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River McCluskey (left) and Kanik Allerton from Iqaluit with their first geese during the hunting program in 2020. © Jamie Griffiths, Chickweed Arts

Nunavut Literacy Council — helps build essential skills

Ilitaqsiniq is not your typical literacy organization. Ilitaqsiniq recognizes literacy as a part of everything, but, most importantly, as a vital element in Inuit and Nunavut essential skill building. What are Inuit and Nunavut essential skills? They are teaching and learning programs that are rooted in skills based on Inuit culture with techniques that fuse traditional and contemporary styles.

Ilitaqsiniq develops and delivers programs that support opportunities for Inuit and Nunavut essential skill‐building. Examples of Inuit and Nunavut essential skills include sewing, small engine repair, and tool making. Sewing programs include creating clothing that keeps everyone warm and dry, using modern materials with traditionally inspired patterns and approaches to clothing making. Small engine repair programs are essential to our communities as we rely on machines to travel and hunt for food. Programs that teach tool making are essential for hunting and working on animal skins. Every day within all our projects we work towards enhancing our programs and finding innovative ways to embed literacy learning into the programs to fit the needs of the communities. 

Ilitaqsiniq has been most known for the Miqqut Project. It is a four‐month program geared towards learning sewing skills from local seamstresses. The start of each day consists of engaging with literacy activities that support self‐awareness, confidence building, healing and a deeper understanding of content‐specific skills taught within the program. Participants then work on their individual projects with the guidance of their assigned Elder seamstress. We have witnessed the success of the Miqqut Project throughout the years with former partici pants creating the best clothes suited to the Northern climate for their families and themselves. Some participants have gone on to begin selling their creations as an additional source of income and some have devoted their careers to making clothing that combines fashion with warmth. 

The Niqitsialiurniq food prep program in Rankin Inlet. © Jamie Griffiths, Chickweed Arts

When Ilitaqsiniq delivers programs, we work with experts in the communities. Experts include: Elders, seamstresses for sewing programs and pattern development, hunters for land‐based hunting/harvesting programs for adults and youth, food specialists for learning how to cook, process and preserve local foods, language teachers for Inuktut revitalization and enhancement, mechanics for our small engine repair programs, carpenters for cabin building, tool making and qamutiq building, and local educators to teach a variety of literacy and early learning programs. These people are essential to the success of Ilitaqsiniq programs. With their skills, participants complete our programs with new and enhanced skills, and a sense of pride and confidence, which encourages them to seek additional opportunities either in employment or furthering learning and training. 

As a non‐profit organization, Ilitaqsiniq has recently experienced huge growth and a fundamental shift. Ilitaqsiniq employs a predominantly young, vibrant Inuit team, and has expanded its operational bases into three communities: Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay. This year, the organization’s programs will reach five Nunavut communities, despite the global pandemic. None of this would be possible without external funding which keeps the organization open. With the support of our funders and partners, we hope to continue to expand our programming into more Nunavut communities, having a broader impact on people in a positive way and supporting community leaders in their efforts to share their skills to build a strong foundation for all Nunavummiut. 

VIAJesse Mike
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