Rich in traditional culture, Clyde River was recently selected to host Nunavut’s Piqqusilirivvik cultural school, with satellite campuses located in Baker Lake and Iglulik. The selection is an honor for the community which was selected from a strong pool of applications from villages across the new territory. The Government of Nunavut is committing $10 million to Piqqusilirivvik. $710,000 will be spent on design work in 2007. We were lucky enough to hear from several elders in the Clyde River community who are active participants in the planning process for the new school.
Igah Pullaq, the eldest in the room, smiled as she talked about her hopes for the school and its impact on the young people of Clyde River. “We were very supportive and anxious to hear [who was chosen] when we sent in the proposal. The Inuit language is still strong here…we have Skidoos but we use dog teams as well. Even though people today don’t need to do things in the same way that we did, we need to teach them about our history and language.”
Elko Antutiqjuak, a member of the committee for curriculum development, spoke to the need in the community for Piqqusilirivvik. “There is so much unemployment in this community, “ he explained. “The school will help this. Some of us elders may not have diplomas or doctorate degrees but we have a strong knowledge of what we need to survive”. Elko described potential focus for some of the curriculum. “We want to teach traditional sewing, seal and caribou, and what animal skins to wear in certain seasons. We want to teach students about kayak and boat building, and about the wide variety of specialized tools that Inuit use”.
Raygilee Piungitiq, the youngest member of the group, spoke candidly about the positive impact traditional skills knowledge can have on Inuit youth. “Some of our children have children and, with unemployment, depend on their grandparents for support. If they know their culture, they can sew or carve or hunt. If you know these skills, you can start relying more on yourself.” Steven Aipellee, Senior Administrative officer and translator for the meeting shared his reflections on this same topic. “Even now, when I go out on the land, I come back more disciplined. I hope this for the youth, that [learning traditional skills on the land] will give them confidence.”
Many of the elders described their observations of a changing climate and expressed their concern for the younger generation. Several expressed hope that the cultural school would help prepare the next generation for a different environment. “I’ve noticed the world has really changed,” said Igah. “I used to go for walks and it was the perfect temperature. Nowadays the sun is really hot. We can’t rely on technology alone to survive. We need to teach our children how to live on the land.” The planning committee included plans for the school building to fully power itself from alternative energy sources (i.e. wind and solar). It will take more fundraising to make this dream a reality, but the committee seems committed to the concept of a green building. We only wish we could come back in several years when the school is in operation and see the results. Who knows – maybe we will!
Piqqusilirivvik Cultural School Proposal, 2007
Nunatsiaq News, 2006