Having taught cohorts of indigenous learners, I was very interested in this compilation of Masters Theses from Inuit women educational leaders in Nunavut and Nunavik. The University of Prince Edward Island supported the Nunavut MEd program from its inception until the final convocation on June 1, 2013. Walton and O'Leary then created chapters from participants' theses to create this compelling history of Inuit education.
Traditional Inuit Leadership may not be exactly the same kind of leadership described by Western thought. Changes in community dynamics brought about councils and opportunities for participation in different service roles as referenced by Naullaq Arnaquq in her chapter entitled Uqaujjuusiat: Gifts of Words of Advice: Schooling, Education, and Leadership in Baffin Island.
Monica Ittusardjuat addressed Overcoming Intergenerational Trauma: identity and Reconciliation and her story of living the transition. The impact of the Prime Minister's Apology to residential school survivors was in her manner of thinking a bridge to begin the search back for her identity.
Saa Pitsiulak grew up in "settlements" and chose to learn more about her family's early history and what traditional life was like for them. She came up with a list of advice meant for descendants and shared in interviews with her on "how to act like an Inuit." Maggie Kuniliusie wrote an auto-ethnographic account of the shift from Inuit nomadic life to relocation to transition to a modern Inuit society. A fascinating journey portrayed in clear and easy to read narrative.
I found the Inuit naming practices to be very interesting. Maggie Putulik entitled her chapter: Painiaqsarniq: Practice to Achieve. Naming a new born child after a particular person allows a relationship to be built between the child and the person the child is named for. This practice creates many links to immediate families and to people who may not be related to the child. With some of the transitions came challenges not only to family dynamics but to the development of the community as well. "When a child faces many disadvantages it is possible to become skilled and capable through piniaqsarniq, continual practice."
There is a chapter on "stay at school" initiatives, as this is a problem in Nunavut, as well as other places. Nunia Qanatsiaq Anoee addresses her time as an educator recognizing that students need to feel accepted, acknowledged, and respected in order to be engaged in school. One of eight Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) principles identified by the Government of Nunavut in 2007. Tunnga, means to be firmly grounded. Tunnganarniq means to be approachable, hospitable, humble, kind, generous, honest, and respectful. Relationship has the power to motivate students!
Jeela Palluq-Cloutier developed the chapter on lifelong passion for learning and teaching Inuktut. Creating words for concepts not yet considered and defining word from the traditional language has become a creative opportunity for linguists like Jeela. I was enthralled with the story about the creation of the word "internet" which was translated as ikiaqqivik, which is a shammanistic word not used since Christianity was introduced. Shamans had the ability to have out of body experiences, traveling to other camps in a trance to get news of how the people were doing. It fits for how we use computers to get news from all around the world never leaving our homes (p. 112).
Young Inuit male identity is worth considering specifically, as similar to many of our own indigenous cultures, our young males particularly struggle to find where they fit. Becky Tootoo studied Baker Lake, a community that has seen many changes very quickly. Here the research focus involved a study of who were role models for the young men, and the Elders were addressed to provide testimony on the resilience of the human spirit. They expressed a need to 'go to the land' and share the culture with the young men. Valuable skills and relationships are developed in these ways.
Mary Kauki concludes the book with reflections of an emerging Inuit educational leader. In their ways, each of the chapter contributors are change agents in their villages and their culture. What a profound gift shared with the readers!