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Expectant mom is a national role model
Pond Inlet's Dina Koonoo honoured for mixing hip-hop and tradition

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012

When National Aboriginal Health Organization role model Heidi Langille visited Pond Inlet last year, it opened high school student Dina Koonoo's eyes.

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Recent Nasivvik School graduate Dina Koonoo was named one of the last National Aboriginal Health Organization role models. - photo courtesy of Anisa Suno

"When she came to our town, she was telling some stories about how we are role models for youth, and I was surprised that teenagers and elders are role models for young kids," Koonoo said. "They are looking up to the older ones and what we do."

She's taking that lesson to heart now that she too has been named a NAHO role model for 2012.

"It was pretty exciting," she said of hearing the news. "One of my friends from high school nominated me, and I didn't know that I was going to be accepted."

Her friend nominated her for her work as a hip-hop leader, a role she has assumed in the community throughout her high school career. As one of the last NAHO role models the federal government eliminated the organization's funding this spring she was cited for creating two youth dance programs in the hamlet. Koonoo teaches hip-hop dancing to children aged 6 to 12.

"Her programs foster confidence and leadership and are always well attended," Koonoo's profile on the NAHO website states.

Koonoo recently graduated from Nasivvik School and is working for the summer in advance of having a baby in October. For her, fusing modern dance with Inuit traditions is a high priority.

"The culture is very important for me because I like to learn about things they used to do in the past, what they used to wear and what language they used to use," she said. "I really like to learn Inuit culture and I like to keep it that way."

Koonoo splits her time between teaching hip-hop and traditional arts, including throat-singing and singing ayaya for tourists. It appears her traditions will win the day, as she plans to apply for college in the winter to study fur design.

Going forward, she hopes her position as a role model will make a difference in her community.

"It means the kids are looking up to me and what I do," she said, noting that in Pond Inlet, "they need less drugs and have more respect for elders and help each other, have more communication."

She'll continue to be a role model and champion of her culture when her child arrives.

"I will try to try to keep what my parents used to tell me and try to teach him that way," she said.

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