Spread the word
That's the question Marlene Angnakak posed before promoting a writing contest, a computer research scavenger hunt, and a literacy talk by elders in Pangnirtung last month.
"There are many aspects of our culture that are not written," said Angnakak, manager of the Community Learning Centre. "We're losing elders all the time and with them much of the knowledge is not shared as much as it could be."
She was pleased to see how many people, especially elders, participated.
"They have so much to share about how they first learned to read and write," she said.
Yvonne Harris, who also works at the learning centre, concurs.
"It was wonderful hearing their stories, which were absolutely hilarious," said Harris.
One elder's first run in with the written word was through the syllabics chart printed in the inside of older Bibles. Another elder caught the reading bug by watching one family member read letters from friends in other communities, which was the way information was conveyed from place to place.
Angnakak says promoting Inuktitut literacy is just as important, if not more important, than promoting English literacy in Nunavut.
Statistics Canada may not think so. It measures literacy in English or French terms, not aboriginal languages.
According to the International Adult Literacy Survey done in 2003, 88 per cent of Nunavut Inuit severely lack prose literacy. Stevie Akpalialuk isn't in that category.
He won first prize in the "Strange Story" section of the writing contest with his tale of finding a rabbit's head with the "magnificent, beautiful and accurate" image of a dove designed on its skull.
Akpalialuk thinks literacy events are priceless.
"I think it's a great thing to have in this community. It involves people. There is a gathering, and it encourages reading and writing."
He says although it was nice to see so many elders there, it would have been better if youth were there with them.
"There were no youth! They need to be woken up and encouraged to participate," said Akpalialuk.