Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 18, 2014 - 9:15 am

Multimedia launch opens two-week celebration of Inuit language in Nunavut

Extra week expands activities to Nunavut schools

PETER VARGA
Simon Awa, deputy minister of culture and heritage for the Government of Nunavut, and Sandra Inutiq, languages commissioner for Nunavut, kicked off the start of Inuit Language Weeks in Iqaluit Feb. 17 with the launch of a documentary film at the Astro Theatre. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Simon Awa, deputy minister of culture and heritage for the Government of Nunavut, and Sandra Inutiq, languages commissioner for Nunavut, kicked off the start of Inuit Language Weeks in Iqaluit Feb. 17 with the launch of a documentary film at the Astro Theatre. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Nunavut’s two-week celebration of the Inuit language opened Feb. 17 with a challenge to Inuit language-speakers to “go beyond their comfort zone and try to speak!”

The challenge comes from Nunavut’s languages commissioner Sandra Inutiq, whose office, in collaboration with the territorial government, expanded this year’s celebrations to two weeks, Feb. 17 to Feb. 28.

The language celebration, Uqausirmut Quviasuutiqarniq, usually coincides with schools’ week-long mid-winter break, but this year’s “Inuit Language Weeks” includes an extra week so that schools have a chance to encourage and promote the use of Nunavut’s official languages, Inutiq said.

“Every single year it’s coincided with children not being in school,” she said. “And it kind of defeats promoting the language, celebrating the language. We don’t want a whole important part of our society to miss out.”

The Office of the Languages Commissioner, along with the Government of Nunavut, is also encouraging workplaces and communities to hold activities to commemorate the weeks, she said.

“I think almost all of us share that vision of wanting to keep our language,” Inutiq said.

With that in mind, on Feb. 17 the territorial government’s Department of Culture and Heritage launched a collection of multimedia items through its website, and promised to deliver print and recorded versions of these to schools and community libraries across Nunavut.

All are in Inuktut — the term the GN now uses to represent the Inuit language, covering Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.

Included among them is Ilarnaqtut!, an illustrated book of comical stories by 10 Inuit authors.

Also available online and in print is a small visual dictionary for health professionals and medical interpreters on human anatomy, and a series of birthday songs — both for download and on CD.

In Iqaluit, the Inuit Language Weeks kicked off Feb. 17 with the launch of the short documentary film Millie’s Dream: Revitalization of Inuinnaqtun.

Co-hosted by the territorial government, the Office of the Languages Commissioner, and the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities, the screening highlighted Nunavut’s most endangered from of Inuktut, Inuinnaqtun.

The film describes efforts by schoolteacher and language advocate Millie to maintain and encourage the use of Inuinnaqtun through educational programs that involve elders, who speak the language fluently.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization identifies the language as “endangered.”

Although the decline of Inuinnaqtun is the most severe, Inutiq is quick to add that it is not the only dialect that could soon disappear.

“We now have communities like Iqaluit, like Rankin Inlet, Resolute, Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, where if we don’t start to do anything about it now, we’re in danger of losing our languages,” she said. “So it’s good to gather, and validate why it’s important to protect our languages.”

Millie’s Dream is the third of a series of documentary videos produced by CDEA, in partnership with the University of Prince Edward Island and the territorial government.

Also slated for Inuit Language Weeks are a “Guess the meaning” contest in Inuktitut on CBC radio, Feb. 21, and a chance for Nunavummiut to share their views about language on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network, Feb. 25.

See the Office of the Language Commissioner’s website for details.

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