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    The Art of Inuit Storytelling
    Zacharias Kunuk (b. 1957, Kapuivik near Igloolik) won the Camera d’or at Cannes 2001 for Isuma’s first feature, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner.

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    uploaded date: 11-11-2017

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    uploaded date: 11-11-2017

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    uploaded date: 14-11-2017

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Simeonie Kunnuk Testimony

Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Simeonie Kunnuk Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2009

Interview with Simeonie Kunnuk Turquetil Hall/Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School Survivor, Ottawa, Ontario

Peter:  Please feel very welcome Simeonie.
 


Simeonie:  Yes.

Peter:  Prior to going to school in Chesterfield, can you speak about your life style in Iglulik area?

Simeonie:  Yes.  I can speak a little about that.  We used to travel by dog team quite a bit when I was still in my mother’s amuti(woman’s coat for carrying babies on their backs).  I can remember riding on the qamutiik(sleigh) and remembering very well, when I fell off the qamutik, as the dogs and qamutiik made a sudden turn.  It was just when we were about to begin our journey, when I was told to get on the qamutiik and then, when it made a sudden turn, I fell off to the ground. 

Peter:
  What then?

Simeonie:  Then they left, and when they left, I thought, they were going to leave without me.  I was told to come, come.  I was walking and they said, run, run!!  It was my mother who told me to run and it was in the spring time.  We were going along the beach, so the dogs and qamutiik, were making turns here and there.  When we passed the beach area and got to the main ice, it became comfortable riding and very pleasant.

I don’t’ remember exactly where we were living but my older brother Qattuurainnuk was shoveling something, seemed way down, perhaps some cached meat. I remember having to have a shit. I hesitated to tell about it for a time.   And then I told him,  I really had to go. He told me to go home and go to my mother.   So, I started running as fast as I can, and then, and as I was running, I could not longer hold it, I had an accident and shit in my pants.  I remember this very well.

The other time was when we were going out walking with my brothers.  I was sometimes denied from going, perhaps I was too small.  I would then go back to my mother and told her, I wanted to go walking as well.  At first, I was denied but allowed to go anyways.  When I was allowed to go, then they all walked the short distance, perhaps thinking, I was too small to walk a greater distance.  Then, I remember watching them picking berries, such as cranberries.  I remember these things.

Peter:
  You had a very happy life?

Simeonie:  Yes, we would go traveling by dog team and I would go participate in boating as well.  I remember wanting to go out boating with the other.  Perhaps the boat was not that big and as a small boy, I was able to climb on it.  When I got in, I put on a coat, that was several sizes too big for me.  After we had been out boating, I remember eating, the soft part of the rib, which probably belonged to a bearded seal.  It was so delicious!  I remember this well.  We seemed to have plenty to eat as well.  It seems, we were away often.  Sometimes, I would not see my father and other relatives for quite sometime.  Men were away for sometimes, hunting. 

Peter:  What were your favorite part of your life?

Simeonie:  Boating, yes, being part of the group boating.  When I returned, there were no dog teams left, only using skidoos.  I remember dog teams seemed to go fast but found out that they were not that fast, but able to travel great distances.  As I got older and able to do more things, I remember going to traveling by dog team.  I remember having to run often, along side of the qamutiik.  Sometimes, I would left a bit behind, while running.  But then, I would catch up to them again. 

Peter:  How old were you when you were sent to Chesterfield Inlet?

Simionie:
  I was maybe around six or seven years old.  I think, after my older brother Akkiutaq had fell in the water, I was being allowed to go.  I remember my aunt, who was my sister, but called her aunt, as the Inuit culture dictates, I was to call her my aunt, as she was named after my aunt.  I was told, I would see her later on as they had left before us.  I was thinking I would see Qattuurainnuk, my older brother.  But, they had gone to Churchill, Manitoba.  I thought, I was going to see him in Chesterfield Inlet but did not.  And then I did not  see my auntie(my sister) for a long time, but I remember, when we went to church, she was sitting on the other side and we men, were sitting on this side as well.  Men were on the right hand side of the church and the ladies were on the left side of the church, that was how it was set up.  I remember seeing her on the other side. 

At one point, I was trying to get close to her as I was very attached to her and loved her. When I was trying to get close to her, I remember being pushed away, and told, we were not to be touching each other and not be close.  This was when we were going to have our picture taken, apparently. 

Peter:  Can you talk about the first time you got to Chesterfield Inlet, after you landed there by airplane?  Can you talk about that?

