Letter: For the love of Nunavik
I didn’t expect to write about Nunavik, worried I would draw an incomplete picture. Today I feel the need to do it, to show the beauty, to share my love for Nunavik.
“Hey Sarah! How are you?” The hospital entrance is a meeting place where I recognize more faces every time. We tell jokes or smile while holding the door.
“Hello! What’s your name?” Kids skate on icy roads, swing in the wind and rain, swim with coats around their waists. The children belong to the villages; the villages belong to the children.
“Haha, auka!” (“Haha, no!”) Inuktitut is a complex language. I find it hard to say things correctly, but people gently correct me. Aputi: snow on the ground. Anuri: the wind. The name of Ivujivik’s school is Nuvviti. A teacher told me it’s the part which connects the sled (qamutik) to the dogs. She told me it was her, the connection. I told her she was right.
“They are making our culture come alive.” I heard this while watching dogsleds arrive at Ivakkak. I felt this pride. The same pride when women throat sing around a bonfire. The same pride when people tell me their hunting stories. The pride of a strong culture that is still alive despite attempts to extinguish it.
“Hey Sarah! Your patient is late, but she’s an elder. Can you see her now?” This respect for elders. The devotion of our interpreter colleagues who make sure elders are treated well in our clinics. “I’m coming.”
“Twenty-eight and you’re a doctor? I’m 38 and I’m a grandmother!” Motherhood as a pillar. Inuit midwives as a strength of our health-care system. Grandparents as a strength of many families.
“Come, eat!” Food is to be shared. A lot of my patients were brought country food during their stay at the hospital. Taking care of people through their stomach. Healing through culture.
“Nakurmiimarialuk. Thank you.” Bad weather often forces our patients to wait hours, even days, to be medevaced. Although they are sick and tired, they say thank you. Thanks to all of you for this lesson on patience and courage.
“We need to find solutions.” Some people cross Nunavik by foot during wintertime to raise awareness about the suicide crisis. Others stand up against conjugal violence, take action for water access and to address the housing crisis. These waves of mobilization and resistance. This wave of life.
People ask why I work in Nunavik. Why I’m staying, even in harder times. In such a short time, a lot has changed.
But Nunavimmiut are still standing. Nunavimmiut are proud of their culture. Nunavimmiut want their rights to be respected. Nunavimmiut want to heal.
I’m staying because I love Nunavik and Nunavimmiut. I want them to be healthy and safe to witness their own successes and to continue to thrive.
Sarah Bergeron is a general practitioner at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Nunavik.