Northern studies go south
Ottawa school focuses on teaching Inuit

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 11/99) - Students at Nunavut Sivuniksavut have keen interests in Inuit land claims, Northern history and learning what it's like to live in a southern city, more specifically, the nation's capital.

The Ottawa-based school is a post-high school training program geared at Inuit youth.

"The program and classes are very, very interesting," said Darlene Naqitarvik, 18, from Arctic Bay.

"I think taking this program will help me to go in the direction that I want -- I would like to study law later on."

Nunavut Sivuniksavut recently created its own board of directors for the first time since the school was founded in 1985, by the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut.

"Our first priority is to secure long-term financial stability for the program," said Raurri Qajaaq Ellsworth, the acting chair.

"Despite (Nunavut Sivuniksavut's) overwhelming success over the last 14 years, the program has struggled to acquire funding each year. Our job is to change that."

The program has evolved into one that helps Inuit youth prepare for post-secondary study and for future jobs in Nunavut.

"The NS program is the only one that teaches Inuit youth about land claims organizations -- what they do and how they got there," said Ellsworth.

Many of the 140 students who have graduated from NS are now working for the Government of Nunavut or with Inuit organizations.

As the school is located in downtown Ottawa, it is many of the students first time in either a southern city or Ottawa itself.

"So far, I've been doing my homework and looking around the city," said Gilbert Ukalik, 19, from Rankin Inlet.

"Ottawa is clean and nice and pretty big, but I still get a little homesick."

Ukalik applied for the program in May, after he was given an application in Rankin.

"I was pretty excited when I found out I would be moving here," he said.

"I worked hard all summer to save up to move."

The program also helps students to get set up in Ottawa by helping to find living accommodations and furnishings, orientating them to the bus system, as well as teaching them the basics, like budgeting.

"I don't have my own apartment yet, but we're working something out with Inuit non-profit housing," said Julien Nasalik, 22, of Pelly Bay.

"This is my first time here so I'm still getting used to it."

Nasalik, who says it was the prospect of studying Inuit ancestry and the GN that prompted him to apply, arrived in Ottawa on Sept. 11.

"I think I'll return home when I'm finished the program and use what I've learned to work there," he said.

The students wanted to let their families know that they are doing well and hanging in.