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Journey through time

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Arviat (Nov 16/05) - A dramatic presentation delivered during the official opening of the new Qitiqliq school in Arviat this past month may become mandatory reading for future educators in the hamlet.

The 40-minute spectacle has earned praise for its portrayal of the evolution of learning in Arviat.

Entitled, A Long Way in a Short Time, the piece was written by Qitiqliq drama teacher Gord Billard, who had it translated into Inuktitut by senior students.

The drama was performed in Inuktitut only at the school's grand opening.

The production was a series of narratives chronicling the progression of learning from before the arrival of European culture to the opening of the new school.

Student actors pantomimed the narratives throughout the production.

The original production was so compelling, Billard and the students were asked to perform it again later in the month during a meeting of Nunavut directors and superintendents of education.

In appreciation for their efforts, a $300 donation was made to both the school's drama club and choir on behalf of the Department of Education.

"Our school's senior drama students were also invited so they could write a special critique of the encore presentation, and we also invited a group of Grade 10 Northern Studies students," says Billard.

"There's been preliminary interest in some form of discussion on how to use the script as part of an orientation package for new teachers to the community.

"It would give them a better understanding of the educational situation they're coming into, and the milestone points of the history of education in this area.

"The concept has me quite excited."

Billard compiled most of his research for the project through Inuit staff members at the school.

He says the audience's spontaneous reaction to different scenes depicted by the student actors produced moments he will never forget.

"Our elementary school is named after Levi Angmak, who was on staff at the federal day school that used to be in Arviat.

"Levi used to give the students hot chocolate and cookies every morning, which was the favourite part of the day for most of them.

"We had a little kid play Levi Angmak and, when he was identified in the story, the audience broke into tremendous applause because it was like he was there on the stage, among them again.

"That was truly a magical moment."