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Nunavut Sivuniksavut students graduate with ‘a better sense of self’

32 students take the stage at Nunavut Sivuniksavut’s 2023 graduation ceremony in Ottawa
Staff, students, and family members look on at the Nunavut Sivuniksavut graduation ceremony in the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on May 18. Photo courtesy of Nunavut Sivuniksavut ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᓂᒃ , ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᖅᑎᑦᓂᒃ ᐃᓚᖏᓐᓂᓪᓗ.

There were “a lot of different emotions” at this year’s Nunavut Sivuniksavut graduation ceremony, according to Nicole Hachey, the school’s second year coordinator.

“You could tell some of the students were a little bit nervous, but also excited,” said Hachey, who was born in Baker Lake but now lives in Ottawa, where the post-secondary institution is based.

“There were some students that were happy; they were crying on stage.”

Nunavut Sivuniksavut offers one and two-year programs designed to empower Inuit youth. The curriculum covers everything from land claims and research methods to throat-singing and drum-making.

This year’s graduation ceremony for 32 students occurred at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre on May 18. It featured speeches from students, faculty, representatives from Inuit organizations and the Government of Nunavut, a video presentation from a student trip to Haida Gwaii and some post-ceremony square dancing.

“The atmosphere was good,” Hachey said. “It was a good celebration. A lot of the speeches were really good.”

Amauyak Angootealuk was one of the students to take the stage inside the National Arts Centre. Originally from Coral Harbour, she later moved to Rankin Inlet, where she completed her first year with NS remotely.

This past September, she moved to Ottawa to complete her second year in-person – with her fiancee and daughter in tow.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I enjoyed meeting new friends, and the staff at NS were very helpful.

“I would recommend it. It teaches you a lot about yourself and it teaches a lot about your territory.”

Angootealuk enjoyed her time in Ottawa too, admitting she will miss the friends she made there and her morning walks to college. However, she would like to see NS open a second location in the North in the future.

“Maybe in the future NS should be in Nunavut,” she said. “Although I like Ottawa myself, we travelled all this way to come and learn about our territory in the capital of Canada.”

This year,22 graduates completed their first year while 10 finished their second – and Hachey, who has worked for the school since 2022, has high praise for the entire group.

“A lot of the students did online learning the last few years because of the pandemic, so for a lot of them it was their first time in school in-person,” she said. “That being said, they are so adaptable and so resilient. They’re so good at advocating for themselves. They’re a really good bunch of students.”

Hachey expects big things from this year’s graduating class, and is well-positioned to speak on such things as an NS alumna herself.

She finished her first year in 2014 and her second in 2015.

“I have a better understanding of a lot of the personal issues that Inuit go through today in Nunavut, in terms of how the government and Inuit organizations are run, and in terms of the impacts of intergenerational trauma,” she said. “But I also have a better understanding of why it’s such a good feeling and a celebratory thing to be Inuk.

“You get a better sense of self, and you get that pride in your Inuit identity. I hope that resonated with a lot of the Inuit that graduated this year.”

About the Author: Tom Taylor

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