In her International Inuit Day message, Governor General Mary May Simon called on Inuit to continue their ‘drive’ for positive change and the reclamation of their language and traditions. (Photo courtesy of Rideau Hall/Sgt. Johanie Maheu)

Inuit must continue ‘drive’ to reclaim traditional values and rights, Mary May Simon says

Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General draws on personal experience in International Inuit Day message

By Nunatsiaq News

Inuit in Canada must continue working for positive change and to take back their traditional values and rights, said Governor General Mary May Simon — the first Indigenous person to hold the position — as she marked International Inuit Day.

“I am heartened by the fact that our stories are starting to be seen and heard, through music, art, literature, research, environmental stewardship, new governance arrangements and new perspectives on Canada’s history,” May Simon wrote in a message she issued Sunday morning to mark the occasion.

International Inuit Day has been observed since 2006 when the Inuit Circumpolar Council designated Nov. 7 as a day to celebrate the Arctic and the people who call it home. That date was selected because it was the birthday of Eben Hopson Sr., an Arctic political leader and founder of the ICC, the council’s website says.

May Simon, who became Governor General in the summer, drew on her own memories growing up in Nunavik to mark this year’s Internationl Inuit Day.

In a message released by Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s official residence, May Simon said the stories of her own life were “anchored” in her love of her first language, Inuktitut, and the traditional ways of Inuit. She described living off the land, hunting, fishing and gathering food as “the foundation of my early life.”

“Some of my favourite moments are of laying in our tents along the George River, on a bed of spruce boughs and caribou skins, listening to the birds singing early in the morning and the dogs barking and playing in the snow,” she wrote.

However, “sombre chapters” in Inuit history also shaped her life, including the effect of colonialism on Inuktitut and Inuit traditions, she wrote.

Inuit have found strength in the adversity they faced.

“(We) have worked to promote understanding and healing, knowing that we must not relax our drive for positive change and that we must take back our traditional values and rights,” May Simon wrote.

On International Inuit Day, May Simon was scheduled to attend a ceremony in Ottawa to rename a park after Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook, who died in the nation’s capital in 2016.

Share This Story

(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hmm.. on

    How many select few ever get high paying jobs in somewhere that Inuktitut is mandatory? I mean, language laws forced Mary Simon to learn French for her position. I’m going to go off on a limb here and say that keeping our tradition may be important but so is comprehending the language of business if we ever want our people to thrive. Keeping our kids in inuktitut until grade three just isn’t beneficial to our children or the future. Our language isn’t threatened. Our language is strong enough as is. In Quebec even French opens more doors for Inuit people than Inuktitut does. Arguably even more so than English. Unless you plan to tackle language laws in Quebec for the Inuit of Quebec, I suggest removing the mandatory grades K-3 Inuktitut curriculum. This only sets our people back when it comes to adequate education for more generations.

    37
    20
    • Posted by Hmm.. on

      Inuit orgs and companies be like “no one wants to work.”

      I’ve applied to several. I have a bachelors in social science. No one is hiring Inuit, period. Inuit nunangani.

      20
      13
        • Posted by Soothsayer on

          I’m interested in the truth too, just like you are. Would you tell us what field your degree is in, specifically? And the kind of work you have been applying for? These kinds.od details would help cast a bit more light on your situation I believe.

          6
          6
          • Posted by Hmm.. on

            I’ve tried everything I’m capable and qualified of on the KRG job postings. They’re still up if you want to take a look. I’ve even applied to those I’m over qualified for in these desperate times. No one is hiring. Meanwhile I see a large percentage of southerners taking jobs. So much for Inuit having priority.

            5
            3
          • Posted by Clown Car on

            I appears some people only pretend to be interested in the truth.

            2
            2
            • Posted by Hmm.. on

              They’re more interested in my identity than being able to swallow what they’ve created as management within nunavik. They fear that they might not get that social and political promotion if they don’t oust their own people. That’s what I meant by “Inuit being unsupportive of Inuit”. I just wish they’d stop doing that. They have their answer and yet it isn’t good enough because they can’t precisely tell who is the one talking and who needs to be ousted. There are too many of us who have applied and never hear back from them until we see for ourselves that a southerner has taken the jobs we’ve applied for.

