Culture week starts in Inukjuak at the Uquutaq school with the lighting of the qulliq. (Photo credit of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq)

‘We have an amazing culture’: Students, elders reconnect in Nunavik

Culture week brings bannock, tea and stories shared between elders and youth

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Several schools throughout Nunavik hosted their annual culture week in March, giving students the chance to reconnect with elders and their traditional practices.

In Inukjuak, the event was initially planned to run Feb. 26 to March 1. However, “the blizzard of the decade” got in the way, said Nancy Osbourne, as work-oriented training path teacher.

“Our week ended up being extended until the fourth,” she said.

That didn’t stop the team at Uquutaq school from enjoying a packed week, starting with a qulliq lighting ceremony followed by displays by local artists and former students performing in the school’s gym.

They followed that with a community parade where students made signs written in Inuktitut, displaying their culture.

On the following day, they visited igloos made by the Inukjuak Men’s Association members, with three dog teams bringing the students back and forth from the school.

In the warmth of the igloos and embraced by the light of a qulliq, elders shared their stories with the young visitors.

“They got to hear stories about how life was in the past, growing up, living and experiencing life in the igloos,” Osbourne said.

The gym was also filled with traditional cultural stations for students to visit. On the final day, they ended their week with a feast.

“The kids are happy, they are enjoying themselves,” said Osbourne.

“It is a lot of time and energy organizing this week, but when you see the faces and the smiles it makes it all worth it.”

Stella Smiler, who teaches Inuktitut at Uquutaq school in Inukjuak, said she’d love to the event grow.

“I would like it for the whole community, not just the school, to participate,” she said.

Smiler said events like these are “very important, because they bring the community and our elders to our school. When our kids see that, they feel connected.”

At Kuujjuaq’s Jaanimmarik school, culture week was also in full force. On March 19, students and staff took part in fishing, hunting, making fishing rods and other traditional activities.

Interim vice-principal Nancy Cain said they had a busy week.

“It is important for our young to remember how important culture is,” she said. “We have to remind ourselves that we have an amazing culture.

“It is fun to hear elders telling their stories. More elders should come to school and talk about life.”

Culture week is an event organized by individual communities, and each chooses when to hold it according to what is most appropriate for them.

  • The qulliq is lit in Inukjuak (Photo courtesy of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq)

 

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