CBC Digital Archives

Inuit Education: Inside the cultural chasm

While Inuit parents were being moved from igloos to houses in the 1950s, their children were being assimilated into the Canadian education system. In the worst cases, children were taken from their families, harshly disciplined and stripped of their culture. Only over the past 25 years have the Inuit been permitted a voice to speak out about how their children are educated. After so many years of feeling marginalized by formal education, the Inuit today are a people trying to correct the damage.

The mix of white and Inuit students at schools in the Northwest Territories is revealing some difficult dilemmas. Inuit students are not flourishing in school. Their parents think more education in the Inuktitut language and a culturally relevant curriculum would help. But white parents don't want their children losing out because of the lagging Inuit students. One argument focuses on the difference between education and schooling. Is there room for Inuit culture in Canadian schools?

Both sides recognize that northern Canada is culturally distinct from the south, but regional control over education is not an option the government wants to consider. Inuit parents, however, are demanding an education system that responds to the unique needs of their children. Today, the predicament is heard nationwide.
. Since the mid-1970s, the Inuit have negotiated several land claims with the federal government, the government of the Northwest Territories and the province of Quebec. These include the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975), the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (1984) with the Inuit in the Western Arctic, and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (1993).

. These agreements have slowly but surely enabled the Inuit people to have more control over curriculum development, policy formation and language instruction.
Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Dec. 15, 1982
Guest(s): Ethel Andrew, Elsie Cassaway, Margaret Cook, Cindy Gilday, Steve Kakfwi, Dave Mathews, Roy Menna, Dennis Patterson, Mary Wilson
Host: Nadine Berger
Duration: 27:17

Last updated: February 2, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

A Lost Heritage: Residential Schools extra cl...

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

1990: Graduation for Canada's oldest universi...

University of Toronto bestows 100-year-old Selma Plaut with an honorary degree.

Religion in the Classroom

Canada has struggled with the role of religion in public schools throughout the past half-cent...

An Inuit Education: Honouring a Past, Creatin...

While Inuit parents were being moved from igloos to houses in the 1950s, their children were b...

The Creation of Nunavut

On April 1, 1999, the new territory of Nunavut was born, finally making the controversial drea...