July 20, 2010

There are very few opportunities for higher education in the north. Other than a few vocational programs, institutions like Nunavut Arctic College and Nunavimmi Pigiursavik, there are virtually no academic opportunities for people who want to pursue non-vocational education in their home regions. This is especially true of Nunavik. There are a bunch of reasons why this is, be it low graduation rate, isolation from the rest of the country and some would say lack of human resources.

The programs we have now have been fairly successful. I think if it were going to be even more successful, a university in the arctic would need to be on an arctic clock, rather than a conventional western clock. By that, I mean follow seasons in a way that Inuit would follow the seasons. Build semesters around a cultural schedule, like for example, a conventional winter semester starts in mid January, then there’s a break around March before ending in early may. Inuit in post secondary get a break to go home in the coldest month where there aren’t a lot of hunting opportunities, but they miss the goose hunting season in April/May. What if the winter semester started in late October, then instead of spring break, it’s Christmas break, after Christmas, people would finish around March and be free just in time for ice fishing and goose hunting. I don’t know, maybe it’s not possible, but something tells me conventional semesters in the north wouldn’t work all that well in the long run (I mean, unless loss of traditional activities and intense assimilation was a long term goal)...

Then there’s concept of intensive semesters. You know, instead of four months of study, make it two. People in the north are most successful when they don’t have to waste so much time in the process. Most people have children; most people suffer from high cost of living. Working for four months while doing full time studies and raising children at the same time in the midst of a housing crisis isn’t very appealing to a lot of Inuit (Or anyone for that matter).

Or maybe something like shift work, shift work has been proven one of the best ways to have employee efficiency among Inuit staff. People work for two or three solid weeks then go hunting for the next two solid weeks. It’s perfect for people that would rather be on the land, but still have bills to pay. A lot of Inuit don’t go to school because that’s too much time not being on the land. Two weeks on, two weeks off might be difficult administratively, but that’s something that can be dealt with. Just to make it even clearer, imagine having two sections of a class in a four month intensive semester. The first section would do 2 weeks, then they would get their break while the next section did their two weeks. It’s repetitive for teachers but hey, they could be on shifts too, just so that they can keep some continuity and flow with their class. Students could use this time to work, go hunting, even sit in on the other sections classes if they miss anything or want to understand more deeply.

There are a whole bunch of other ways this could be done, these are just some things i was thinking of.. We have the chance to create something completely new and different from systems that have been proven ineffective up north. Why don’t we try to be more innovative? We’re starting from scratch here.. let’s not F**k up like they have in the past. JCG

July 9, 2010

The month of June started off really bad in Nunavik. We lost a handful of youth to drowning and suicide, and a few more of our elders passed away, all in the first 2 weeks of the month. This year is unusual in the sense that a lot of people have actually drowned, it does and has happened in the past, but for a span of 3 or 4 days, we lost four very bright young men. This was a huge blow to the youth of Nunavik, we lost some of our own.. each of those boys was someone’s brother, someone’s uncle, father, boyfriend, cousin, namesake and most of all, friend. One of our young women committed suicide this month as well.. I know, it’s hard to read this or believe it.. but that’s so normal –not because it’s ok, but because it’s a fact of life. Suicide is woven into the fabric of Nunavik whether we want to hear it or not; it’s true. It’s like a predator in the shadows, always, always there.. you can feel it breathing on your neck, but you never know when it’s going to strike –but you know it will. We live life always braced for that news.. it’s something we expect to hear when we do hear it.. it’s not unusual. The loss of our elders is not something we can easily cope with either. We lost a lot of knowledge, experience and love when they passed. Not only are elders valuable for knowledge, but grandparents and great grandparents are a vital part of a family.. the loss of an elder is a devastating hit to an entire community, as well as the region as a whole and the general Inuit population.

I know, tragedy is part of life and life is what we’re here for.. but this is the kind of thing that makes people wonder if it’s all worth it, or what it’s all for. These were traumatic events in our history.. but i don’t want to dwell on that too much, I just wanted to give some context –this post will actually end on a very happy note.

The first ever Qanak conference was held in Inukjuak at the end of June. Qanak was an initiative by Nunalituqait Ikajuqaitigiitut and Saputiit Youth Association, I was on the Steering Committee of this conference. The steering committee has been working since September to get this moving (although i only joined in February). So when someone suggested we cancel due to the current circumstances, there was no question. There was no way we were going to cancel. We felt that in light of everything that happened, we needed more than ever to make this happen.. So we did. We wanted to give a breath of new life to the young people. The workshops we had included topics like Cultural Oppression, Complex Trauma, Parenting, Finances, Leadership, and others. It feels like sometimes, Inuit Youth in Nunavik are very isolated from things, basic things like services and even information. Qanak was meant to bridge that gap of knowledge, to give people what they wanted to know or to show them who they could ask. We very successfully accomplished that last month. Not to mention the fact that it was organized, entirely by Inuit youth with an overwhelming majority of Inuit staff and support (truly, truly, truly by Inuit youth, for Inuit youth). Many young people are already hoping to sign up for next year! This was something to be proud of. //new paragraph//I think with all the drama, all the pain and trauma we still face, Qanak was able to give light to the end of the tunnel; still a very long tunnel, but one now where we can see relief. I have hope for the future, knowing people are not being denied basic knowledge like financial support, parenting and social services (or at least that people are more aware of all these things), and that youth are rising up, taking their places and standing on their own. We get through so much together, Qanak will only help us be stronger. JCG.

**As anonymous as i’m trying to keep myself, i think it’s pretty much impossible considering my experiences to keep my identity very secret, just don’t tell any creepy internet stalkers who i am, k?

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