In Inuktitut, the names of the month are many and multifaceted

For years, Aseena Mablick has collected information on the names of the months in Inuktitut.

'We just follow Mother Nature’s ways for naming the calendar'

CBC North's Aseena Mablick brings you the Inuktitut names of the months, which have a lot to do with Inuit culture and land. (CBC)

Inuit in Canada's North have their own unique names for the months of the year.

Aseena Mablick, an announcer for CBC Nunavut's Inuktitut-language radio program Tausunni, has been collecting information on the names of the months in Inuktitut for years. 

"I heard it from my father, time to time, and since I started teaching at a high school, I started researching from my late grandmother, picked up a little bit here and there," says Mablick. "When I got to CBC, I decided to write it down."  

Mablick says one of the reasons she's sharing this now is to "keep the language."

The names in Inuktitut are interconnected with the environment and wildlife surrounding the Inuit in Canada's North.

"It's a truthful and honest calendar for people who are living over here, everyday, like us," she says. "We just follow mother nature's ways for naming the calendar."

The Government of Nunavut and other Inuit associations have announced February as the Inuktitut Language Month.

Each region in Nunavut has its own unique names for the calendar, and Mablick shared with us just two of the regions she's looked into — Baffin region (also known as the Qikiqtaaluk Region) and Nunavik (northern Quebec).

January 

In Nunavik, January is "Naliqqaittuq", literally meaning "nobody's able to compete with it," says Mablick. "It has to do with the coldest weather in that month."

January is called "Qaummagiaq" in the Baffin region. It means "bright day coming back."

February 

In Nunavik, February is "Avunniti", which has to do with bearded seals in the region having miscarriages.

"According to [elders'] stories, they used to have miscarriages in that month," says Mablick.

"Qangataksat" is February in the Baffin region.

"It means lifted up," says Mablick. According to an elder from Clyde River she spoke with, it's a description of the snow and ice formation by water.

"It looks like it's lifted and pushed up due to seals building snow caves on top of sea ice for protection from temperature and predators, says Mablick.

March 

March is "Natsialiuti" in Nunavik. This means baby ringed seal, says Mablick.

It's "Avunnisi" in the Baffin region, which means bearded seals having miscarriages, just like the name for February in Nunavik.

"It's because the season starts earlier in Nunavik than it starts here in Baffin."

April 

"Tirilluliuti" is April in Nunavik, which means it's the season for bearded seals to have babies.

In Baffin, it's "Nattiaqaliriaq."

"Baffin is finally starting to have [ringed] baby seals in April," says Mablick.

May 
(CBC)

"Nurraliuti" is the name for May in Nunavik. "It has to do with caribou starting to have babies."

In the Baffin region, May is melting season and it's called "Tupiqtuut," which means "we are finally able to put our tents up in that month.

"Because if you're still trying to make snow houses, the ceilings can fall down. So everybody's telling each other 'it's time to put your tent up.'" 

June 

In Nunavik, "Manniliuti" means it's time for the birds to lay eggs.

"Nurrait" is the name for June in Baffin. It's the same as May in Nunavik — caribous are having babies.

July 

In Nunavik, "Tuvaijaruut" means it's time for ice to break up.

Baffin region's name — "Tirigluit-Tuviijaruut" — has two meanings.

One has to do with the lakes. "Mother nature is preparing to get rid of water lakes," says Mablick. "In that month, you're starting to realize little creeks and little lakes and the ocean's beach is starting to evaporate."

The second refers to the fact bearded seals are now having their babies in the Baffin region.

August 

"Aujaliruuti" means "this is the last of summer" in Nunavik.

"Saggaruut" is the name for the Baffin region. It means "caribou skin is ready."

"Caribou, for the summer, they get very beautiful fur. It's perfect for women to make clothing in the month of August."

September 

September in both regions mean the same thing. In Nunavik they say "Amiraijaut" and in the Baffin region they say "Amiraijarvik."

Both names have to do with caribou antlers.

"Their furs, the skin of their antlers are shedding," says Mablick. "And later, they're going to get a new one. Just like dogs, their fur always changes once a year."

October 

October is "Arnalinnguutivik" in Nunavik. It means that female cariboo, or cows, are "in heat" and it's mating season. During this time, the meat of male cariboo tastes bad, says Mablick. "So you have to be very watchful out, being a hunter."

In the Baffin, the month is called "Ukiuliruut," which means the season is starting to move towards winter.

November 

"Natjuijarvik" is November in Nunavik. Caribou antlers are falling off from their heads. "Just like skin, they will replace," says Mablick.

Baffin calls November "Tusaqtuut," which means "it's time to hear the news," says Mablick.

This is when Baffin people begin to move around after the ice freezes over the land. "Trappers go check their traps, hunters are out on the land, starting to meet, going into communities," says Mablick.

"That's when they start hearing news from different locations. It's catching-up time."

December 

Last but not least, December is called "Aagjuliut" in Nunavik. 

"I believe it has to do with some stars that they see in the month of December," says Mablick.

The Baffin region calls December "Tauvigjuaq," which means it's the darkest month of the year.

with files from Madeleine Allakariallak

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