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Adaptation, evolution and control of education for the Inuit

The Story

White teachers, Inuit students and several points of view. It's 1969 and opinion is still divided among the Inuit population. What is the value of an English education, particularly in a place 2,000 miles from Montreal, inhabited by 400 Inuit and 20 white people? This perspective, and many of the others expressed by Baffin Island teacher Lorne Smith, seems preposterous to CBC Radio reporter Marianne McCormick. Why wouldn't they want to be a part of the modern world?

Medium: Radio
Program: Matinee
Broadcast Date: May 8, 1969
Guest: Lorne Smith
Reporter: Marion McCormick
Duration: 7:19

Did You know?

• Traditional Inuit education was passed on from elders to children and intertwined practical skills with cultural values. Traditional Inuit skills included hunting, meat and pelt preparation, sewing, building igloos and navigating on land and water. The Inuit also have a rich tradition of oral storytelling, music, dance and craft. Respect for the environment is an integral part of traditional Inuit knowledge.

• Observation is central in traditional Inuit learning. Children learned by watching adults and were encouraged to try skills on their own. Children going through the federal school system would have been away from their families and divorced from their traditional upbringing for the first time in the history of their culture.

• One of the most common misconceptions about Inuit assimilation was that once Inuit young people had tasted city life, they wouldn't want to go back home to their harsh arctic environment.


An Inuit Education: Honouring a Past, Creating a Future more