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Lion's Roar : Arctic Writing


Elisapee Ootoovok Speech

Invention of Quallanology

Have you ever been a Quallanut?

Training for Who?

Training for Who?

Are Inuit ready for the "new" government of Nunavut? Should more training dollars be spent to get them ready? I have heard questions like this on the streets of Iqaluit recently, and I wondered if we could examine these questions a little more closely. Let's start with the first part. If this government is "new" then indeed people will have to be prepared for it, but is it "new"? Some Inuit seem to think that this government is the same as the Yellowknife one. Or worse--it's more like Ottawa. I have heard some say that this government is more defensive about Inuit knowledge--Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. That it drags its feet even slower in response to citizen inquiries than Yellowknife did. But if this government is about the same as Yellowknife, then Inuit really don't need any more training dollars spent to get them ready, because Inuit already have years of experience dealing with a Qallunaat-style government--one that ignores them and is secretive. Inuit have years of practice listening to MLAs who think "consultation" means telling people what to think and do. If this government is just going to be another one that doesn't know how to LISTEN, well then Inuit know all about dealing with a government like that-no training dollars required at all to help them figure that out. No Siree. But. let's say we give the Government of Nunavut the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Let's say that it IS going to be different from all the other provincial and territorial governments in Canada; well then, let's ask: HOW is it going to be different?? It seems to me that if the government of Nunavut is going to be different, it's going to be different to the degree that it reflects a more Inuktitutized form of governance. That's fair to say isn't it? I mean I'm a Qallunaat, but even we Qallunaat have to recognize that this government--and this territory--has come into being as a RESULT of the Nunavut Land Claim; the government we share is a byproduct of the Inuit fight for recognition and justice. This government didn't come about as a byproduct of my family's struggle for recognition; my ancestors are from England, Denmark and Argentina, they didn't spend their lives struggling for this land claim. I live here now and I support the claim, but I wasn't around here struggling for it in the 1970s and 1980s. Hundreds of Inuit fought for this land claim; and one of the conditions of the claim negotiation was the setting up of the territory and government of Nunavut.

OK. So IF this territory ends up being governed differently then we should expect that the ways in which it will look different are ways that reflect its Inuit heritage. Ways that reflect Inuit philosophies, ways that embody an Inuktitut way of doing things, right? So now, back to the question at the beginning: if this government of Nunavut is different because it reflects the Inuktitut way of decision-making, then is it really Inuit who need to be trained into this way of doing things? If there are hours and hours of training to be done, who is it who will have to be trained to behave differently? Isn't it the Qallunaat?? Isn't it Qallunaat who will have to learn the Inuit way of doing things? Isn't it Qallunaat who have to learn to speak Inuktitut? Actually wait a second, that's kind of a scary idea: lot's of us Qallunaat talking Inuktitut really fast and arguing and so on. OK, so maybe better to say, isn't it Qallunaat that have to be trained to LISTEN in Inuktitut, and then trained in how not to interrupt in Inuktitut (just because someone is taking a pause in their talking doesn't mean you should leap in Qallunaat-style)?? You know sometimes I hear some manager-types say "Oh I don't know if we can get an Inuk who can do that job", and I heard one person say "you know Inuit can't be expected to move from the Stone Age to the Computer Age overnight". Now, ignoring the underlying racism of that remark, maybe Inuit should be asking: Can a Qallunaaq do this job? Maybe a Qallunaaq will move too fast to think? Can the Qallunaat be expected to move from the Hectic Age to the Reflective Age overnight? If this is a government for the people of Nunavut, not the people of Ottawa, then tell me again: Who is it who needs to be trained to behave differently??