Skip to content

April 2019 in review: Bolstering the Inuit language; Sedna carving unveiled in Ottawa; iglu village constructed

A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.

'Our mother tongue can remain strong' – elder

Alicie Joamie makes the point that Inuktut can thrive if everyone is involved – in homes, in schools, in government – at the 2019 Inuugatta Inuktuuqta Conference held in Iqaluit March 25 to 29.
photo courtesy Michel Albert

The 2019 Inuugatta Inuktuuqta Conference was held between March 25 to 29 in Iqaluit. The conference celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Inuit Language Protection Act and the Official Languages Act, which came into effect 10 years after Nunavut's birth.

"Our mother tongue can remain strong," said elder Alicie Joamie, who spoke at the opening panel. "Our language is ours, something we relish," she said, adding the language can be strong if "we tell our stories in our homes, as we eat together and sew together."

Puujjut Kusugak, deputy minister of Culture and Heritage, another panelist, unveiled the department's Uqausivut version 2 – which has as its goal a 100 per cent Inuktut speaking territory and public service by 2040.

Federal government statistician Jean-Francois LePage provided a sneak peak of a comprehensive report titled Evolution of the Language Situation in Nunavut, 2001 to 2016.

Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA) representatives spoke about the importance of a community-based approach, as well as the need to bring the language into the home.

The conference also included two visiting guests: Glenn Jim, of the WSÁNEĆ First Nations, and Katarina Edmonds of New Zealand. Both guests shared their experiences, and planning and education approaches and methodologies.

Naullaq Arnaquq, an employee with the Department of Education, discussed the importance of strong curriculum, teacher training, parental involvement, effective legislation and learning resources to preserve Inuktitut.

Bart Hanna's Sedna unveiled on Parliament Hill

Iglulik artist Bart Hanna, left, and then-Speaker Geoff Regan unveil Hanna's Sedna at the West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 8.
photo courtesy Bernard Thibodeau/House of Commons Photo Services

Iglulik artist Bart Hanna Kappianaq, creator of a new Sedna sculpture for the 20th anniversary of Nunavut's status as a territory, unveiled his commissioned sculpture on April 8 in Ottawa.

After some throat-singing by Maatalii Okalik and Tracy Sarazin, Speaker Geoff Regan and Hanna removed the drape and unveiled Sedna.

"Sedna is one of the pieces I like carving the most. Sometimes she's called Nuliajuk, Sassuma Arna or Takanakapsaaluk. She is a marine being that has been seen throughout the Arctic waters, as my grandfather said one time many years ago," stated Hanna in a news release.

The Sedna marked the anniversary of the establishment of Nunavut as a territory April 1, 1999 and is the final piece of artwork crafted as part of the House of Commons' legacy projects to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, stated the news release.

The piece, measured 65 cm by 84 cm, is a sculptural tympanum – the sculpture which fills a semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window, bounded by a lintel and arch.

Spring carnival pays homage to longtime supporter

The 2019 Nattiq Frolics spring carnival in Kugluktuk celebrated the memory and spirit of the late Lucy Ann Maniyogena, who died of cancer on April 14.

"She always participated in any kind of community event. She's part comedian, singer and dancer all put together in one," said Peter Taptuna, Maniyogena's brother-in-law. "Her intentions all the time were to make people laugh, and she's done that very well over the years."

As a homage to Maniyogena, the Hamlet of Kugluktuk's parade float is dedicated to her, adorned with her name and many images of her.

Iglu village constructed

Susan Avingaq gets cozy inside one of the several iglus built near Iglulik as part of a traditional Inuit village. photo courtesy of Merlyn Recinos/Hamlet of Igloolik

The Hamlet of Igloolik organized the building of a traditional Inuit village consisting of several iglus just outside the community.

Then-mayor Celestino Uyarak said he was very impressed with the efforts of local residents who assembled the snow blocks to form shelters.

"I think it's one of our best projects in years," Uyarak said. "We took a tour and they did a great job. Some kids have never seen these kinds of iglus being built before... they were very amazed."

Including the iglu builders, various performers, food preparation staff and other contributors, the number of people involved in the initiative was close to 100, Uyarak said.

With warm weather comes Toonik Tyme

Toonik Tyme kicked off with an opening ceremony April 11, with the naming of the 2019 Toonik, as well as the Honorary Toonik. Toonik Tyme has become a popular winter festival in Iqaluit. It is celebrated with the arrival of warmer weather, explained Pitseolak Alainga, one of the festival organizers.

"When Toonik Tyme started (54 years ago) we used to have a toonik (individual belonging to the Tunitt people) come over from a hill. This toonik would be in caribou-skin clothing and his face would be covered until the games start. They would finally show (their) face," explained Pitseolak Alainga, one of the festival organizers.

"But today we don't have that luxury anymore of having caribou-skin clothing and kamiks. We just get an honorary toonik and a toonik from town that was practically born and raised here."

Alainga said this year's scheduled of events were to be mostly the same as last year's.

This year however, the seal-hunting contests were cancelled.

The outdoor games took place April 12, which the City of Iqaluit has declared the official Toonik Tyme civic holiday. It has become a time when families can enjoy the activities together.

There were plans for Nunavut and Nunavik musicians to perform during the event. Other activities included a whipping contest, fishing derby and a tea and bannock-baking contest.

Mining company touts hiring of Udlu Hanson

Baffinland Iron Mines announced that it had hired Udloriak Hanson as vice-president of community and strategic development.

Hanson is a former Government of Nunavut deputy minister of Economic Development and Transportation and a former chief negotiator and chief operating officer of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. Known to many as Udlu, she was born and raised in Iqaluit. She later told Nunavut News that she took the job to benefit Inuit.

Unless we have Inuit in every different sector promoting Inuit rights and benefits then it will be status quo. We’ll continue have people from the south filling positions,” she said. “The decisions that my department makes, that I represent, will always be based on benefitting Inuit through employment, training, jobs and support to the communities.”

GN awards sealift contract

The Government of Nunavut selected Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping Inc. (NEAS) as its dedicated sealift supplier for Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Kimmirut, Pangnirtung, Arctic Bay, Qikiqtarjuaq, Clyde River, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet, Resolute Bay, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove, Arviat, Coral Harbour, Kugaaruk and Sanikiluaq.

While NEAS is majority-owned by Nunavut-based Inuit businesses, the parent company belongs to the Quebec-based Makivik Corporation and Transport Nanuk Inc., a joint-venture between Logistec Corporation and The North West Company.

-with files from Derek Neary