis Tapardjuk, Nunavut’s culture minister.

Tapardjuk said the three communities will meet early in 2007 to review plans for Piqqusilirivvik with a GN-NTI committee.

The GN chose Clyde River over the other front-runner communities, Arviat, Baker Lake and Igloolik, because of the quality of its residents’ spoken Inuktitut and the strength of their project proposal.

“The Clyde River people made a very strong impression on the committee,” Tapardjuk said.

Premier Paul Okalik said the decision reflects the GN’s commitment to help smaller, non-decentralized communities, which don’t have any GN departmental offices to bolster their economy.

The GN is committing $10 million to Piqqusilirivvik, of which $710,000 will be spent in 2006-2007 on design work.

The school’s main building is to be built on a vacant plot on the road to the Clyde River dump.

But there’s little information on how the GN will pay for the school building, along with student and staff housing. There’s also no information about Piqqulirisivvik’s operations and maintenance costs

Paul Kaludjak, the president of Nunavut Tungavvik Inc, said Inuit development corporations, working with the GN, may possibly invest in a facility or facilities for Piqqusilirivvik.

“We already have an arrangement with the GN on the hospitals, and we can do the same thing here,” Kaludjak said. “It’s easy enough to do.”

However, Kaludjak said the development corporations haven’t yet held a full discussion on this possibility.

NTI and the GN also plan to go back to the federal government for more money, because they see the cultural school as part of the implementation of the Nunavut land claim agreement.

A steering committee from the GN and NTI will continue to develop the Piqqusilirivvik project, and will work closely with Clyde River, Baker Lake and Igloolik on developing the curriculum.

Tapardjuk said Piqqusilirivvik is going to be “totally new” and “not like any other” school in Nunavut. Central to its mandate will be the promotion of Inuit language and culture to Inuit and also to non-Inuit.

If the Piqqusilirivvik is anything like the Knud Rasmussen Folk High School in Sisimiut, it is likely to offer a similar mix of traditional, academic and specialized courses – all in Inuktitut.

The Knud Rasmussen Folk High School, which opened in 1962, is Greenland’s oldest folk high school. From the very start, the role of the Greenlandic language and culture was emphasized at the school.

To be admitted to the school, students don’t need a formal education, but, according to information on Sisimiut’s Web site, their ability to speak Greenlandic or Kalaallisut is “taken for granted.”

The Knud Rasmussen High School’s winter term begins in January and ends in May for its 52 students, who study Greenlandic, history, social sciences, literature, mathematics, Danish and English.

They can also take courses in tanning, handicraft, beadwork, stone polishing, science, geography, music, singing, sports, first aid and computer science.

In the spring, students head out on the land. During the summer and autumn, short-term courses on current social or cultural issues are offered.

The GN and NTI have looked at the folk high school model for more than five years. In the spring of 2000, the department of education started a scholarship program, so a Nunavut resident could study in Sisimiut at the folk high school.

Four years ago, representatives from the GN, NTI and the Greenland government agreed there is much Nunavut could learn from the folk school on preserving and strengthening Inuktitut.
They then decided to look closely at the idea of a similar folk high school in Nunavut.

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