Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 14, 2017 - 1:10 pm

Nunavut org president chooses a Pootoogook print for PM Trudeau

“I told the prime minister I hope the print gives him as much joy as it gives me when I look at it"

THOMAS ROHNER
Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., presents
Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., presents "Homecoming" by the late Annie Pootoogook to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Feb. 9 in Iqaluit during the prime minister's visit. Kotierk said she was nervous but she found strength and grounding before the prime minister arrived by looking at a photo of herself with her grandmother. "I had nothing to fear and nothing to feel less than. I was there as an equal, and he was coming to my territory to meet me. I felt resolve." (PHOTO COURTESY NTI)

Aluki Kotierk, less than two months into her four-year term as president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., thought long and hard about what to present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent trip to Iqaluit.

In the end, Kotierk chose a print by the late Kinngait artist Annie Pootoogook, called “Homecoming.”

“I told the prime minister I hope the print gives him as much joy as it gives me when I look at it,” Kotierk told Nunatsiaq News Feb. 13 from Ottawa’s NTI office before spending the day in meetings.

Kotierk presented the artwork during Trudeau’s one-day visit to Iqaluit Feb. 9, which he made to announce the official creation of a new Inuit-Crown political body.

The print shows about a dozen Inuit gathered indoors around a newborn baby. 

But there are many layers to the picture, and to its selection as a gift for Trudeau, Kotierk said.

“It speaks to a challenge [Inuit] have, in that women are sent away from their home communities to have babies, rather than being with their family, when their bond should be strengthened.”

The print also shows the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit value of inunnguiniq, which has been translated into English as “it takes a village to raise a child.”

“To me the picture says, ‘we’re going to work together to create a being who can contribute meaningfully to society,’” Kotierk said.

And in Kotierk’s mind, the baby is likely named after a loved one who has died, keeping with Inuit tradition and speaking to reconciliation between generations.

“When I look at this print, I hear the Inuit, all of whom look modern and all different ages and genders, speaking Inuktitut”—another reason Kotierk chose this print as Trudeau’s visit fell within Inuktitut language and literacy month.

“There’s a transfer of knowledge across different ages and generations going on.

“Politically, I wanted to give a print showing people because I told the prime minister, when he thinks of Nunavut, it’s not just land and wildlife, but people especially that we need to invest in.”

The fact that the artwork was by Pootoogook—whose life came to a sudden end in the fall of 2016 when her body was found on the banks of the Rideau River in Ottawa—was likely not lost on Trudeau.

The death of the world-famous artist, whose pictures often showed stark scenes of everyday life in Nunavut, sparked international headlines, in part because it was a tragic reminder of the daily challenges facing some Inuit struggle with.

The death of Pootoogook, 46, also pled an Ottawa police officer to make racist comments online. He later apologized for his remarks and was disciplined.

Kotierk said Trudeau put his hand over his heart and seemed moved with the presentation of “Homecoming.”

Besides the emotionally-charged content of the print itself, Kotierk, in her first elected post as a politician, had to suppress nerves and anxiety to present the gift to the prime minister.

As she waited in the boardroom Feb. 9 for Trudeau’s arrival, Kotierk said she quickly realized how scripted and orchestrated every minute of Trudeau’s visit was.

“I started to get shaky, feeling butterflies inside because I realized the immensity, that I would be presenting something to a person that everyone thinks is so important.”

So Kotierk said she left the boardroom, went into her office and, even though security personnel were stationed all over the building, including her office, Kotierk stood in front of a photo of her and her grandmother.

“I felt emotional standing there. ‘If only she could be here to see this, who I’ve become and what I’m doing. How would she behave?’” Kotierk remembered thinking.

“And I realized I was grounded. That I had nothing to fear and nothing to feel less than. I was there as an equal, and he was coming to my territory to meet me. I felt resolve—emotional, but resolve.”

When Kotierk greeted Trudeau, she said she did so in Inuktitut, translating “Nunavut” into English, “Our Land.”

“I wanted that to sink in. We’re part of Canada, but it’s also our land. I was happy to present a gift on behalf of Nunavut Inuit, and that he made the time to come visit us.”

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(15) Comments:

#1. Posted by Arctic Circle on February 14, 2017

Sweet, the NTI president says, he was coming to “MY” territory. Would of been more nice if she said “OUR” territory. This is what happens when you have too much power.

#2. Posted by Greta on February 14, 2017

It sounds like this woman is in over her head in new job. I wish her all the best.

#3. Posted by Free on February 14, 2017

Uhm… the next two sentences seem to address what you’re hung up about #1 (Arctic Circle)...

“When Kotierk greeted Trudeau, she said she did so in Inuktitut, translating “Nunavut” into English, “Our Land.”

