Akhuuqhimajara Inuinnaqtun / 'I'm all in for Inuinnaqtun'
Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society
The Inuinnait are a distinct regional group of Inuit living in the Central Canadian Arctic. The Inuinnaqtun language—the foundation of Inuinnait culture—has less than 600 fluent speakers remaining. Inuinnaqtun is listed as endangered by UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (http://www.unesco.org/languages-atlas/). The disappearance of Inuinnaqtun precipitates the loss of culturally unique knowledge, relationships and engagements with the world.
To be fluent in Inuinnaqtun is to fully take part in a worldview deeply rooted in the Arctic environment and the experience of countless Inuinnait generations. As part of a five-year Strategic Plan, the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society (www.kitikmeotheritage.ca) is leading a coordinated and transformational effort to reverse the loss of Inuinnaqtun in our communities by partnering with Elders, language specialists, competent speakers, and academic linguists to create multiple, parallel programs to document the language, mentor the next generation of competent speakers, and develop digital tools for knowledge sharing. See www.inuinnaqtun.ca for details.
The recovery and revitalization of Inuit culture and language relies heavily on our ability to teach the next generation of fluent speakers and then encourage and foster the transmission of Inuinnaqtun with each new generation. We must invest in establishing language carriers now, or, we will not be able to teach Inuinnaqtun to current and future generations.
We’re initiating a Master-Apprentice Language Pilot Program that will pair fluent Inuinnaqtun speakers (mentors) with dedicated language learners (apprentices) for 300 hours of one-on-one language immersion. This type of teaching and learning approach has successfully trained language carriers in other parts of Canada:
Other success stories:
Through the Mentor-Apprentice approach, mentors pass on language and transmit cultural knowledge to the next generation of competent speakers, who will in turn become mentors and language teachers to the following generation, creating a ripple effect across our communities. We will identify apprentice candidates with basic to intermediate language competence and match them with mentors, while providing them with support. Apprentices will learn Inuinnaqtun through conversation and activity-based learning that includes traditional and cultural activities, integrating the language into daily life. The project will provide a foundation for establishing Mentor-Apprentice programs in other communities.
- Increase the number of fluent Inuinnaqtun speakers who are dedicated to teaching Inuinnaqtun and promoting language use amongst their families, friends, and communities
- Enhance the immersive qualities and strength of language instruction in our communities
- Support ongoing language revitalization efforts of the PI/KHS, such as Uqarluta Inuinnaqtun
- Preserve Inuinnaqtun and ensure that a successive generation of fluent speakers is in place to hold and transfer knowledge
- Increase intergenerational connectedness and the transmission of cultural knowledge
- Strengthen Inuit identity, self-esteem, and promote greater community wellbeing
Inuinnaqtun is our link to our Elders and the knowledge, worldview and cultural continuity that is our inheritance. Language revitalization is our path to restoring these things, and with them the wellness of our youth and our communities.
How You Can Help
Participation in this immersive program requires a significant time commitment. Both mentors and apprentices must often forego employment and work opportunities. It is standard practice among Mentor-Apprentice Language Programs across Canada to financially compensate all participants for their commitment and dedication to teaching/reclaiming their language. Apprentices are investing their time to become a resource and specialist for the benefit of their community, to encourage and help others take back their language and ensure that language and knowledge is not lost forever.
In order to fund 2 Inuinnaqtun apprentices and 2 fluent mentors, we are asking for your help. We need to raise the following in order to make the program a reality and ultimately begin a language shift :
- $12,000 to fund the participation of 2 apprentices for 300 hours
- $15,000 to fund the participation of 2 mentors for 300 hours
- $1,000 for materials and supplies for traditional activities to aid in immersion
TOTAL GOAL : $28,000
Supporting the training of language carriers will keep our language alive and provide an unbroken link to future generations. The value of your gift will be transformational and have a direct and profoundly life-changing impact on Inuinnait communities. We’re incredibly grateful for your generosity and support, and for seeing the value of our language and culture.