How a handmade shed is helping Arviat youth learn Inuit tool-making

After months of hard labour, Daniel Alagalak finally sat down in his shed to teach his first student how to make an ulu.

'I want all the youth to learn how to make ulu,' says Blair Aulatjut, the program's 1st student

Daniel Alagalak, from Arviat, Nunavut, laboured to produce a 12-by-16 foot shed all summer long. He will use the space to teach youth how to make Inuit tools. (Daniel Alagalak/Facebook)

Daniel Alagalak had an idea.

But first, he had to build a shed.

All summer long, the 24-year-old from Arviat, Nunavut, laboured to produce a 12-by-16 foot shed.

Finally, after months of building and dreaming, he launched his groundbreaking idea for his community: to run a traditional Inuit tool-making program for youth, right there inside his shed.

"I love doing crafting," Alagalak said.

"And then I came up with the idea for young people, especially teenagers, for them to have something to do during their free time."

The space is cozy, warmed by a furnace. Inside, a work bench neatly embellished with tools like a belt sander, a table saw, and a jigsaw.

"It's a pretty comfortable shed," said Alagalak.

'It’s a pretty comfortable shed,' says Alagalak who built it just for teaching other youth how to make Inuit tools. (Daniel Alagalak/Facebook)

Alagalak began crafting, straight out of high school, in 2011.

"I learned all this pretty much by myself. It was through trial and error," said Alagalak.

"This is something I really love doing. I put my heart into it."

His first student

Alagalak had his first ever student come in last weekend.

Blair Aulatjut learned how to make his first ulu, a traditional Inuit knife, through the program.

"When he first started his ulu, he told me he's making it for his grandmother. That he'll give it to her for Christmas," said Alagalak.

Aulatjut was eager to gift his first ulu to his grandmother this week. He was the first student that took Alagalak's program. (Daniel Alagalak/Facebook)

The men spent two evenings together, crafting the ulu.

"But once he finished his ulu, he couldn't resist. [He said] he'll give it to his grandmother right away," said Alagalak. "It was quite heartwarming."

He gifted the ulu to her this week.

"She was like 'Woah, I'm gonna start using it,'" wrote Aulatjut through Facebook.

"I want all the youth to learn how to make ulu ... to join [the program] instead of staying home doing nothing," said Aulatjut.

He said it was "so much fun" taking the program.

Looking for funding

Alagalak hopes to teach students how to make a sakku (the tip of the harpoon used for hunting whales) and pana (used for making igloos) in future lessons.

Alagalak's display of his hand-crafted ulus. (Daniel Alagalak/Facebook)

He wants the program to run every fall and winter. He'll be out fishing and hunting during the summer, he said.

But there is one obstacle.

Alagalak is paying for all the costs, so he's hoping to find organizations or associations that will help with the funding.

"I'm hoping to run this program as long as I can," he said.

With files from Lissie Anaviapik