Expressing Identity

Learning Language, Knowing Self:
Nunatsiavut Inuit Reclaim Inuttitut

May 2019

From October 27, 2017 to March 31, 2018 I had the privilege of taking part in the Master and Apprentice program in Hopedale as an apprentice. Gus Semigak, who was my master for teaching me Inuttitut went out of his way to accommodate my schedule to ensure I had the required 20 hours per week punched in.

I started off only knowing the common words used in Inuttitut when I first began this program, but was taught more words as well as sentences in my mother tongue before I was done in March of last year.

I feel that this program not only helped me build up my language but also helped in my own personal healing journey. Knowing my grass roots of being an Inuk from Nunatsiavut has given me so much more insight on life and what it really is all about being aboriginal and knowing your own identity.

Due to colonization and oppression and our historical trauma, we now suffer from intergenerational trauma which is so visible in each of our respective communities. In the past- and even today we as Inuit struggle to keep our language alive. The truth about knowing that my own parents were discouraged in talking their own language, because it was not acceptable back then, really pulls on my heart strings. The Master and Apprentice program was one way that I began my own healing journey and I cannot fully express how grateful I am to all partners involved in running this program.

I now proudly use as much of my Inuttitut language as I can, wherever I can. Although I may not be bilingual, it sure does help knowing I can now say and understand more Inuttitut today than I did before taking part in the Master and Apprentice Program.

If I had the opportunity to take part in a program such as this again, I would in a heartbeat.

I believe that reclaiming our language in any way we can is essential to our future as Inuit and that programs such as this should be offered to all that would be interested.

- Beverly Hunter, Hopedale, Apprentice 2017-2018

The Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism of the Nunatsiavut Government has been conducting an annual Master Apprentice Inuttitut Program since 2016. The program aims to increase the number of fluent Inuktitut speakers as part of our commitment to help revitalize and strengthen Inuktitut understanding and speaking in Nunatsiavut; an idea that was inspired by other Indigenous nations’ that aimed to revitalize Indigenous languages. The program runs in five of the Inuit communities in the Nunatsiavut land claims area with one Master and one Apprentice from each community.

The program is developed to immerse participants in the Inuttitut language for 10-20 hours per week, depending on the participants’ schedules. Since starting in 2016, we are proud to say we have had one Master and one Apprentice in each of the five Nunatsiavut communities. Our most recent program started on September 17th, 2018 and will run until March 29th, 2019.

If you are a Nunatsiavut Beneficiary and want to be involved in the program in the future, write a letter stating why you would like to participate and what would make you a great candidate for this program.

If you have any questions, please call the Language Program Coordinator, Shirley, at 922-2942, ext. 262. Nakummek!