These Nunavik students helped write and illustrate their own award-winning book
Students from Ivujivik, Que., to receive reading recognition award, alongside teachers, collaborators
When Nelly Duvicq's students held a print edition of L'inugagullirq in their hands for the first time a few weeks ago, their pride was palpable.
It was the end of a six-month-long process for the students in grades 5, 6 and 7 from Nuvviti School in Ivujivik — the northernmost village in Quebec's Inuit territory of Nunavik, close to where Hudson Strait meets Hudson Bay.
L'inugagullirq, based on a local Inuit legend, has been published online as part of Un livre à la fois, a Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) project linking elementary and UQAM students, who work together to create an illustrated book.
It is the first time a school in Nunavik has been involved with Un livre à la fois, which usually partners with a Montreal school. And the result proved to be a huge success.
On May 26, Duvicq, who teaches French as a second language at Nuvviti, will accompany three of the student authors to Montreal to accept one of the Quebec government's reading recognition awards.
A story rooted in Ivujivik
Duvicq, who moved to the community from the south of France 13 years ago, says when she first heard about Un livre à la fois last October, she asked her class what they'd like to write about.
"About Ivujivik," she says they told her.
Duvicq then invited two community elders into her class to provide her students with inspiration for their original story.
The book draws on a traditional Inuit legend, following a family on a fishing trip where one of the family members encounters the inugagullirq — a "mini-version of humans, but a lot smarter," says Ulluria Mangiok, 12, one of the co-authors and Duvicq's daughter.
"I kind of felt like it was finally a small story about something that we really like," said Ulluria.
"We created a story in November," said Geneviève Lafrance, the UQAM French literature professor who helped the students refine the text of the story and draw the illustrations.
She visited the school alongside her colleagues, Alexandrine Hugonnier, a UQAM student, and Daniel Chartier, UQAM professor and director of the Laboratoire international de recherche sur l'imaginaire du Nord, de l'hiver et de l'Arctique.
"After that, the children, they translated the story themselves in Inuktitut with the help of their Inuktitut teacher," Lafrance said. Another of the students, Deseray Qaunaaluk, narrated the Inuktitut version of the audiobook.
Lafrance was there, in Ivujivik, at the end of March, when the school held a book launch party — the first of its kind in the community of 480 people.
Preserving stories, Inuit language
Ivujivik Mayor Adamie Kalingo says he learned of the legend of the inugagullirq when he was a child of 10 or 11.
"We had no written documents or anything like that," he said. "It was all done by word of mouth."
The book, he said, is the kind of initiative "that will help preserve our language amongst our youth."
Kalingo says he is impressed by the students' accomplishment — and the recognition from the provincial government that it has earned.
"Naturally, I was elated by that and very proud of the young people who produced a book, knowing that they are my relatives and that they come from this town," said Kalingo.
"I just want that type of thing to continue well into the future."
Kalingo's concern about the preservation of Inuit culture in the context of modern-day pressures is something that Duvicq has heard from elders and students alike.
It's a culture they are eager to share.
"They were so happy that anybody could listen," said Duvicq.
"Someone from Montreal, someone from France, someone from anywhere in the world who clicks on the book, sees the book and listens."
"What's important here is that those writings can stay. And the fact that it's targeting the kids, I mean that we're passing [on] that piece of culture."
Her daughter Ulluria, who also narrated the French version of the audiobook, agrees.
"When I was looking through the pages I was like, 'Wow," she said. "Other people can now read the book and kind of understand what kind of stories Inuit have."