To me, it often feels like we talk about natives in Canada as if they only existed in the past. We’ve heard the ancient stories about first settlers meeting native tribes, the nomadic hunters, and how at first they traded their goods with the Europeans. It’s interesting history, sure, but the next generation native cultures in Canada are making ‘new’ history all the time.
Take the Inuit people in Nunavut, Canada’s arctic. Nunavut is the first official territory (1999) with official governing status over its people. That’s a huge deal! No other native group in the world has managed to rise above the controversy and oppression of their past, not to mention have national recognition and governing power. And what’s really interesting is that the Inuit new generation are the first to write their history down! So, as a result, the oral history of Nunavut is still a big part of this new territory’s future. They are actively teaching the youth about the land, the culture, and the traditions so their history isn’t lost. Check out this video from the National Geographic that discusses the Inuit oral tradition, it’s pretty cool:
Inuit diet, hunting traditions, and language need to be passed down to the next generation otherwise their amazing history will be lost. Whale fat instead of hamburgers. Storytelling instead of texting. I mean, this image doesn’t reflect modern Iqaluit, but it’s how the old generation lived! And not that long ago!
I had the unique opportunity to live in Nunavut in the year 2000. I lived on Cornwallis Island in a 200-person village called Resolute Bay. Resolute Bay is the second most northern community before the North Pole, and in the winter temperatures got as low as -80 with the wind chill. (This is why I almost never complain about the cold in Ontario!) Honestly, I felt like I was living on the moon! I went to Nunavut for my first teaching job after university, where I taught kindergarten. Even though I worked up there as a teacher, it was me who received the education. The Inuit people are wise, understanding, and gentle people. They have an insight on life like nothing I’ve ever known, born from years in a tight community and culture, not to mention on harsh land.