Simeonie:  I don’t remember quite that much about having to stop in between.  I remember, it was quite an impression that we were riding on an airplane.  After we landed there, we were apparently picked up by a boat.  I perhaps did not have a coat, and I think, it was Sister Arcand, who put on my back, probably her jacket.    She appeared to look,  really tall!  I remember that as something when we first arrived.  My first impression was that, there seemed to be a lot of things around.

Peter:  Did it seemed, there were a lot of houses?

Simeonie:  Yes, yes.  There were huge buildings as well.  They had two storeys.  One waa apparently the hospital and the other the hostels. 

Peter:  When  you arrived to Chesterfield Inlet, who came to meet you?

Simeonie:  I think, there were several children but I particularly remember Sister Archand.  I remember that darn Brother Parent, who seemed to want to try and kissed me.  I remember spitting on the ground.  I seemed to have a particular memory of this.  That darn man!  That was how it was. 

Peter:  About your parents, can you talk about this when you were leaving from Iglulik to go to Chesterfield Inlet?

Simeonie:  I remember, it was seemed it was only my mother, perhaps my father was out.  I remember telling her, I wanted to go and see my auntie.  For sure, I will see her, and I wanted to see her. 

Peter:  In Chesterfield Inlet?

Simeonie:  Yes.  I thought, I was going to return.  That was what I was thinking.  Right after I see her, I thought for sure, I was going to return.  It was like that.

Peter:  When you were going to go to school, were your parents told about this, prior to you going to school in Chesterfield Inlet?

Simeonie:  Perhaps yes, my father was told about this by Father Fournier.  At first he was told that everything was all right but then, when they would return home from school, they were treated in ways, that were not right.  They were we were being helped when we got over there but then found out later, this was not always the case.  They were apparently being put through many hard times.  And the reply was, they(the church) did not know.  They were not aware of it.  That was what was said. 

Peter:  When you were at the hostel, the Turquetil Hall, can you describe what it was like?

Simeonie:  Yes.  When we got there in the early stage, I remember, we used to have to get up very early in the morning.  I remember the ones who were the same age as me who were trying to go outside, I think, it was Tagaaq and Simuuk Qupaaq.  As our culture dictates, we were always go outside when we first got up.  And that was what these two were trying to do and they were not allowed to do it.  I was following along.  When a Sister noticed me going out, I suddently went back to my own bed.  We were not allowed to go outside, even though, the light was coming on, outside. 

Also, when I first went to the school, I remembering having to go pee in a real big way.  I was told by someone that, when we had to go, we were told to say, “please”. I kept trying to say, “please.”   As I really had to go to pee, I could not hear and think properly.  But then, I was directly to say, “please may I go to the washroom.”  I properly did not exactly pronounce the words properly and having to go so badly, I was almost jumping up and down, I remember going to the washroom, even passing the lineup of boys.  There were two of us, peeing in the same toilet, at the same time.  That was my first lesson in learning to speak English.

Peter:  Inside the classroom….

Simeonie:  Yes. 

Peter:  In the classroom, do you remember what kind of courses or lessons, you were learning?  Do you remember what they were?

Simionie:  There were some little ones and big ones, apparently letters and numbers.  Then, there were A..B..and that was what they were  making us do.  A, B, C, D..it was like that.  They were also teaching us about adding numbers, as we were lerning about the English language.  Those were the most items that I remember, learning. 

The other thing I remember was, it seemed we used to line up quite a lot.  When we were about to go outside, we would all line up and then, when we were going to go back inside the hostel, we would all line up.  When we were going to go eat, we would line up.  Sometimes, some of us, would try to go first, line up in front of the others.  We started to get to know the ones, we didn’t know before.  Sometimes, it was fun and sometimes, it was very confusing, not knowing what to do.  I then became friends, with some people in Chesterfield Inlet, especially the ones, who were the same age as me.  For instance, Peter Autut, Johnny Sammurtuq, in fact, many of Sammurtuqs.  Jose, I had forgotten his name.  Sometimes, it was wonderful and sometimes, it was a feeling of extreme homesickness.  No wonder!  In part, it was extremely unhappy time. 

Some of us were brainwashed.  We were sexually abused, when we were very young children.  I know very well today that we were sexually abused when we were six, seven and eight years old.  It was extremely painful.  At that time, it was very scary!  You did not know what to do.  We were told, “not to tell anyone”.  I remember one who was older than I am, he was told by Brother Parent, not to tell anyone.  Then, he told me, not to tell anyone.  It was like that and I was very aware of it.  I had my own mind at that point, I could hear him when he was speaking in English and at that point, I was able to understand English.  When something was about to be done to us, especially to the older boys, Brother Parent, would reach into his pocket and show us all kinds of candies.  Then, he would direct us to go to the washroom.  Or, he would get me to go somewhere else.  They, then would let us pray, separately.  They would have us say the rosaries and pray.  Perhaps, this was his plan, especially to the younger ones.  This is what I think today. 

