Group to develop Inuktitut health terms

Inuit women are meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., this week to develop Inuktitut words for sexual health.

One of the challenges lies in number of dialects

A stop sign in Iqaluit shows both English and Inuktitut. A group of Inuit women are trying to develop Inuktitut words for sexual health issues. (The Canadian Press)

Inuit women are meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., this week to develop Inuktitut words for sexual health.

Right now, there are no standard Inuktitut words for diseases such as HIV-Aids, or for infections such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Health care workers have to describe the infections, and the descriptions can differ between Inuktitut dialects.

Elisapee Sheutiapik is the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, the group working to develop the new terminology. 

"Within Inuit regions, we are very well travelled. Even if you are unilingual from Nunavik, and you travel to Nunavut and you get sick, our hope is that as a Nunavik person you recognize your word and when you point to that word, someone in Nunavut that might not know your dialect will certainly know what the illness or symptom you may have," she said.

Sheutiapik says Pauktuutit wants to create a spreadsheet for nurses and interpreters to use as a guide in health centres.

She says it’s a challenge with so many different Inuktitut dialects. But she says any support material is helpful when a person’s health is at stake.