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Developing green energy words in Inuvialuktun
Sheena Adams explores language project

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 6, 2017

With indigenous languages in a perilous state across Canada and renewable energy rising in popularity, the two make an unexpected connection in one researcher's work in the region.

NNSL photograph

(Translation) Solar Panels: a flat piece resembling a window/mirror placed on top of a house to collect electricity from the sun to power the house. - images courtesy of Sheena Adams and Emma Segal

Sheena Adams, regional energy project coordinator with the Arctic Energy Alliance, has been working on a project to develop green energy words in Inuvialuktun as part of her university work's thesis.

"Most indigenous languages are being lost," said Adams, who presented her work at the Aurora Research Institute. "The Inuvialuit language is no different."

She felt a need to help the language persevere while adapting it to new concepts that might not have words already.

The main question behind her research was finding out what Inuvialuktun words could be rediscovered or created for green energy.

To find out, Adams held a three-day workshop with elders from across the Inuvialuit communities earlier this year. She tried to make the workshop as traditional as possible, including jigging, storytelling and country food, while listing green energy words in English and having the elders either create or relate words that could represent them in Inuvialuktun.

One of the challenges was accommodating the three different dialects used among the Inuvialuit communities.

Adams addressed that by making sure each dialect and each community was represented as equally as possible.

Her largest challenge, she said, was actually bad weather that delayed travel to the workshop.

During the project, the elders translated 186 terms.

So far, Adams has confirmed the creation of three new terms, including "Solar Panels," which translates to "Siginiqmin Aullan," "Renewable Energy," translated to "Suangatit Nungulailat," and "Wind Turbine," or "Annugihiut Anugihiuttin."

Adams is hoping her work can both revitalize Inuvialuktun and improve communication on renewable energy subjects with Inuvialuit speakers. She is looking to continue making new Inuvialuktun terms and involving more youth in the project in the future.

She thanked all the elders involved in the project for sharing their traditional knowledge.

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