Peter:  At that time,when you were told not to tell anyone, did you wanted to tell somebody?  Did you ever to tell him that you were going to complain about him?

Simeonie:  For me, I had no thought of telling someone.  I had no way of thing about telling someone, when he was doing all this to me.  You would think that you would have told some authority or leave him all together, to somewhere.  However, there was no place to go to.  And when you have something being done with all this, it was hard to know, how to tell.  And when you were at all unsure, about how to tell it, then he told us, don’t talk about it.  For what, how and what was it?  I remember all this.  What was it, you were not to tell about, especially not knowing how to tell about it in the first place.  It was made sure to us that this is something, we are absolutely not to talk about, especially by this one, who just did this to us. 

Peter:  So you had absolutely note one to complain to?

Simeonie:  Yes.  I was always told to say yes. 

Peter:  You mention that he used candies as his bait when he wanted to sexually abuse you.  Did he have other things that he used as his bait?

Simeonie:  No, I don’t remember.  I never ate candies. Perhaps, the older ones were given candies.  I remember he used to put his hand in his pocket and taking out lots of candies.  I remember when we were in the room of a Sister and then in the room, in the room of Brother Parent.  We were at one point put into a large room by I think, sister Rocan, Sister Allard and I think, Sister Servant.  My little cousin and I were placed into a large dining room.  I was asked if I had been given candies to eat.  I would reply, I never had any candies.  I never ate candies.  Thinking back, I think, they became aware of what was happening.  They knew about the room and I used to wonder, how did they know?   I don’t remember him using other baits, that I don’t remember. 

The other time I remember was when in our school.  There was an addition to the school at that time and when something was making all kinds of thundering noises in the next room, I wanted to see what it was.  But, the school teacher told me to stay in the classroom.  Apparently, it was my Auntie’s teacher, who was physically hurting the pupils.  He would be throwing the pupils around, against the wall, each time, he got angry.  And when we went outside for recess, we used to see the older boys and girls and their teacher.  I got to know as to who Mr. Demuele was, without ever meeting him.  Not only did I get to know who he was, I got very scared of him.  And then, I did not wanted to see him any more. 

Later on, when I was in Iqaluit, I got to see him there.  Apparently, he was not that big and he was skinny!  He was a bully towards the children!

Peter:  Was he your teacher?

Simeonie:  No.  This was probably because I was too young.  He was teaching the older ones.  I heard stories about him where Richard nearly fought him and my older brother, nearly fought him as well.  I hear a bit about these incidents. 

Peter:  I saw your brother in person, when he almost fought Mr. Demuele.

Simeonie: 
Oh?

Peter:  When Mr. Demuele was trying to fight him, your brother fought him just immediately outside of the school. 

Simeonie:  Oh.

Peter:  Have you heard that he really used to punish the pupils?  Have you heard about that too?

Simeonie:  Yes.  We used to hear him screaming at the pupils.  After all, the school was not that big.  You could easily hear what was going on, next door, as the walls were quite thin.  It also used to be quite for a long period of time.  It was like that.  My teacher’s were not that bad.  They used to it to us like this(makes a sign).  I forget who it was, I was imitating him, and I was going like this.  Then, I got hit on the hand, like this.

Peter:  Was that your punishment?

Simeonie:  Yes.  At first it used to be really hard but I started to imitate my fellow-pupils, learning, and that was how, I started to learn. 

Peter Irniq:  When you were first in Chesterfield Inlet, attending school for the first while, do you remember your fellow-pupils, who wanted to go to the washroom, used to have an accident, by peeing in their pants?

Simeonie:  One time, there was a little guy from Chesterfield Inlet, he was sitting down on his chair and we noticed it was wet under his seat, when we actually paid attention to what has happened, he appeared peed his pants.  As it turned out, we the younger ones were not physically hurt by our teacher, when something like this happens.  I actually did not see one being hurt.  At least with my teacher.  But, this was the main one (with a ruler) on your hand. 

Peter:  Was the young person did not know how to ask a question to want to go to the washroom, is that why, he had an accident?  Or was it because, you were not allowed to go and pee in the washroom?

Simeonie:  I think, that was what it was.  There were quite a few of us who noticed him pee in his pants.  Our teacher noticed him.  I don’t remember much after that. I also don’t remember his name.  Maybe, Mark, no, there was no Mark.  Mark was a bit of a friend of mine.  We were sometimes a little bit bully to others, and we were often a team. 

