It can be quite amazing the impact one person can sometimes have on a program.
Tuugaalik High School – and the high school grades offered when Tusarvik School was the only school in Naujaat – has a growing reputation for its cultural programming. Principal Aubrey Bolt gives one teacher a great deal of credit for the school’s ability to maintain that reputation.
Laimmiki Malliki has been on staff with the two schools for more than a decade, serving full time as the culture and shop teacher for the past seven years.
Bolt said, as principal, he couldn’t be happier with Malliki’s efforts.
“Laimmiki has a wealth of both historical knowledge and cultural knowledge,” said Bolt.
“He’s our shop teacher, using his traditional skills to teach our students how to make a qamutiik, sled box, spear for hunting seals, traditional snow shovel and an ulu, as well as our land teacher. He plans all the land trips and teaches the kids how to set-up camp, clean and fillet fish and clean and cut-up caribou, as well as exposing them to many, many other traditional land skills. The kids love him and he’s very well liked on the staff.”
Bolt said if he ever found himself out on the land, lost in the worst kind of weather, there’s only one person he’d want with him.
“He has a tremendous amount of knowledge on survival skills, and how to read the land and weather,” he said. “The last time I went out with a class, we left Naujaat in a snow storm, travelled about 70 miles and Laimmiki took us to the exact spot where they had set up a tent the previous week.”
The likes and dislikes, behaviour patterns, attitudes and outlooks of teenagers often changes from generation to generation.
Yet, Malliki has been held in high esteem by the vast majority of students in Naujaat for more than a decade.
He said Malliki treats the students with respect and is always willing to work with them until they learn a skill.
“The kids all love being out on the land and they know Laimmiki has a certain level of expectation from them. Most of the kids, because they respect him so much, want to do exactly what he expects,” he said.
“Student behaviour is excellent when Laimmiki is out on the land with different groups and it’s the same in the shop.”
Bolt said Malliki always tries to meet the needs of the students– if he knows a family has a need for a qamutiik, for example, he will help them build one.
“Part of the mandate of schools is socialization of the students and that evolves into culture and language, and,without Laimmiki, our ability to do that would certainly be curtailed. His level of expertise in the history of Inuit in this area, along with his abilities with traditional tools and exceptional land skills, is a combination you don’t easily come by,” said Bolt.
“Lots of the cultural aspects the school wants to teach kids to pass on – certainly lots of the historical and legendary aspects of language development – he passes on to them for us.”
He said Naujaat has some very good language teachers in the elementary school who are doing an excellent job of passing on the language and various aspects of the culture, but, for Tuugaalik High School, Malliki is the lead for the teaching of language, culture, traditional skills and land skills.
“Without him, our program would certainly be diminished,” said Bolt. “He takes pride in passing on the skills he has to the kids, so if the kids do a good job on something, their pride in the work is his pride in that he helped them do it.”