Let's Move On
Paul Okalik with Louis McComber.
Paul Okalik was raised in Pangnirtung, a community that survived starvation, epidemics, eradication of its spiritual heritage, relocation, schooling in a foreign language and confrontation with the Canadian justice system. He made the decision to improve the living conditions of his fellow Inuit. After 10 years in Ottawa universities, he was called to the Northwest Territories Bar and then was elected the first Premier of Nunavut, the new Canadian territory, all in the year 1999.
The new government was challenged on all fronts. Education and training was crucial if Inuit wanted to play a determining role in decision-making. While Paul Okalik was premier, Nunavut developed a civil service decentralized over 10 distant communities, built much-needed infrastructures and provided more affordable housing. Though Inuit employment in the Government of Nunavut managed to exceed 50 per cent, this did not yet reflect the proportion of Inuit in the population. The Inuit's long-standing goal of self-government in Nunavut remains to be achieved. It is a work in progress.
Let's Move On is an expression of determination inherited from generations of Inuit, faced with harsh climatic conditions and colonial policies. Getting bogged down with frustration is pointless. Paul Okalik's leitmotiv is to move forward with hope and confidence. His story is a lesson in personal and political courage. Let's move on is also the story of the creation of a representative government in a Canadian jurisdiction with a majority of indigenous people, a dream that cost the lives of Louis Riel and eight Cree leaders some 130 years earlier! (From Baraka Books)
From the book
A year or two before I was born, my family relocated from a camp Idlungajung, which is southwest of Pangnirtung, in Cumberland Sound. That's where my late grandmother and grandfather, along with my great-grandfather Angmarlik, had established their camp. My only living grandparent at the time was my grandmother Qatsuk. She was my mother's mother. My mother was the oldest of the children in her family. My father was Auyaluk. He had been adopted, which is why there are no really strong stories from my father's side, unfortunately.
My primary storyteller was my mother. I was lucky — I learned a lot about my family from my mother's side and my late grandmother, Qatsuk. My great-grandmother was alive when I was born, but I have no living memory of her. She was the matriarch of the family. Her name was Asivak. I am told she was very strong. Her husband was Angmarlik, who was the whaling captain in Kekerten. The women in the community were very strong. My late mother told me stories about what they had to do. My father had health issues. My mother had to work hard to provide support for the family. We had some challenging times, I must say. My mother was our primary caregiver, and she raised us well.
From Let's Move On by Paul Okalik ©2018. Published by Baraka Books.