              4
              1
      • Posted by Isuarsivik Recruitment on

        Hi there! Have you heard about Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre’s many career opportunities? The new Centre will open by the end of 2022 and we’re always looking for new talent in many areas such as social services and management. At Isuarsivik, you will benefit from several weeks of vacation, cost-of-living differential, cargo allowance as well as experience cultural outings with your colleagues.

        Send us your application at recruitment@isuarsivik.ca and we will be happy to follow up with you as soon as possible. If you do not have a CV on-hand, you can also fill our Online Application Form : https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=gMtDfVG7U06ITvIoFgu3qwWBPPCW3fxKjUmflRtNp1ZUNENEMDRFS0VHRUM1VEoxUFowN0NVVzFKNS4u

  2. Posted by S on

    It seems that the author of this article – using woke editorial licence and snippets of Mary May’s doctrinaire quotes – is trying to turn readers away from supporting Canadian Inuit.

    10
    13
    • Posted by Hmm.. on

      The only thing I find not supporting Inuit is Inuit themselves. I am inuk. We have politicians and people in power who just slide us down the chute of inadequacy. Kavarnaturataq. This ain’t the 80s anymore but why are we stuck in the past?

      32
      1
    • Posted by iWonder on

      Dear S, I am as off-put by wokeism as anyone, but don’t see anything in this article that would connect it to that puerile body of thought.

      Can you tell us what has inspired you to make that connection?

      8
      2
      • Posted by S on

        iW; perhaps you’d need to self-identify your opposition to wokism.

        An oft-quoted term to describe the proponents of wokism is baizuo (a sarcastic reference to those whose political opinions are perceived as being guided by emotions or a hypocritical expectation to benefit from selflessness and empathy of others.) wikipedia, today

        Within that context, wokism also describes a high level of righteousness provoked by the sociopathic trait of terminal uniqueness. Otherwise, it can be kindly described as self-serving and classist.

        1
        7
  3. Posted by Judas on

    Inuit are Inuits biggest enemy. You can’t get others to support these struggles towards getting back the traditional values, if Inuit keep putting Inuit down. Others are just watching in amazement as this struggle between Inuit is taking place. If a new job comes up, or a new house or a better way, Inuit in charge are just too jealous of their fellow Inuit , and give it all away to outside.

    24
    3
    • Posted by Joseph ( Rankin Inlet ) on

      Yes , Judas, you got it right
      For years we blame Southerners for our problems, when it is our own fault !
      I think every beneficiary should be given their own money from land claims, instead of
      keeping the Inuit ” Big Shots ” in a great lifestyle, when we live in poverty.
      We have to do it for ourselves or we will always have nothing.

      11
      2
      • Posted by Hmm.. on

        I don’t know if you understand that the French govt came in riot gear to impose laws on Inuit which still affect us today! It’s a white lie to say that Inuit are exempt from such language laws. We are only given such freedom within the region but even so, French employment is going higher and higher from within our region, and with great favouritism. A majority of Inuit can’t make a living outside of the region without the French language to this day! Nunavut will never understand the struggle of Inuit living in Quebec and vice versa. We are the landholders of the economy yet we are given peanuts because of this and our leaders bowing down to the government of Quebec instead of the people they’re there to serve.

        1
        1
  4. Posted by Persevere on

    When there is a colonial culture and the dominant one has been the one promoted by systems of government, schools and organizations, especilally through this newspaper’s comment forum, the indigenous and inuit one will be systematically put down.

    Keep up the good work Ms Simon and Inuit orgs. Keep at it.

    11
    18
  5. Posted by Attasi pilurtuut on

    I support our rights in this society that dominant Inuit in general , Inuit are intelligent people and have lots of knowledge and to continue their culture and transitional towards other nationalities.
    Ad for education intutitut must must continue all the way to highest knowledge of mastering the language in schools everywhere in Inuit homeland and never to stop at certain degree such as Grade V.

