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Back to her roots

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 15/04) - Three years ago, Dawn Katsak, 20, sat down and wrote the names and birthdays of her grandparents in the middle of a large piece of paper.

NNSL Photo

Dawn Katsak, 20, is in the Inuit Studies program at Arctic College. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

From these names grew more names of her aunts, uncles and cousins, until she had drawn an enormous family tree.

This project made Katsak very happy.

"I just kept asking them questions," said the energetic student, remembering this project while sitting in the gym at Arctic College.

Katsak was born and raised in Pond Inlet, a place she misses dearly now that she's been away from it for eight months -- her longest stint ever away from home.

"I feel like I just left yesterday. I miss it. It's a beautiful place," she said.

There are "good and bad" things about Iqaluit, she said, a city she moved to in order to attend Arctic College.

She takes Inuit Studies and loves the program so far.

Next week, they will be sewing seal skins.

"I makes me feel close to my roots," she said of the course.

Even in Pond Inlet, Inuit culture is under siege by English media, Katsak said.

"Today, I think the culture is not as strong because there is a lot of English -- TV, movies," she said.

Katsak, who would like to be an Inuktitut teacher one day, admires Elisapee Ootoova, an elder from Pond Inlet who received the Order of Canada last year for her work on the Inuktitut dictionary.

"She doesn't know any English words," Katsak said, smiling.

"I was speaking to her once, and when I started using some English words she said she did not understand."

When asked where her joy and energy comes from, Katsak shrugged her shoulders.

"It's an independent woman thing I guess," she said, laughing some more.