Peter:  What did you learn inside the school?

Simeonie:  Oh yes, “See Spot Run”.  It was about that little dog, and also, he had spots on his fur, and ears were down flat on his head.  There was also Dick and Jane.  Those are the ones, I remember most.  We also learn about those very small A, B, C’s and just very small numbers.  Oh, the other things was when I was in Iglulik at this point, doing Grade 3, I was asked what I wanted to do.  I said, I wanted to travel.  I also wanted to become a policeman but it was hard to figure out what you wanted to be, not knowing what you wanted to be.  There were mostly only the teachers and the priests.  I don’t remember so much but always remember the ones that were most difficult.  It was when I moved to Ottawa, and for  about five years, I attended healing sessions.  I think, it was from 1993 to 1998.  After this, only when I was attending to those healing sessions, I started to remember, the good times, that we had there as well.  At that school, I remember older boys used to pull us with sleigh toys. I used to have happy times with those.  I used to enjoy playing hide and seek.  I don’t remember exactly as to how many of us but we used to team up and play hide and seek.  We used to get scared of some others too, when we were playing.  We used to take long walks too on the land.  The bigger boys used to go and set up traps and each weekend visit them.  For us smaller boys, they used to line us up, and had us, clean the floor with brooms.  We used to wash the floor and wax it.  They had us do all this every weekends.

Peter:  At the school, was there an Inuit Teacher?

Simeonie:  I don’t remember being taught in Inuktitut.  I don’t remember this at all, taking place in Chesterfield Inlet. 

Peter:  Were you able to speak Inuktitut inside the classroom?

Simeonie:  I remember having to learn English quite a lot and when we needed to go and pee, that we had to speak English to the teacher.  I think, this has had a lot of impact on us and having to try and impersonate those who can speak some English, about wanting to go to the washroom.  Wanting to go to the washroom was something we learned and it was quite a job, to learn it, good!

Peter:  Were you made to feel ashame and be embarrassed about your Inuit culture, either by the teachers or the staff at the hostel?

Simeonie:  I don’t know if I can answer that question but we were told about the Qablunaat(White People) being very good at doing things.  This was something we were to understand fully. 

Peter: 
Was the school a good place to learn a lot about knowledge?

Simeonie:  Some of it yes.  If it had been taught and learned, it would have been easier.  In some parts, we were not totally taught but startled about learning something.  I think, the thing about all this, was that we were made to learn to go pee so much and made to be sad about not being able to talk in our own language.  So we tried to speak English, even though, you sometimes don’t understand what it mean’t to speak English.  Up to this day, I have learn some English pretty good.  Sometimes, I do it on purpose, not to speak English.  Sometimes, I tell the Qablunaat(the White People), I am going to teach you in Inuktitut.  I won’t use the same kind of teaching tactics that we had when we were little children.  We are not going to be like that.  Here in the south, I can talk about like this now.  Sometimes, I say it just for fun of it. 

Peter:
  When you were being taught in school at that time, were you made to feel intimidated or scared?

Simeonie:  Perhaps, it was not totally understood inside the classroom but made to pray was more intimidating than schooling.  When you were praying inside the church and when you started to look around, your head would be moved straight forward, like this.  When you look at the person, who did this to you, then she would put it like that again.  This part was really hard to know.  And when they did this to you, they would say nothing about it and do it to you like that.  It was hard to know. 

And also, back in 1992, when I was finding my life too hard, I shorten my name, I got talking to a reporter, I don’t remember what we were talking about but I started to talk about having been sexually abused and being bullied.  I wanted to get it out.  Perhaps, I was beginning to understand all this very difficult period of my life in Chesterfield Inlet.  I think, at that time in 1992, I told my story in News North.  As a result of that, it started to come out more, even though, it was intimidating and scary at the same time.  When it became more public, I knew I was not alone, as Marius, yourself and others, and it was  just wonderful, knowing that I was not alone, any more.  And in 1993,  my life was becoming more healther and the ones that I was angry about towards the White People, they were beginning to come out more.  At this point, I am feeling a bit improved, a bit better.  I can now bring them out better.  It is not scary any more.  I now know this. 

Peter:  the schooling that you had in Chesterfield Inlet run by the priests, this school had a huge impact on your life, especially the ones, when you were sexually abused?

Simeonie:
  Yes, when I was made to walk, I was abused and made to pray at the same time.  I think, that broke my life very much.  I was such a young child.  Now that I have become an adult, I think, now I can say, I have almost totally healed.  