    2
    3
    • Posted by Hmm.. on

      Than tackle the Quebec language laws so at least our language has some relevance from a business standpoint in and out of the region. I cannot even name my business in inuktitut while living outside our region. I cannot get provincial documents in English or inuktitut.

      Right now, the only market using nunaviks dialects of inuktitut is nunavik. That’s just my point. Everyone says it’s important but only fights for it within the region. Leaving thousands jobless because inuktitut in certain dialects are only useful within the region itself and only a select few will ever become successful. Now think about this.. how many jobs does that actually open up for us? The population is growing and we do need professionals in different fields and I feel and see this reflecting in our youth who just waste their lives away feeling useless because, they’re not qualified for any other job that isn’t already taken by a person with the same qualifications needed for a handful of jobs. No wonder our people seem so reliant on the certain few!

      6
      3
      • Posted by Hmm.. on

        P.S. it isn’t because they don’t want to work. It is because the work that’s offered to them for the qualifications they have isn’t worth the pay they’re given. Barely making ends meet. Living paycheque to paycheque. Can’t afford to save a penny. This is why so many people are on welfare. People see the option of lower rent costs being unemployed. People see so much support for the ones not working. If only inuktitut was as valuable as you guys say it is, our pay cheques wouldn’t be so insignificant. Our people would actually be working. Our orgs and corps would actually be hiring Inuit instead of southerners.

        9
        10
        • Posted by Hmm.. on

          P.P.S I like your optimism but that does not put us into living wage jobs or pay the bills.

          5
          2
          • Posted by Hmm.. on

            let me break it down.. 120$ a day just doesn’t cover life. 50$ of food for two small family meals a day. 10$ for gas if you plan to stick to the confines of your own home after you get home from work. Rent 800$ so about 26$ a day. Luxuries such as cable, internet, phone.. about another 10$ a day. Cigs (if you do smoke which is quite common in the north) 20$ a day. Kids want money to get around too. Let’s avg it out to 5$ a day. That 120$ a day doesn’t even pay for the weekends, unless you don’t even have time for your family on weekends because, you’re stuck at work trying to afford life.

            What if we took the meals and housing they provide southerners and provided it for our own people to go to the construction camps with that fat wage of 32$ an hour they’re offering the southerners? 4K for a ticket to fly them the north and back, when we have a bunch of able bodied trained people all around nunavik in the field of construction. Pigiursavik pops out with a class full every two years. Cmon! We have electricians, we have carpenters, we have plumbers and people specialized in heating! But let’s all toss that away to the southerners who leave our houses poorly built and rotting within the first two years they’re built! We are not only tossing money away, we are tossing our own people away and giving them the scraps! Would you want to get up in the morning and go to work knowing that? That’s just one example. Why aren’t Inuit valued as you all say they are?

            11
            9
            • Posted by Colin on

              Mary has held prestigious positions and given many uplifting speeches. But she’s never actually done much for Inuit. Two years in a row she gave the same speech saying that education was an urgent priority for Inuit, not next week or next month but immediately. Why didn’t she work on an implementation plan for Inuit to get education and skills training for the professional and managerial jobs in their own lands?

              She recalls lying in tents along the George River, on a bed of spruce boughs and caribou skins, listening to the birds singing early in the morning and the dogs barking and playing in the snow. But that means little or nothing to marginalized youth in remote settlements and urban slums. Or those whose failed schooling and upbringing puts them in prison in numbers far exceeding peak enrolment in residential schools.

              With the fur trade long extinct, which aspects of the traditional lifestyle remain valid in the high-tech economy for next generations? People of many other cultures, like the Chinese and Vietnamese Canadians, live in the modern world while retaining their cultural identity. And many of them outperform their European Canadian counterparts.

              17
              1
  6. Posted by Kanayuq on

    Education is needed for both languages Period! Interpreters and translators are very important – working with Inuit and Southerners communication is KEY! Means – TEAMWORK!!

    10
    3
    • Posted by Hmm.. on

      So every job for Inuit will be interpreting? That’s a small factor of the work force. Only a handful of people needed for those jobs ever.

