This year marked the introduction of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s (QIA) annual Joe Attagutaluk Inuktitut Language Award, and 12 graduating high school students from across the region were recipients.

The award, named for the QIA’s former secretary-treasurer, is intended to celebrate students who have demonstrated dedication to the preservation of the Inuktitut language.

In addition to a personalized plaque, recipients of the award also received a $2,000 cheque.

“It means I know my language well, and I will never lose it, and I’ll teach it to younger generations if I can” said Sanikiluaq’s Ayla Marie Kavik-Mickiyuk, one of the inaugural recipients of the award.

Kavik-Mickiyuk, who plans to become a “great hunter” now that she has finished high school, said it’s a priority for her to protect Inuktitut because many of the Elders who attended residential schools lost their ability to speak the language.

“It’s important because that’s who I am and that’s who I want to be for the rest of my life,” she said. “Our Elders who went to residential schools almost lost their mother tongue, and some of them lost their mother tongue.

“It’s like losing life, so it’s that important to me.”

These are the other 2023 Joe Attagutaluk Inuktitut Language Award winners:

-Gamie Oqallak in Arctic Bay

-Jade Paniloo in Clyde River

-James Quanaq in Grise Fiord

-Charlotte Angugatsiaq in Iglulik

-Caroline Iqaluk in Iqaluit

-Kristen Temela in Kimmirut

-John Hayward in Kinngait

-Nolan Kugluguqtuq in Pangnirtung

-Susie Simonee in Pond Inlet

-Aasta Idlout in Resolute Bay

-Gloria Nangmalik in Sanirajak

A to-be-determined 13th student from Qikiqtarjuaq will also receive the award in the new school year.

“QIA dedicated the award to the memory of Joe Attagutaluk and is in recognition of his tireless efforts to preserve Inuktitut,” said QIA manager of communications Will Hopkins. “The award seeks to recognize exceptional students, particularly those who are similarly dedicated to the Inuit language.

“QIA would like to again offer it’s congratulations to the first annual Joe Attagutaluk award recipients and looks forward to carrying on this tradition for years to come.”

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