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Learn from the past, urges singer

Susan Aglukark
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 19/05) - Through music and speeches, Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark teaches others of self-respect, respecting others and empowerment.

The Arviat artist did just that on Dec. 3 at a national summit in Victoria, B.C., which focused on Inuit, First Nations and Metis child and youth health.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Susan Aglukark, seen here in 2001 singing to her son at Jammin' on the Bay in Rankin Inlet, was the guest speaker at a national summit in Victoria, B.C., which focused on Inuit, First Nations and Metis child and youth health. She spoke about learning from the past and working towards a better future for following generations.

Here are excerpts from her keynote address:

"About seven years ago I found myself at a very low point.... I'd all but decided to quit. Personally and professionally things were very tough and I felt like I wasn't moving forward. I had some serious thinking to do and some decisions to make....

I thought of the last couple years of my life and realized I'd spent the better part of my singing/songwriting career going through the motions ... but I realized one day in November of 1998 that I was afraid and that the only way to move forward was to stop being afraid, stop making decisions moment by moment, stop avoiding decisions that might have consequences that might mean some kind of movement or advancement and real leadership. I knew that the next place for me to go was beyond that fear and into the unknown, all for the future of my son....

I still needed "a bridge," something between that small-town Inuk mind and the big city national celebrity, I needed a transition. I had no clue how to go about getting this so I started with the thing that held me up, fear. I read a book called The Gift of Fear which answered some questions, but I quickly realized that as much as this reading was helping I had to just simply decide and move forward. The next question was "who am I?" I began searching for information on Inuit, our past, our history but couldn't find anything that answered the questions I had....

Change was inevitable; it was going to happen. The trouble with how things changed for us was there was no transition. We went from a rooted culture, living with all its challenges and struggles ... to fighting for all of it, culture and living. There was no opportunity to defend our land; our traditional way was just taken over, leaving us to trudge along, our sense of who we are dangling....

I can't begin to imagine what my grandfather had to deal with. Brought up a hunter, he had a purpose when he was born. Things were changing as he was growing up, but still very little "outside" knowledge was forthcoming and so the obvious happened: this place of loss and confusion manifested itself in many horrible forms....

We (the Inuit) have such a young history that we are in a position to turn it around, to give our children and youth a fighting chance.

So how do we do this?

First of all, let's take some lessons from the past. Let's not make all that the previous generations have had to endure "for nothing." They carried and do carry an awful lot for us: our great-great-grandmothers' sacrifice, our great-grandmothers' will and determination, our grandfathers' strong shoulders, our parents' patience and foresight. We've all that legacy to draw from. Draw from it.

Second, listen with your ears and with your hearts. Listen with the knowledge and wisdom of our elders, but also through the ears of our children and youth.

Third, make attainable goals, goals appropriate to the emotional state of the area you are speaking and/or working for. Don't make one fix it all solution. There are many issues and problems and consequently many layers and so there are going to need to be many levels or phases to the recovery."

- Susan Aglukark is a motivational speaker and popular Inuk singer/songwriter.