In 2006, November 7th was declared International Inuit Day at the Inuit Circumpolar Council general assembly. This day is intended to honour the memory of the Council’s late founding president, Eben Hopson, who was born on November 7th, 1922. Hopson believed that “the single most important issue facing all Inuit, regardless of where they live, is the preservation of a unique culture, identity and way of life before they are destroyed by large-scale industrial development and the intrusions of southern society”.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to live and teach in the small fly-in Inuit village of Tasiujaq since September of 2010. Since then, on a daily basis, I’ve been immersed in the language, and I’ve experienced bits and pieces of this unique culture and way of life – both traditional and contemporary – as I interact with my students, colleagues and friends in the community. Over time, I’m learning more and more about the Inuit identity – past and present.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve seen the beauty in Inuit traditions, I’ve realized the wisdom of Inuit elders, I’ve sensed the strength and the resilience in the stories of Inuit people, and I’ve come to understand the passion that many have for the preservation of their culture. I’m continuously learning from them, and as a primary school teacher in Nunavik – someone who plays an integral role in the lives of Inuit youth – this is of utmost importance if I want to play whatever role I can, as a qallunaat in an Inuit village, in cultural preservation.
Today, let’s acknowledge the people of Canada’s North, Greenland and beyond; the people whose name means “people”. Happy International Inuit Day.