Place faith in Inuit culture


This day (April 28) I buried my daughter, Teresa Irene Katak Ernerk (Irniq), in Hamilton, Ontario. She died on Good Friday, April 21, 2000.

When she was born in 1973 in Yellowknife I named her after my mother whose name was Irene Katak. Katak means an entrance way of an iglu or house in the Utkuhikhalik (Back River) dialect of my beloved Inuktitut language. I named my daughter after my mother because I wanted my mother to live on forever in my family and among her relatives and friends. It is an Inuit custom to name children after their relatives so that the loved ones live on forever. Well, with Teresa’s death, it seems like my mother has died twice.

In choosing Teresa’s other names, her mother and I chose Teresa and Irene which was my mother’s baptismal name. In Greek Irene means Goddess of Peace. We felt that these names represented the best of our two cultures and would help our daughter find her way in life with the help of strong names.

Teresa grew up away from the North and she did not understand or accept the part that her Inuit heritage played in her life. My daughter searched for her place on this earth and I could do little to help her find it. Teresa would call me when in trouble or hurt and I found myself powerless to change her life. She could not accept my offer to come north for a while to explore that part of herself. To ease the pain in her life Teresa Irene Katak sought help from the medical profession, immersed herself in her work and lived life to the fullest she knew how. Due to the many miles between us I did not get to share the joys of Teresa’s life, only the pain. For the past two years Teresa did not contact me as much and I hoped that this meant things were better for her.

There is only one thing I personally know. Teresa Irene Katak Ernerk is happier now in the place called Quvianaqtuvik — a place of forever happiness, a place of calm air with God-Nunaliuqtit, and beautiful angels, singing the songs of my mother and father of beauty, happiness and peace. She is now with her namesake, her grandmother and with her grandfather, her uncles and her aunts. I am happy about that.

In my daughter’s memory I am determined to carry on the work to preserve, protect and promote Inuit culture and language through Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Traditional Knowledge) so that our youth — our future — will have a better understanding of where they came from and therefore know better where they want to go. I invite all Inuit leaders to join me in this important cause! There is so much meaning about where we Inuit came from and why it was so important to allow all of us together, Elders and Youth, to create a Nunavut where we all can live to our fullest.

Yours sincerely,
Peter Irniq

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