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To save the Inuit language

The Story

With more control than ever over educational policy and curriculum, Inuit culture and language could be thriving in schools. But it's not. On the playground the children of Nunavut speak English, and 40 per cent of Nunavut residents say they are not fluent in Inuktitut. At this rate, the language could become another relic of past Inuit culture. If the Inuit want to keep their language's vitality, something has to be done.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 1, 2002
Guests: Paul Alainga, Jack Anawak, Ave Arreak, Tracy Hanlon, Jose Kusugak, Kathy Smith, Lucy Taqtu
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Jennifer Tilden
Duration: 22:46

Did You know?

• According to Statistics Canada Inuktitut remains strong relative to other Indigenous languages. In 2001, about 70 per cent of the Inuit surveyed reported an ability to carry on a conversation in Inuktitut and almost as many (65 per cent) reported speaking it at least regularly in their home.

• Almost 70 per cent of children reported an ability to carry on a conversation in Inuktitut. Statistics Canada also reported, "In all broad age groups except one there was only a slight decline in the percentage of those Inuit who could carry on a conversation in Inuktitut."

• A lack of Inuktitut reading material keeps Inuit children from adequately learning in the language. Though it has a long oral history, written Inuktitut only began a century ago or less. The missionaries created it to teach Inuit to read the Bible in their own language.

• Only a generation ago children were punished for speaking Inuktitut in school or showing any signs of their own custom, including raising their eyebrows for yes and wrinkling their nose for no.


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