Inuit delegation look to Wales for language preservation lessons

December 17th, 2016 by Jeela Palluq-Cloutier, executive director of the Nunavut Language Authority, and her 16 fellow travellers are Inuit — representatives from Nunavut, Labrador, northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories. They were invited to Wales by Prince Charles in order to try and learn how to save a dying language. “In some areas of Canada’s north, the Inuit language is really thriving,” explains Palluq-Cloutier. “But there are communities where it’s gone down to 20 percent. And the speakers are only the elderly people — the youth are not speaking it anymore. So in those areas, we’re trying to bring the language back.” Wales might seem like an odd detour on the journey to revive an Inuit language but the Welsh language survival story speaks volumes. Welsh is believed be around 4,000 years old, making it the oldest language in Britain but during the mid-1900s, it almost became extinct. The language was rescued thanks to a concerted campaign over the past 25 years, which saw Welsh declared an official language and Welsh education made compulsory in public schools. Read more: Global News

First dictionary of rare Inuit dialect published

February 15th, 2016 by In August 1963, anthropologist Jean Briggs arrived in a remote Arctic outpost with enough freeze-dried food to make the locals wince at the imagined strain on their dog sled. Briggs was in her 30s, and wanted to learn the culture and dialect of the Utkuhiksalingmiut, a once-nomadic Inuit people who then lived near Chantrey Inlet, N.W.T. (It’s now part of Nunavut.) “I hated the culture I grew up with. I was just deliriously happy to be there,” says Briggs, 86, who still hates consumerism, doesn’t own a TV and only buys used clothing when a shirt has so many holes that it falls off. Her current nightshirt is from 2000. She was adopted into the Kigeak family, and marvelled as they speared salmon in the rapids during spring, cut blocks of ice from the inlet in late September to create ice-walled houses, and built igloos when enough snow had fallen further north to make blocks. Read more: The Star‎

With few fluent speakers left, young people are teaching Inupiaq as they learn it

January 25th, 2016 by The young teachers sparkle with energy in the classroom, but they also feel fear, guilt and disapproval as they teach the ancient Native language of Inupiaq to students on Alaska’s North Slope. Because they aren’t fluent themselves. Teachers who spoke Inupiaq as a first language entered the classroom in the 1980s and now most have retired. With hardly any fluent speakers left under 50 years old, the North Slope Borough School District started hiring young teachers who were learning the language themselves. “In my estimation, these are the bravest, most courageous people on Earth,” said Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, the district’s director of Inupiaq education. “With our first learner-teacher, the feedback we got from the community instantly was, ‘What are you doing hiring a non-speaker in the classroom to teach the language?’” Read more: Alaska Dispatch News‎

Inuit move closer to a single writing system

August 27th, 2015 by A two-day gathering gets underway in Iqaluit today that will help move Inuit closer towards a single, unified writing system. The Autausiq Inuktut Titirausiq task force, launched by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit group, will spend the next two days discussing findings from a series of consultations that saw visits to three communities in Nunavik, three in the N.W.T.'s Inuvialuit region and six in Nunavut. The goal is to come up with a recommendation to provincial, territorial and Inuit government recommendations on how to standardize the written Inuit language. Read more: CBC