Professors willing to teach Inuit studies for free

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

The Inuit Studies program plays an important part in the preservation of the Inuit cultural heritage and the transfer of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

It provides a unique opportunity for young students to take courses in traditional crafts and skills and in the context of the program, Inuit ideas and values are taught by respected and knowledgeable Inuit elders for all the Nunavut regions. During the past five years it has been our privilege to participate in a few courses on oral history, and we were impressed by the efficacy of the program in communicating Inuit knowledge from the elders to the younger generations.

The teaching staff, the elders, and the students all worked with commitment to the shared goals of the transfer of knowledge. In Canada, this program provides a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between Inuit and Qallunaat traditions that causes so many problems in contemporary Nunavut society.

The Inuit Studies Program has integrated teaching and research in a very effective way so that Inuit students were involved in interviewing their elders, along with acquiring skills and experiences interviewing, transcribing, and translating and other important skills. It offers a fruitful context for the combination of oral and literary traditions.

Thus the program has resulted in an impressive number of publications in English and Inuktitut on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit that meets both educational and practical standards (see the current need of school books in Nunavut) as well as high academic standards.

After only a few years, more than 30 books, including glossaries, were published. Moreover, a few Inuit students who followed the program also published their own papers in academic journals. The program also developed international cooperation, enabling Inuit students to travel to France and the Netherlands to assist academic staff in teaching Inuit language and culture.

Obviously the Inuit Studies Program is now in a state of transition. It was developed under the inspiring guidance of Susan Sammons and Alexina Kublu, and Maaki Kakkik has just been appointed as a successor to Alexina Kublu. The program should receive all possible support to retain its momentum.

We read with some relief in Nunatsiaq News that you have the intention to expand the program and develop it into a major department of Arctic College. In that perspective, it is essential that the program receives adequate funding.

The teaching of an Inuit Studies Program is far too important to skip it for a year. On our side, we will support the program in any way we can, and we are prepared to offer a three-week course in the program without compensation.

We think the program is unique, as well as effective, and can serve as a model for other aboriginal communities in Canada.

Jarich Oosten
Leiden University
The Netherlands

Frédéric Laugrand
Laval University
Quebec City

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