Nunavik needs a school for Inuit language and culture: Avataq
"We've been fighting for that for so many years"
KUUJJUAQ — The debate around the right of francophone students in Kuujjuaq to an education in French is one thing, says the president of Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute.
The lack of an Inuttitut-language and Inuit cutural school for Nunavik is another, said Charlie Arngnak, a longtime advocate for Inuttitut in Nunavik.
“We’ve been fighting for that for so many years,” said Arngak. “This has to be the first priority.”
Arngak also spoke about the need to maintain Inuit language and culture during a discussion on Parnasimautik regional development plan Sept. 13 at the Kativik Regional Council meeting in Kuujjuaq.
Before there’s talk of any separate school for French-speakers in the region, Arngak told Nunatsiaq News he wants to see a Nunavik cultural school.
“I’d like to see that happen first before they open a new French school in Kuujjuaq,” he said.
Most of Nunavik’s Inuit youth still speak Inuttitut at home, but their knowledge of the language has diminished, he said, and it’s not unusual to hear English words mixed in with Inuttitut.
“There must be improvement,” Arngak said. “I’m worried about that today. I think is very serious.”
Arngak was headed to Montreal for a Sept. 14 meeting at the Kativik School Board.
Quebec’s education department ordered the KSB Sept. 11 produce a plan by Sept. 13 to offer education to francophone children in Kuujjuaq so that 15 children, who speak French as their mother tongue, can attend school in French.
“It would we nice if they would learn Inuttiut too and live in close harmony,” he said.
But Arngak also said the focus on the language of instruction in Nunavik’s schools opens the door for Avataq and the KSB to work more closely together to improve the teaching of Inuttitut in Nunavik, where children can now study up to Grade 3 in Inuttitut.
Like many Nunavimmiut of his generation, Arngak attended federal day schools where the instruction took place only in English.
Later Arngak learned how to read and write Inuttitut syllabics on his own.
“Nobody taught me. I learned by the Bible,” he said. “I said it’s my language and I have to know it.”