Chesterfield Inlet’s long-awaited Leonard Putulik Cultural Centre was unveiled with a grand opening ceremony on July 21.
“The excitement was in the air and everybody was happy,” said former Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) president David Ningeongan.
The opening ceremony was well attended by community members, with dignitaries and politicians travelling from all over Nunavut to take part. The guest list included Ningeongan, NTI President Aluki Kotierk, KIA President Kono Tattuinee, and Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Chesterfield Inlet/Rankin North, among others.
“This is what Chesterfield Inlet needs. Being the oldest community, there is a disconnect between Inuit culture, language or Elders and youth. The centre will enable the youth to connect to their culture and their Elders,” Towtongie told Kivalliq News on July 23.
The $4.5-million centre is named after the late Leonard Putulik. His wife Leona Putulik cut the ribbon at the ceremony, surrounded by her family. Ningeongan said he approached Leona several years ago to ask if she would be OK with the centre being named in Leonard’s honour.
“I wanted to make sure to name the building after someone that was respected in the community,” said Ningeongan. “He was a businessman. He helped the community. He did so much for the people of Chesterfield Inlet.”
The centre houses a canteen, a display of traditional archaeological artifacts, two offices, retail space, an arts and crafts area, an industrial shop, a room meant for preparing hides and animal skins and extra space for other programs such as a food bank, conferences or training areas.
“We haven’t seen any new infrastructure in the community in quite some time,” David Kattegatsiak, Chesterfield Inlet’s economic development officer, said. “(The centre) is definitely a positive for the community. It’s going to create employment training and it’s going to help out economic development at the local level, specifically with tourism.”
There is also a kitchen that can be used by the community, as well as a two large community freezers for storing country food.
“Instead of promoting fast food to be bought in the stores, we wanted a kitchen that could be used to teach healthy food cooking,” Ningeongan said.
Kattegatsiak said there’s no timeline for the start of educational programming at the centre. He said the hamlet looks forward to working with the KIA on developing new opportunities for community members.
“I know it’s still in the planning stage,” he said. “The hamlet will certainly be open to coordinate programs and training.”
Plans for the cultural centre were conceived by Ningeongan when he was first elected as president of KIA in 2011. The idea came to him when Chesterfield Inlet approached Ningeongan requesting a space to host the preparation of seal skins and sewing programs.
That’s when he came up with the vision to have a cultural centre in every Kivalliq community.
NTI ended up giving $2.5 million toward the project. Heritage Canada contributed $875,000, according to Ningeongan.
“The community is looking forward to having access this beautiful facility,” he said. “It’s a place where great things are going to happen and a place of integrity.”
Plans to build cultural centres in every Kivalliq community are still in place. However, it’s unclear which community will be selected for the next phase of construction.