“I wanted that to sink in. We’re part of Canada, but it’s also our land. I was happy to present a gift on behalf of Nunavut Inuit, and that he made the time to come visit us.”

#4. Posted by Free on February 14, 2017

“Politically, I wanted to give a print showing people because I told the prime minister, when he thinks of Nunavut, it’s not just land and wildlife, but people especially that we need to invest in.”

That part seems so important… I spoke with a lawyer that was in town once and he listed off some of the reasons why he was here, what he was working for… the land, the environment, the wildlife, the water…

I had to suggest to him that people were important too because they weren’t on his list

#5. Posted by Betsy on February 14, 2017

#1 enough already, bet you are looking at every step Kotierk is taking, bet you cant wait for her to fall when you should be helping a fellow Inuit Leader no matter how much power/money she has. I do not know Kotierk personally but she has a good head on her, glad she picked the late Artist Annie Pootoogook’s work. I too wish I had one of her prints.

#6. Posted by Marty Crapper on February 14, 2017

Well done! I think we should be proud to have Aluki Kotierk in this role.  Congratulations

#7. Posted by Norm on February 14, 2017

I agree #5, someone like #1 has it against Kotierk, it doesn’t matter what she does this type of person will attack her.
Too common, we need to help and be more positive.

#8. Posted by Observer on February 14, 2017

Quote: “I started to get shaky, feeling butterflies inside because I realized the immensity, that I would be presenting something to a person that everyone thinks is so important.”

There’s a word for that feeling and it’s called “starstruck.” Starstruck. Nothing wrong with that if you are a regular person.

But if you want to call yourself a leader, you have to realize that Justin Trudeau is just another guy, in this case a politician with his own agenda. His agenda is not your agenda. Remember that, Aluki.

Which means you have to be able to look him in the eye as an equal, not a fan quaking and shaking in front of a Hollywood celebrity. To do that you will have to mature as a person, and do it quickly. Because that is what leaders do.

#9. Posted by Leadership on February 14, 2017

As President you are new, having always been a civil servant who served a Minister who told you how high, what where and when.
Now you have to think for yourself, take firm stands, set a tone, be confident and professional, because you are a President - not a civil servant anymore cow-towing to Ministers and Premiers.
Get firm, set a direction and lead.
Good luck.

#10. Posted by Women in Power on February 15, 2017

Good for Aluki! Don’t let people like #1 and #2 (Ha -fitting numbers for them) get you down.  Inuit need more strong women in politics and they need encouragement and not be expected to perform miracles, to someone else’s standard.
With our tiny Inuit population, the numbers of people getting into politics needs to grow,too. Offering support instead of self-righteousness would be more helpful.

#11. Posted by One step forward on February 15, 2017

Haters gotta hate hate hate.
Getting tired of the absurd negativity on all the NN comments.

Congratulatiobs Aluki! Your grandmother would be proud indeed.
Nervousness means you care and want to give the best first impression. More leaders could learn from you. The ability to think before speaking will serve you well.

#12. Posted by Northern Guy on February 15, 2017

Ms. Kotierk should be proud, she acquitted herself very well and provided the PM with a meaningful and powerful reminder of what the North and Nunavut are really all about. There will always be doom and naysayers, Ms. Kotierk has only to stay the course and keep true to her values and the values instilled in her by her family and community and she will serve Nunavut Inuit very well.

#13. Posted by Oh my on February 15, 2017

Annie was a homeless for years and now she’s gone, she is being recognized.

#14. Posted by northern leader on February 15, 2017

I cannot believe the negativity in the responses early in this thread.  We have a young, intelligent, thoughtful and honest leader who speaks from the heart as an Inuk leader.  Leadership and leaders should always be learning and growing…that is a good thing.  Kotierk is one of the many bright lights that we need to carry forward our values and aspirations.  Well Done Aluki!

#15. Posted by Strate Shewter on February 16, 2017

Fluff.

Aluki, please do us all a favour and grow up a little bit. Your family history and the value you hold in a painting are fine and dandy, but you had a historic opportunity here and you fumbled it.

Where is your sense of urgency? Suicide numbers are consistently high and show no signs of dropping. Overcrowding is higher than ever. Health and Education are abysmal in Nunavut. Most Inuit live in perpetual poverty and hopelessness.

Instead of talking about your values or your interpretation of a painting, you could have pressured Trudeau to elaborate on his concretely concrete deliverables. Or confronted him with some grim realities.

Every time we elect a fresh new leader, I get hopeful. But they inevitably descend into pomp and ceremony without doing much to address real issues.

Yes its hard. No change wont happen overnight. But if your own constituents can’t even take you seriously, why should the Prime Minister?

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