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Elder fears Inuktitut is dying

Using language in school, at home believed to be the solution

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Pelly Bay, NU (Sep 23/02) - Elder Gino Akkak regularly teaches Inuktitut at Kugaaruk Iliiniavik school, but is frustrated that the children often do not understand him.

Akkak fears the younger Inuit generations are losing their traditional language, culture and knowledge.

He is concerned the English-dominated school system and the tendency for parents to speak English in the home are threatening the livelihood of his people.

Currently, children in most Nunavut communities are taught in Inuktitut until Grade 4 and are then taught in English throughout the rest of their schooling.

Akkak said the English-speaking teachers often have trouble with the language themselves.

"Sometimes they can't really pronounce Inuktitut words, so they add English to it and that complicates it a bit more for the younger generations," said Akkak, speaking through a translator.

The elder would like to see schools hire Inuk teachers, but realizes they are scarce.

Whenever possible Akkak visits the school to teach children in their native language.

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated is taking action to ensure that happens sooner than later.

The NTI board of directors passed a resolution on Sept. 12, pledging their efforts to vigorously lobby the territorial and federal governments to ensure all children are taught in Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun.

"We are the majority of ratepayers in Nunavut, Inuit are the majority, but Inuktitut is seen as a minority language. It just doesn't fit," said NTI President Cathy Towtoongie.

In the meantime, Akkak hopes Inuk elders and young parents will work to ensure the younger generations are exposed to Inuktitut both at home and within the community.