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Bones and arrows

By Carolyn Sloan
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, December 9, 2008

IKALUKTUTIAK/CAMBRIDGE BAY - Respected elders Lena Kamoayok and Mabel Etegik have the beginnings of their very own fan club in Cambridge Bay.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Mayowa Ilori had fun dressing up in traditional clothing during a visit with local elders. The Grade 4 student at Kullik Ilihakvik was born in Nigeria and recently moved to Cambridge Bay from Barrie, Ont. - photo courtesy of Kathy Tanner

“They are so warm-hearted,” said Latetia Ehaloak, a Grade 4 student at Kullik Ilihakvik.

Her classmates agreed, calling the women “friendly,” “beautiful,” “smart” and even “silly.”

The children visited the two elders on Dec. 2 at the May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre, where they were captivated by traditional Inuit tools, clothing and dancing.

The class has been learning about the past and present of their own community as well as the present-day culture and history of the Copper Inuit as part of the social studies program.

The elders began their visit with the Grade 4 class by teaching them several Inuinnaqtun words and asking them to introduce themselves by the Inuinnaqtun names. They even learned how to form sentences.

“I liked learning how to say Inuinnaqtun words,” said student Billy Anavilok.

Other students relished the opportunity to learn how to use a bow and arrow. Kamoayok, who is an expert hunter, led the demonstration and gave each of the students a turn.

During the day, the class also had a chance to try on traditional clothing items such as caribou parkas, pants, mittens and kamiks. The children agreed that playing dress-up was one of the best parts of the presentation.

“It was fun trying on the kamiks,” said student Sydney Atatahak.

“It was lots of fun trying on all the clothes!” said classmate Debbie Lyall.

In addition to the clothing, the elders showed students the different animal hides, such as seal, wolf, wolverine and caribou, and demonstrated how to scrape them. After watching, the children took turns using caribou bone scrapers. It was a new experience for most of the students.

“I really liked seeing all the different kinds of fur and trying all the tools,” said student Alysha Maksagak.

Kamoayok and Etegik also demonstrated how to drum dance and allowed the students to try their hands at drumming while wearing traditional clothing.

It was the first week of school for Mayowa Ilori, a student originally from Nigeria who recently moved to Cambridge Bay from Barrie, Ont.

“It was really interesting learning from the elders,” she said after the visit. “I’ve never scraped hides before!”

While she felt that Nunavut was “really cold," Ilori said she was happy living in community and had already made many good friends. She particularly enjoyed the presentation from the elders.

--with files from Renee Krucas