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Bringing new life to old traditions

School gives gifts of tools, knitted goods to community

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Resolute Bay (Dec 31/01) - Men make tools for women. The community comes together to help out the less fortunate. These are facts of Inuit tradition.

But growing up in a world of Nintendo, the Internet and DVDs, not so many young Inuit make tools anymore.

And the idea of community co-operation is beginning to fade. "Some young people aren't making (tools) for their wives anymore because everybody is so busy working or have other obligations," says Susan Salluviniq, an office manager in Resolute. "We're not passing these kinds of information to our children any more."

But their importance has not diminished. In some cases, just a little education is necessary to bring the old into the new.

In Resolute, students are being realigned with their past. They're doing it with their hands, in the most practical of ways: tool-making, knitting and baking.

"You should always, whenever you can, pitch in and help another person," says Qarmartalik school principal Terri Lyn Hall.

"Traditionally ... if someone was orphaned or a woman lost her husband, then other families would pitch in and help her. (But) they're starting to lose the whole desire to do stuff like that," she says.

So the clatter of tools and the click of needles have sounded within classroom walls this semester as students prepare to give Resolute Bay a gift of tradition reinvigorated.

Five students in one class made five sealskin-stretching and five fat-scraping tools, while students in another class have knit socks and scarves. Another group fabricated ulus.

"These are real, working tools, ones that ladies can actually use to prepare the skins," she added.

"This is the first time our school has actually made (tool-making) part of the curriculum. Students did it the whole term and received credit."

"I had fun making them," says Gary Kalluk, one of the Grade 10 tool-makers. "I would like to make some more sometime."

The work of their hands went to elders and "people in the community we'd like to recognize," says Hall.

"Another class did some crafts, and they (delivered) them door to door to people who might be forgotten.

"We (tried) to do a lot things like that and give to the community, in the spirit of Christmas."

"It's a very good way of bringing back traditional knowledge," says Salluviniq.