Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait — the product of history and determination
“It is a gift to our children today and the generations to come”
I was very pleased to hear the news that the board members of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami unanimously approved the new Inuktut writing system, Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait, earlier this month.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami means “united Inuit of Canada,” and there are few examples more powerful of our people taking united action to ensure the survival of our culture and language. It is a proud moment for me.
In June 2011, when I was president of ITK, we created a bold new vision to transform our education system. We released the national strategy on Inuit education with 10 ambitious recommendations born from a collective vision to see our children thrive in their formal education, while being strong in their Inuit culture and language.
One of the recommendations was to establish a unified writing system for the Inuit language.
It has taken Inuit in Canada decades to get to this point and it is the dawn of a new era.
The passion and dedication of Inuit language keepers throughout all of our communities across Inuit Nunangat made way for Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait. It means that we now have a unified writing system that is compatible for use in all Inuktut dialects.
The introduction of the new writing system will be gradual. It is not meant to take away or replace the writing systems Inuit are currently using in their communities, but rather to be used as a tool alongside existing writing systems that will improve communication between Inuit.
It is a gift to our children today and the generations to come.
I can now imagine a time when Inuit are communicating across Canada and sharing valuable publications and education curriculum, where capacity to develop high-quality education material is no longer an issue and our children are graduating from high school fully bilingual, literarily and verbally.
History has challenged us as a people. Colonization ravaged our ways of life, our familial structures and our language.
But we are here today. We have looked to the past so that we can understand who we are today and why things have come to be the way they are.
I believe that we are now at a crossroads where we can either keep looking back or begin to focus on the possibilities of our future. The adoption of Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait for all Inuit in Canada tells me that we are ready to move forward together.
During the eight years since the launch of the National Strategy on Inuit Education, we’ve been able to adopt the term “Inuktut” to mean all Inuit languages, no matter the dialect.
For me, it has also become a symbol of Inuit unity. It transcends all our artificial political boundaries.
Our language is who and what we are, and the health of our language lies at the core of our well-being.
My hope is that we can use Inuktut in all its beautiful spoken and written forms and move forward with the same determination we put towards our collective land claims.
Mary Simon was president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in 2011 when the organization released its national strategy on Inuit education, which contained a recommendation for the creation of a common writing system for the Inuit language.