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Sanikiluaq’s joy comes after many struggles


I commend, very much, Jane George of Nunatsiaq News for a heart-warming, excellent report on a success story of the Qikirtarmiut (“A day of joy for Sanikiluaq,” May 7, 2004.)

I congratulate Lucy Mary Qavvik, Isabel Takatak, Caroline Alariak, Mina Rumbolt, Mary Kavik, Dina Kavik and Lizzie Kavik in becoming full-fledged teachers.

You will be teaching your own people, who have the potential of becoming a premier, doctors, nurses and teachers like yourself. I quote: “We want to be role models – the best teachers we can be.” You are indeed role models, already achieving a realistic goal that is right in front of everybody’s eyes.

It was good to hear that the elders offered support in traditional knowledge, which in turn had the students comforting and helping each other when times were tough. That, in turn, showed the world that traditional and cultural Inuit still have a strong sense of unity, which kept their people alive throughout the centuries.

Oh, times have changed. I remember being sent to Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River) in the middle of the school year, because the new community, Sanikiluaq, didn’t have Grade 5 and 6 books for me. Just before the school year ended, we, the islanders, were told that we would be going to Churchill for the next school year.

I was so happy. I always envied those who were going there already. If I remember correctly, our MLA, Peter Kattuk, was one of them. Just before going back to the Belchers, we were told that plans had been changed. Instead of going to Churchill, the NWT students were to go to a new school some place way up north called Frobisher Bay (Iqaluit.)

I had never heard of this place.

My world had just expanded when my people were relocated to North Camp (Sanikiluaq.) By then, Great Whale River and Churchill were no longer surprising. I just didn’t think there were people way up north.

The students who were so happy that we were going to Churchill decided not to go. I ended up being the first Qikirtarmiuk to stay at Ukiivik Residence and the first to go to the Gordon Robertson Education Centre (Inuksuk High School.)

It was really hard for me. The people looked like Inuit, but they sure talked funny. I couldn’t understand them, and I couldn’t be understood. I ended up speaking in English for 10 months.

There were no telephones on the Belchers and the mail took forever, which didn’t matter, because they couldn’t write. There was no way to get in contact with my people. The weekly allowance was a whole one dollar and we actually got a raise in the second year to $1.25 or $1.50.

The second year went a bit better. Betsy, Dora and Lottie came with me. I learned that I missed out talking with my family on HF radio, the only sort of communication we had. Communication was terrible.

I didn’t blame the girls for not going for the third year. I myself didn’t go back. Ah, I still wish I had that first yearbook that came out.

I understand that for our people, the Inuit, our biggest strength is unity. The family ties and community support was a must. That’s the kind of life we had to leave behind when we had to go to school abroad. Without any communication, there was no unity, or support, unlike today where we have telephones, e-mail, and fast mail delivery.

Once in a while, students write to Nunatsiaq News from schools in the South. I urge them to continue because I know it takes a strong person and a lot of dedication to one’s education to stay away from family and community.

Me, I quit school, although I have G.E.D. Grade 12, which almost amounts to nothing. I am not a good role model.

I commend the Nunavut government for recognizing that programs, such as the Nunavut Teacher Education Program, are available in our own communities. I commend them further, because now students can finish their Grade 12 at home. Because of you it was a “day of joy for Sanikiluaq.” It makes one wish it was like that in my days.

For Nunatsiaq News, thank you very much, but did you have to show all that food? I haven’t eaten any for a long time.

I am proud of my cousins, my friends, and others who have indeed raised my hopes for a better tomorrow for my people.

Lukas Eqilaq

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