Elders teaching students

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Feb 18/98) - High school students across the Keewatin will soon have more opportunity to learn traditional skills in the classroom.

The new program, funded through the Kivalliq Aboriginal Training Fund, helps high school students learn about traditional life skills from community elders.

Each high school in the district will receive $15,000 annually for the next two years to provide traditional living instruction. In addition, a co-ordinator has been hired to administer the project for all seven communities in the region.

Each of the Keewatin's district education authorities will receive the funds from Kivalliq Partners, who accessed the money through Human Resources Development Canada.

Simon Okpatauyak of Kivalliq Partners said the driving force behind the program is to get Inuit people teaching other Inuit about Inuit living. "The meaning of it is to train our own people," he said. "A lot of young people like to go hunting."

Okpatauyak said the funding will be turned over to the boards and they will administer the program. "It will be up to the DEAs (to decide) which grades take part," he said.

"We're sort of hoping to focus on school drop-outs from ages 18 to 25 or people who are at risk of quitting school."

But ultimately, he said, the local boards will choose how the money is spent in their school.

Curtis Brown, director of the Keewatin Divisional Education Council, said the program has been extended to include all high school students who can fit it into their class timetable.

The instruction will be available to anyone who is interested in taking it, he added. While elders already go into the schools to show the students skills that include sewing, skinning and story-telling, this new program will provide more funding for it.

Brown said this additional funding is expected to improve the cultural component of education in the region. The base funding that's already available has been cut in recent years and this extra money will help offset the effects of this decrease.

"We hope that the DEAs are able to supplement the money the GNWT supplies for cultural instruction," he said.