Is this the Nunavut our Ancestors Fought For? | Susan Aglukark | Walrus Talks

Is this the Nunavut our Ancestors Fought For? | Susan Aglukark | Walrus Talks


[Applause] It has, and it continues to be, my privilege to serve you, these past 25 years, as
self-proclaimed Arctic Canada’s artist-in-residence, serving the biggest
residence in North America, Inuit Nunangat. And that is what Inuit Nunangat
is for us, it is our residence, it is our place. We, Inuit, are its people and,
therefore, stewards of its history: past, present and future. These past 25 years I
have come to appreciate that there is much to reflect on in our history. I am
learning so much about our people through the lens of our ancestors and
their journey. During these past 25 years of reflection and songwriting, I keep
coming back to one area of profound knowing: we Inuit are an
extraordinary people, deeply grounded, still, in a culture forged by our
ancestors. Their journey is what shaped us and made us who we are today. Their
life experience is the foundation on which our precepts of determination,
adaptability and love for life are built. They began the journey to our
present-day Nunavut. But I feel we dishonour these ancestors, we who have
taken on positions of leadership—all levels of leadership and all levels of
government. Suicide rates are highest here than they are anywhere else in
Canada. We have overcrowded housing conditions and far too many of our
people are having to choose who-gets-to- eat-what any given day. Is this the
Nunavut our ancestors fought for? Is this our Nunavut’s Inuit culture? Is this
the Nunavut Canada envisioned? Our ancestors, through their journey, which
took approximately 5,000 years, lay claim to Inuit Nunangat. Their journey forged a
culture of reciprocity; respect life and living thrives, respect the human spirit
and humanity thrives, respect what land, water and sky offers us and nurturing
thrives. Our ancestors entrusted this tenet of reciprocity to our political
leaders who took it, they defended it, they took on the mantle of stewardship
of Inuit Nunangat and successfully negotiated Nunavut. The question we ask
our leaders today is: is the tenet of reciprocity being honoured? Nunavut is
a beautiful thing, but Nunavut is nothing without its people and its
language and both are struggling. Have we become so complacent that we
have forgotten the tenets passed down to us by our ancestors and our
elders? I choose not to believe this because Nunavut is a living story and it
began thousands of years ago. It is Canada’s oldest story and our children
and youth need a chance to contribute to this story and to do this they need our
help now. Our children and youth are strong and resilient, they still believe
very strongly in their culture, in Inuit culture, and they are still fighting
every day to own it. But they need to be anchored to an identity and some of
these connections to this identity are in our ancestors and their stories and
we have a duty, and a responsibility, to engage our children and youth in the
process of connecting with and helping them write these stories. These stories
become connections and it gives them a glimpse of the extraordinary people that
were our ancestors, the extraordinary thing that is our past. We give them, and
we give ourselves, our very own heroes— heroes our children and youth
desperately need right now. We engage them in that story and that culture that
they collect, they will weave this into the fabric of their Nunavut. Keeping the spirit and the history of
Inuit alive will honour our ancestors, it will honour our political leaders and
our current elders and it will keep Inuit culture alive in the hearts
of the next generation of Inuit who will follow. A Nunavut
that weaves all of this story is my Nunavut. This Nunavut is part of my Canada,
and this is the country I desire. [Applause]

3 thoughts on “Is this the Nunavut our Ancestors Fought For? | Susan Aglukark | Walrus Talks

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *