Young Inuit can now learn about their language and traditions at a new cultural school that opened this week in Nunavut.
The Piqqusilirivvik Inuit Cultural School officially opened Wednesday in Clyde River, Nunavut, a hamlet of about 820 on the coast of northeastern Baffin Island.
Developed by the territorial government, the school aims to preserve the Inuit culture in Nunavut, where 84 per cent of the population is Inuit, by teaching youth the Inuktitut language and traditional activities such as hunting, craft-making, and Arctic outdoor survival.
"It's not only the first for Nunavut, it's the first in our country," Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak said at the opening ceremony.
The first set of 26 students — one selected from each community in Nunavut — are expected to begin classes with 14 instructors in September.
The students will stay in dormitory-style rooms inside the school, which also has several open-concept classrooms, a wood shop and a sewing room.
Semesters will be about three to four months long, matching the length of the seasons, according to officials.
"Knowing who you are, as an Inuk, is just so incredibly important," said Becky Kilabuk, youth programs coordinator with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in Iqaluit.
According toStatistics Canada figures, 64 per cent of Inuit in Canada said Inuktitut was their mother tongue in 2006, which is down from 68 per cent in 1996. Slightly fewer Inuit also reported speaking Inuktitut at home, according to the figures.