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Travelling to the Arctic – Delivering children’s books in Nunavut

April 6, 2018

Left to right: Her Honour the Commissioner of Nunavut, Nellie Kusugak, Mike Parkhill, author, Rosemary Akulujuk, Kindergarten teacher, and Astrid-Maria Ciarallo, Prince’s Charities Canada at the book reading at Nakasuk Elementary School

Our Director of Marketing and Business Development, Astrid-Maria Ciarallo, talks about her recent trip to Iqaluit, Nunavut to deliver books to children in Inuktitut to support the revitalization of Indigenous languages.

“‘Ullaakkut,’ I said (Good Morning in Inuktitut) as I greeted the bright-eyed children of the Nakasuk Elementary School.

On March 13th, I had the pleasure of delivering the Inuktitut/English book, The Old Man of Pangnirtung, based on HRH The Prince of Wales’ story, The Old Man of Lochnagar, to kindergarten to grade three students. The Honourable Nellie Kusugak, Commissioner of Nunavut, and the author Mike Parkhill of SayITFirst were in attendance for the reading.

As I walked into the school, designed all in fibreglass because the average temperature in the winter is minus 20 degrees Celsius, I quickly discovered a place full of warmth through the children’s colourful artwork on the walls. There was excitement in the air as the 80 K-3 students gathered in the library for the reading. They listened in awe during the Inuktitut and English reading of the book, and even burst into laughter at some of the Old Man’s adventures. It was an instant bond. Even with a language barrier, I felt immediately welcome and a part of the class. It was incredibly touching to see how the power of a story can bring people together.

The book was first unveiled during The Prince’s visit to Iqaluit in June 2017. The story is originally set in Scotland but was transformed to include local Nunavut landmarks, cultural references and images.

On a personal level, I learned a great deal about the many and varied challenges that come along with living in such a remote area in the Arctic. Did you know that the Arctic is considered a desert? The resilience of the Inuit people is inspiring and incredible, especially given these cold and dry conditions. Everyday challenges of this remote fly in/fly out community include limited access to food, water, and basic health care. It was very evident that climate change is changing the way of life that has been in place for hundreds of years. A real worry is whether a polar bear will be steps away from the town – hungry, without a home from melting ice caps, and ready to attack.

More than ever, this experience made it clear to me that language preservation and revitalization are a key part of identity and a way forward for the future. The project is part of Prince’s Charities Canada’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action to preserve and protect Indigenous languages.

A big ‘thank you’ to the students and teachers at Nakasuk School and Principal Cody Prusky for opening the doors of their inviting school. I’d also like to thank Leena Evik at the Piruvik Centre, who did the translations of the book, along with Maatalii Okalik. They both taught me unforgettable lessons about their traditions and culture.”

Every school-aged child (3 to 8 years old) in Nunavut received a copy of the book. An additional 450 copies of the book were given to school children through the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre. This project was supported by The Weston Foundation and Andy and Valerie Pringle.

Learn more about our work supporting the revitalization and protection of Indigenous languages.

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