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Inuit pride recognized
Cambridge Bay woman receives Outstanding Young Woman Award

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, May 9, 2016

When Sarah Jancke learned from her father she was to receive the Outstanding Young Woman Award from the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council she felt overwhelmed.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sarah Jancke of Cambridge Bay, left, and Kiah Hachey combine to perform impromptu throatsinging at the end of a public concert May 4 during the Atausiuqatigiingniq Inuusirmi United for Life summit held in Iqaluit May 2 to 6. - Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

"I had a total, physical response of shock," said Jancke, adding, "I had no idea that I was nominated."

She received the award for her community engagement.

Aside from her position at the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, where, together with Julia Ogina, she co-ordinates programming, Jancke is on the hamlet council, the National Inuit Youth Council, the local recreation committee and the youth centre.

Whenever and wherever Jancke, 27, has an opportunity, she shares her passion - Inuit pride and strength.

"I don't do it for recognition. It's just a part of me to help people and to work for our community. So I never felt the need during the years of volunteering to be recognized," she said.

However, she admits that knowing as a result of the award that people see the difference she makes made her feel emotional. It's also helped confirm something volunteers can't always know, and provided some validation.

"It was so touching, so humbling, to know that I'm making a difference," she said.

In the normal course of nomination, it's usual for one person to nominate another but, in this case, as Jancke later learned, it was the entire office administration class at the Kitikmeot campus of Nunavut Arctic College which nominated her. She spoke to the class a couple of times.

"Last year, I brought a delegation of youth that I had in Cambridge because I want the youth to see the programs at Nunavut Arctic College. I wanted them to see that it's accessible to them. Then I started presenting to them about Inuit history. I started to talk to them about who we are, where we come from as people, what we've been through - and where we should look at going in the future," said Jancke.

"I always like to share that message. Inuit are strong. We come from strong ancestors who survived. If you are an Inuk today, you come from people who survived in the harshest environment there is. If they didn't survive, we wouldn't be here."

She talks about the values, what her ancestors believed, the way they treated each other.

"Those values are the core of who we are as Inuit - whether we think about it or not they are guiding who we are today. If we can recognize that and feel pride, if we can look at those values and look at the modern day and incorporate those together to build a foundation as young Inuit - that's extremely powerful. For anyone. Of any age."

In her own short lifetime, Jancke has seen changes. As an example, she points to when she was younger, she says store-bought clothing was the thing to wear.

"It wasn't cool to wear mitts that were homemade or parkas that were homemade. It was cool for people to have store-bought things. We're so colonized in our communities. It was hard to be Inuk," she said.

The shame, she says, is colonization at its finest.

"Now, today, there are so many people in the community that have pushed to shift that. And so many factors in Nunavut that have pushed to shift that thinking. In Cambridge Bay specifically, now, people are learning, revitalizing traditional skills."

Now, traditional clothing is making a resurgence and its as cool to make it as it is to wear it.

"It's not an easy shift. But that attitude shift happened. In my short life, I've seen and felt that shift. I hope I can continue to support that attitude shift because there are still many things we have to shift."

Attending Nunavut Sivuniksavut played an important role in Jancke's growth - it's where she learned about Inuit history and its where she learned throatsinging and drum dancing.

Proud to be Inuk is Jancke's mantra - "pride that we need to instill in our communities."

"Sometimes you wake up and you don't know if you're making a difference," she said, adding, "It's not easy living in small communities in Nunavut. It's so tempting to move to Iqaluit or move down south, run away from our problems and issues we have in the community."

Jancke says she's always challenged herself to dedicate her time to her community.

"I have a vision for our communities. And the only way we're going to create change is if we're on the ground working towards that."

Finally, Jancke, echoing an ancestral value, says "I've always been taught if you have the ability to help someone, whether it's picking up a water jug for someone or giving someone a ride or helping them with a sled ... If you have the capability to help someone, you do it ... That's what life is about."

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