The professors of Inuit culture
Wisdom of elders to be recorded

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (May 31/99) - With just a few months experience under his sealskin vest, the minister of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth (CLEY) has already made significant plans to ensure that his department does its job -- particularly where elders are concerned.

Donald Havioyak, also the MLA for Kugluktuk, announced during the legislative assembly's session earlier this month, that he is going to commit himself to promoting the wisdom and teachings of the elders while elevating them to their rightful position in contemporary society.

By hiring an advisor who will concentrate solely on elders and will look at the recommendations that came out of last year's elders and youth meeting in Cambridge Bay, Havioyak said he hoped to be able to develop some sort of policy that will help Nunavut better utilize its elders.

"I would like to see these elders take their rightful place once again in our everyday society in Nunavut, by being able to lead our youth for the future," said Havioyak, in his speech to his colleagues.

Along with taking part in school curriculums and the cultural programs within the education system, the elders can also play a role in letting youth and the other residents of Nunavut know about their heritage and their roots. Havioyak said this would give future generations a solid footing in life.

"The elders have said they have to do their part as elders and let the youth know who they are. That's the bottom line. Let's work together and pass on our information, our skills. Let's use the elders as professors," said Havioyak.

By using youth or unemployed people to go from house to house in Nunavut to tape record the elders' stories of the past, Havioyak said a written history could be developed and the lessons and values would become permanent. But he stressed that it was crucial for his department to act immediately.

"It's important for us to do this now because our generations are changing so fast, our original people are dying off before we get this information from them," said Havioyak.

"We want to be able to tell our kids that this is how our ancestors lived long ago so they can use that for survival in the future."

Havioyak said the written records would hopefully be kept in heritage centres that will be developed in Nunavut. He added that the government, in co-operation with Nunavut Tunngavik and the Inuit Heritage Trust, would work to repatriate the Inuit artifacts that are scattered around the world.