NEWS: Around the Arctic June 03, 2014 - 5:55 am

Nunavut Sivuniksavut broadens reach across Inuit Nunangat

Preparing for "Inuit Sivuniksavut" — first student from Nunatsiavut attending NS this fall

PETER VARGA

After almost 30 years devoted to teaching the Inuit of Nunavut, the Ottawa-based Nunavut Sivuniksavut college program is changing its mandate to actively court Inuit students from other Arctic regions, outside of Nunavut.

Created to prepare Inuit youth for educational, training and career opportunities generated by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, NS recently opened its doors to applicants from the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador as a first step.

“Our dream is to have at least a one-year program, where youth from all the Inuit regions, whether within Canada or beyond, might come together for a year and study together,” said Murray Angus, acting coordinator for NS.

Students from Greenland have shown interest, he said, and several years ago NS took on two students from Nunavik on an “experimental” basis.

Nunavut Sivuniksavut means “Nunavut is our future” in Inuktitut.

“Ultimately we have a mandate by our board of directors to move away from Nunavut Sivuniksavut, and evolving our programming into something called ‘Inuit Sivuniksavut,’” Angus said. “That’s the direction we’re moving in, and we’re just getting out of the gate this year.”

The program’s first full-time student from Nunatsiavut, Silpa Suarak of Nain, will start classes in September.

“I always wanted to find some kind of school where I could study more about Inuit history and culture, and I didn’t know where to go,” said Suarak, 26, who works as a youth outreach worker for the Nunatsiavut department of health and social development.

She found her answer at a national Inuit youth summit in Kuujjuaq, Quebec last year when NS staff shared information about the college.

The NS program is “something I knew that I had to do,” Suarak recalled.

“I feel like I’m losing my culture, and I don’t want to — and I don’t want anyone else to lose it,” she said. “I hope we can find more ways of preserving Inuit culture.”

NS is divided into two programs: Inuit Studies in Year 1, which takes up to 40 students, and a second-level program called Advanced Inuit Studies, in Year 2, which takes in 10 to 12 students each year, Angus said.

As a student from outside Nunavut, Suarak will join the Year 1 program, where she will learn the history of Inuit in Canada up to the signing of the Nunavut land claims agreement.

“Some of that history is relevant for Inuit from any and all regions of Canada, and some of the courses are specifically focused on Nunavut, like the Nunavut land claims agreement,” Angus said.

“But we’re going to be modifying our curriculum to make it responsive to the needs of youth from regions outside of Nunavut.”

On that note, NS plans to add lessons about other Inuit land claims agreements, starting with the one that led to the creation of Nunatsiavut.
NS’s Year 2 advanced studies are aimed at preparing students for college or university. These allow students to continue studying Inuit-specific topics but also include circumpolar issues,” Angus said.

Almost 400 students from Nunavut have graduated from NS since 1985, when the program’s first group 10 students started class. Expansions in 2004, when NS added its second-year program, and 2011, when it took on a new building, have since brought capacity up to more than 50 students per year in total.

The last expansion almost doubled NS’s capacity, which created the possibility of attracting youth from other regions, Angus said.

Adding students from other regions calls for some changes to curriculum. For starters, Nunatsiavut students will need courses on land claims of their own region.

“We’ve been in discussions with someone from Nunatsiavut who might be able to assemble relevant documents for us, that we could use for our curriculum here,” Angus said. “And we would move in the same direction to serve the needs of youth from other regions as well.”

Nunavut Sivuniksavut will promote its program at the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s general assembly in Inuvik this summer, he said, where political leaders from Greenland, Alaska and Russia are expected.

NS’s continuing goal is to let Inuit from all regions know the program exists and that their youth are welcome, Angus said.

Accredited by Algonquin College in Ottawa, NS is funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, as well as the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Kakivak Association, Kivalliq Partners in Development, and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.