Current Initiative

Jose Amaujaq Kusugak Scholarship Program

Lynn Kilabuk

I am taking Nunavut Teacher Education Program classes in Panniqtuuq. I have been taking this course for three years and I still have two more years to finish. When we first started taking classes, we started with creating our goal to become a teacher. I value the program I am taking and I benefit from it, especially in having the opportunity to take this program in our community. There are a lot of modules in this program, some very challenging, and some that are more simple, but I know that all of them have benefits in teaching children in schools and dealing with social issues.

In my personal life, I have done various programs such as interviewing Elders and taking part in community activities. Four years ago, I started a project of inviting Elders and collecting Inuit traditional songs and Inuit traditional games. I put out books that I have written for the public. I enjoyed the project knowing that I have contributed to promote Inuit culture and language. I also collected stories about family unity and addressed relationships. I did a study of how we can be a better society within a community for the betterment of the lives of people. Last year I worked for Pujualussait, working on heritage and culture projects
and seal skin tents. I benefited very much from the project, especially when we were making the tent and sharing stories from the past about families.

In February, I organized a public event called return of the sun. I held activities on the sea ice. This event was for the younger generation, youth and kids, to give them knowledge of Inuit traditional values. This event was very enjoyable and the community had a chance to get together and celebrate with a feast.

I am in pursuit of finishing this program. I know there is a need for bilingual Inuktitut-English teachers in Nunavut, and a need for teachers with knowledge of teaching kids. I received a recognition award from the 2011 academic achievement awards. This was an
award for academic studies and scholarship. I take this program very seriously.

Panniqtuuq is my hometown. I was a teacher in the classroom, and I know the operation of the school. My pride in the school is the children talking, writing and reading mostly in Inuktitut. I know this has subsided in other communities. This impacts Inuit traditional culture. In a very short while, Inuit culture changed tremendously. Looking back, the impact started when Europeans first started to arrive in the Inuit homeland. In the 1960s, a lot of the families were moved to communities by the federal government, from their homes in camps to distinctive community life. Children were sent to schools and some children were even moved very far to attend school. Back then, as we could not go back, Inuit had to make alternative decisions on how to survive. Inuit formed a group to be the voice of Inuit. I have felt that Jose Kusugak, as he never changed, represented everyone equally, to be a voice for Inuit, to be heard. He returned our human dignity,our Inuit rights.

Looking at the past and present, Inuit empowerment was taken away from Inuit and we had to follow the Qallunaaq laws. Today, Nunavut representatives can negotiate and have their voices heard as equally as Canadians leaders. Jose worked hard and has represented Inuit through different organizations, advancing the lives of Inuit and making it better for our future generations in the Inuit homeland.

I have pride when Inuit traditions and language are used in schools. It promotes where Inuit came from. The Inuit writing system started in 1894 when Uqammak (Rev. Edmund Peck) first came to Blacklead Island and archipelago. When the whalers were here, he was the reverend. He introduced religion and the first writing system, and Inuit followed. But there have been changes according to stories from Inuit and Jose. Jose was interested in this and during meetings he said he wanted to see changes to the old writing system. From reading about Jose, he faced many challenges representing Inuit. So many times, he went to different
places to consult with Inuit on reading and writing. Inuit learned the Inuit alphabet by reading the bible. The old Inuktitut alphabet was ai-ii-oo-aa, but soon Inuit realized, most likely by Jose, that taking the ‘ai’ out would be better and it was removed from the Inuktitut alphabet. Therefore, only three remained, ii-ooaa. I am very grateful and proud that the alphabet came from Inuit, Inuit ownership. Language is true. In school, I have been fortunate to learn the three sets of alphabet. It is good. We are very grateful for the late Jose Kusugak, for the challenges he faced for Inuit. His challenges let Inuit succeed in the Inuit homeland, and
around the world.

Inuit enhancement is evident. Some issues are slower than others. But I know with Nunavut maturing, there are going to be continuous changes in the world. New technology is emerging, the computer age exists and we use the Internet in workplaces, at home and in schools. I feel that we have to gain knowledge from our Elders by interviewing them, understanding them, and do research on Inuit language and culture if we want a stable foundation for our future. We have to share the knowledge with children and youth so that they will understand it also.

I have been a member of the Atagoyuk school daycare for more than five years. I am the vice-chair. I support the new mothers and fathers in finishing their education, and support their babies and kids to be raised in a positive atmosphere. I have belonged to various organizations and I was taking part in a recreation plan development. I enjoy working with people and brainstorming and looking at different scenarios.

The education system has been in Nunavut for a long time. We know what areas are effective and efficient and which areas need improvement. Personally I believe reading is a priority for improvement. There are a lot of Inuktitut books that have been produced,
but there is a limited supply for older students. Starting early reading with children increases their writing skills when they are growing up. Resources for Inuktitut reading and writing are limited when students advance to the higher grades. I would like to promote continued learning with no limitations in Inuktitut until students graduate from high school.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.