ABOUT THE PROJECT
Inuinnaqtun is the dialect of the Inuktut language spoken in the Inuinnait communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, Nunavut and Ulukhaktok Northwest Territories.
The literal meaning of the word Inuinnaqtun is to be like an Inuinnaq (a person) and it describes the way of thinking, the way of being, and of course the language of the Inuinnait.
Why are we not speaking our language together? Why are we not speaking our language to our children?
The residential school experience is an intergenerational trauma that has caused language loss, shame and wellness issues. For our youth this already heavy burden is compounded by a feeling shame at their lack of language skills, and by a feeling that it is not okay to make errors.
What is clear is that young Inuinnait are demanding their language, and the reconnection it will give them to their Elders, their ancestral worldview and untold generations of traditional knowledge.
Inuinnaqtun is used primarily in the communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk in the western Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. Outside Nunavut, it is spoken in the hamlet of Ulukhaktok.
"Language is a cultural mosaic of communication. Through song, story, and conversation, we reveal our cultural identities. The air of Nunavut is filled with sounds, resonating in four languages. Often, the words begin to meld together. The balance between Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English, and French is a delicate one. Language is dynamic, capable of adapting and evolving."
— Nunavut Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth
Uqarluta Inuinnaqtun will create a working group comprised of language specialists, and motivated youth who represent the three Inuinnaqtun speaking communities as well as researchers in Inuktut revitalization, linguistics and Inuinnait heritage to collaborate in an unprecedented transformational effort to bring back Inuinnaqtun from the brink.
The working group will activate a unified, multi-faceted, Inuinnait-driven plan for the revitalization of Inuinnaqtun, based on the latest theory and best practices, that combines and coordinates the resources of the Inuinnait communities, Federal and territorial governments, Inuit organizations and philanthropists.
The Inuinnaqtun language—the foundation of Inuinnait culture—has less than 600 fluent speakers remaining. By most estimates, it is a language that will be extinct in less than two generations. The disappearance of Inuinnaqtun precipitates the loss of culturally unique knowledge, relationships and engagements with the world.
The working group will prioritize interventions based on analysis of the current situation in each of the communities as well as the latest theory and case studies in language revitalization.
The following are the types of initiatives we envisage: creation of a full-time immersion program will be delivered by Elders and fluent speakers that targets young parents; initiation of a youth movement that makes Inuinnaqtun “cool”; engagement of parents and families to commit to create language nests in the home; initiation of mentor/apprentice programs; and undertake the comprehensive documentation of Inuinnaqtun. Learn more about our project initiatives here.
"Language not only communicates, it defines culture, nature, history, humanity and ancestry. Preserving endangered languages is a vital part of securing the culture and heritage of our rich human landscape. Language keeps traditions alive, it inspires knowledge and respect about our past and the planet on which we live, and it links communities across borders and beyond time."
— From the United Nations, “The UN Works for Cultural Diversity: Endangered Languages”
& LONG-TERM IMPACT
The goal of the project is to unite our Inuinnait communities in sustained, evidence-based efforts that will revitalize Inuinnaqtun, with implications for community wellness and knowledge transmission. This project will unite three communities to act as one; create opportunities for the next generation to grow up immersed in Inuinnaqtun and for adult competent speakers to approach fluency. The impacts of will be to reconnect generations, re-establish the transfer of traditional knowledge, and enhance pride, identity, wellness and mental health for our approximately 3,000 Inuinnait.