      7
      5
      • Posted by Kanayuq on

        The Whole World Requires Interpretation…am I NOT correct?

        1
        4
        • Posted by Hmm.. on

          You totally dodged my question. But here is the answer to yours.

          A). Yes, it does, but it does not mean that we can fit the entirety of the population of nunavik into translating and interpretation jobs. They’re rarely ever available to being with. How many actual people who hold titles of “interpreter” do you know of? As for the rest of the Inuit work force, ofc they know inuktitut and that’s because our language is no way, shape or form, threatened or even endangered. What’s endangered is Inuit employment. If interpretation in inuktitut was highly valued, you would see way less unemployment. It goes to show how much our language is valued.. But.. again.. you don’t see many of our people employed, do you? Just like me, they’ve tried. They’ve applied. They’ve been rejected and are unemployed. Not because they don’t want to work. Not because they’re not qualified. It’s because no one is hiring Inuit on living wages. We are stuck in the suck and struggling to make ends meet. The best job you can get speaking inuktitut is makivik president or one of the executive jobs.. how many elected officials have there been since the 90s? Not even a fraction of the population of Inuit. How many interpreters since the 90s? A very small fraction. Is it fair to keep opportunity away from our people so only a few can benefit? Living a life stuck in the struggle? I see more people, unemployed people, get more support than those who want to work. I guess we should all join them, eh? So y’all have something to complain about? Nah, I refuse that. I’m breaking the cycle. Where’s my support?

          7
          3
        • Posted by Hmm.. on

          P.s Where’s the support? Is it from the Inuktitut they taught me? Because it seems they count the “qualification” about as useful as spoon bending. I never said inuktitut shouldn’t be taught either. I said it’s unnecessary to keep our children in inuktitut class from kindergarten to grade three learning so little when it’s the most crucial part in their lives and soak up information like a sponge. Inuktitut classes are very much needed, yes. Throughout education. But that does not mean our children should be limited to inuktitut during that time. With a room full of spoon benders, no one finds it impressive anymore. In fact, they find English and French more impressive than inuktitut for any job qualification. Let’s be honest here. You cannot even understand provincial govt documentation without French.

          • Posted by Heidi on

            My father was a public schoolteacher, he wanted us to see the country so we moved to and lived in mostly isolated communities with high indigenous populations (Inuit too, up near Hay River). Interesting upbringing. Anyhow, my dad told me that because of culture and industry in some areas of North BC and Alberta the native schoolchildren were light years ahead in language abilities. They spoke Cree, French and English and maybe a couple of other native languages due to proximity, travelling for trap lines, and a transient labour population. You are so right, children soak up language super easy. But English is the language of global industry — there has to be one, whether English or Swahili or whatever. Even back then, the parents wanted their kids fluent in speaking, reading and writing English. I didn’t learn French until I was in my 20’s — 30 years later I’m still struggling with tenses. Keep your language close to your heart, it is your identity. But the international community wants English. Maybe, given your background and the push for diversification, you may have to make the difficult choice to work outside of your region, away from your community. If they won’t recognize your qualifications and the hard work you put into getting that degree, well, in the end it is their unfortunate loss.

  7. Posted by Annesie on

    I am Inuk too, there wouldn’t be ‘people’ go work if they didn’t see how much they would make if they go work here and while work here they could’ve teach “Inuit” people of how everyone else does work in the world and keep our traditional as everyone is too, such as called “farms”,we call it our land, but ‘people’ just taking over and control what we really need in “our land” instead of looking at our color.

    12
  8. Posted by Frontiers on

    It seems there is an urgent need to convene an Inuitwide Summit Conference to resolve these pestering and recurring issues.

  9. Posted by Hmm.. on

    To end these conversations, I’d like to mention.. if you leave your people in poverty when you know there is something readily available and that can be done, of course you will have high suicide rates, high crime rates, high abuse of intoxicants. It’s a byproduct of poverty! Start thinking for the future instead of your own pockets! That message goes out to all the orgs and corps of nunavik.

    7
    2

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*