Lynn Kilabuk is eager to see Nunavut Sivuniksavut classes return to in-person learning when Covid-19 public health orders allow for it in Ottawa.
In her first year as executive director with the post-secondary program, she has visions of Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) students once again able to offer cultural performances, particularly for Governor General Mary Simon, who’s Inuk.
“It would be really cool,” Kilabuk said. “It would be so special, but we’ll see how life turns out. It looks like it’s going great, especially here in Ottawa — vaccinations are great, cases are low. It’s just ensuring we have all our right protocols… to make sure everybody’s safe here since we’re such a small and intimate school.”
Although NS classes started on Sept. 7, Kilabuk had been preparing for her new role since March, shadowing her predecessor, Morley Hanson, who recently retired after 31 years with NS.
She holds twice-weekly meetings with the eight other full-time NS staff and assists them in overcoming challenges and obtain resources. There are three part-time staff members whom she’s responsible for as well.
Kilabuk also looks after the hiring of employees, takes care of administrative tasks and tends to numerous other “odds and ends,” she said.
Even though she’s not an instructor, she has received electronic messages from some of the 34 NS students asking her for advice in their Inuktitut classes because she grew up speaking the language in Pangnirtung.
Those messages are her primary connection to students in this pandemic era, as learning continues to take place online.
“Since nobody’s in class, that’s kind of my biggest one-on-one contact with students right now. For me, (Inuit) language and having that rapport is a really good bridge to talk to students,” she said. “The biggest thing (in their messages) is hearing how proud they are of what they’ve learned in Inuit history and how they’re doing in their Inuktitut classes, just seeing their pride in what they’re doing and what they’re understanding.
“The students, I feel, are still having a great experience. Our instructors are really good. They work really well as a team to ensure they have their NS spirit, even if it’s through a computer screen,” she said.”The young adults are still very much enjoying what they’re learning at NS right now.”
Kilabuk, who primarily has a finance background, didn’t graduate from NS, but she was interested in the job because her previous occupations revolved around “helping Inuit, one way or another.”
She has held positions with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the Kakivak Association, Nunavut Investment Group and the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation in Iqaluit, where she was vice-president. After moving to Ottawa for her son’s education, she worked briefly with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and then was president of Larga Baffin for several years prior to moving over to NS.
“My main focus of where I’ve worked is where I feel I could make an impact on helping Inuit in whichever way that I can,” she said. “This opportunity came up and I saw it as a way to help Inuit youth.”
In her own youth, she grew up surrounded by extended family in Pangnirtung.
“I’m a Kilabuk so I’m related to half the community,” she said, adding that she appreciates that she was able to be grounded in her culture and in the Inuit language. She also ranks going camping among her fondest memories from her childhood.