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Kusugak appointed languages commissioner

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Mar 07/05) - Former high school Inuktitut teacher Johnny Pujjuut Kusugak of Rankin Inlet has been named Nunavut's new Languages Commissioner.

He says one of the goals of his four-year term is to engage more young people in the use of Inuit languages.

"It's our young people who are going to move it forward," he said. "That means you have to go into the schools. I plan to do that in the coming year."

Kusugak steps into the position held for the last four years by Eva Aariak, who left the position in December to pursue other opportunities in the private sector.

Kusugak was born in Repulse Bay in 1959. He began his career in education in 1989 as the head supervisor at the Kivalliq Hall in Rankin Inlet.

He later attended the Eastern Arctic Teacher Education Program, graduating with a teacher's certificate from Nunavut Arctic College and McGill University in 1993.

Kusugak was also the senior manager with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and president of Nunavut Arctic College.

He also served as the executive director of the Kivalliq Inuit Association in Rankin Inlet.

Kusugak is most proud of the Inuktitut choir he started at the high school in Rankin. He said engaging the youth with their ancestral language includes meeting with elders, too.

"Everyone must have a voice," he said.

Kusugak is encouraged by the new curriculum being developed by the Department of Education, but says much more needs to be done to make the Inuktitut a working language in the territory.

"The Inuktitut language has to become a strong foundation in Nunavut," he said. "We have to work with teachers and make sure the needs are being met in the classrooms."

"I want to go into the classrooms and hear from everybody."

"I could really see here in Rankin Inlet if young people are willing to learn, it's just a matter of having the right programs. I know I've got so much to give to Nunavut."