Peter:  It was like your childhood was stolen, by the priests and Brother Parent in particular?

Simeonie:  Yes. I think, my ability to think as a human being, was slowed down, through the church and schooling, being sexually abused.  As it turned out, it was not made totally clear about the fact that I was to have a good education, a good spirtual journey, my ability to have a good education, and my ability to lead a good social life.  When I would return home, I think, they were aware of what has happened to me.  They would speak to me about it and bring me to my grandmother for advice.  I was also brought to the other elders for advice.  I forget exactly who it was but made a very good advice to me, saying that since you were not allowed to tell anyone at that time, but you will find the right time, to be able to talk about it.  After that advice, that darn Brother Parent came to Iglulik and when I was with the other children, who were my age group, perhaps, I was about nine or 10 years old, I was able to tell them about what Brother Parent used to do.  My mother was apparently listening to me about this and told my father.  They then told the other parents two parents, and they brought me to the Roman Catholic Mission.  They were talking about that darn Brother Parent, who was quickly kicked out of Iglulik.  That was like that.  That was how it used to be but now, I am able to do things for myself, I am probably healed more and more at peace, and I feel I have become more complete within my life.  I don’t worry too much any more.  I feel, I am more free now. 

Peter:  Where did you get the strength to do this and move forward?

Simeonie,

Center for Child Sexual Abuse Trauma, I went to see them for about four or five years.  I also went to see a healing group from Nunavut, when they would come down here.  I was beginning to understand more and more and get out whatever negative thinking I had.  As I result, I had a better way of doing things and thinking more positively.  You would have less negative feelings.  Sometimes, when you start talking about these to others, they are startled but as for me, as I have some understanding of the issue, I am pretty comfortable talking about it.  I also talk to my former school mates and talk about it.  We are not as embarrassed to talk about it, as we were previously.  Especially, the time, we were in Chesterfield Inlet.  Also to the people, who are my age group.  That’s the way, it is. 

Peter:  The meeting we had with Bishop in 1993 in Chesterfield Inlet, where we talked about having been abused by the Church staff.  The first Apology he delivered, we totally disagreed with it.  It looked as though, he did not believe us.  He even told us at that time, some of your memories is foggy.  That was why, we did not agree with it.  Later on, we wrote his apology that he delivered in 1996 in Iglulik in February.

Simeonie:  Yes, we did.  How many were we, who were very brave to write his Apology.  It became a genuine apology.  It was a time when we wrote an apology that we agreed with.  The other thing is Government is going to make an apology, apology with which, they had not totally discussed it with us.  It would have been very good, if we had had an opportunity to trade ideas about it, especially in moving towards reconciliation.  Perhaps, the Qablunaat and Inuit, will have to make public, something that will make us move forward.  As Inuit, we can also do things.  We are hesitating at the current time, however, perhaps, we will make things happen.  I am hopeful. 

Peter:  Prime Minister is going to make an Apology to the Survivors of Residential Schools and our parents on June 11.  What he will apologise about, is this something that will help us move forward or is the apology be helpful?

Simeonie:  It may or may not be visible immediately, perhaps to some yes.  This is something that is a very hard to do.  It is something that is real.  It is something that cannot be answered easily.  Perhaps some people will benefit out of it quickly.  And for others, it may take sometime to digest and perhaps, it may take others to benefit from it as well and be helpful. 

Peter Irniq:  Do you believe that Canadians have a right to know about our experiences?  All Canadians?

Simeonie:  If majority of Canadians know about this, it would be better.  They are not all informed about it, although, it is easier now to know these from radio and various news media.  There are many thousands of us, who are of the same mind about much of this issue, perhaps many were aware of it in previous times or since previous times.  But some of them say, I am only finding out about this now.  This is unfortunate. This was part of our life and its something that we were always aware of as Inuit.  This was our way of life as children, when were being assimilated into the European world. 

Peter Irniq:  Are you in an agreement with the upcoming Apology?

Simeonie:  Yes, it will help towards the healing for the loss of culture, language, and physical.  We have been paid compensation monies for all this, it is another way of identifying the hurt, that was done to us.  When the Prime Minister of Canada apologises, he will apologise on behalf of all Canadians.  This will allow Candians to have a better understanding, or maybe, they won’t even understand it.  I don’t know how it’s going to be really.  At least, they don’t try to not respond any more to reasons why, we were sent to school in the first place.  They are trying to have some answers now.  It’s going to be better.

Peter:  Will this open an opportunity for  the Canadian government and to the Survivors, to work together to establish a better relations?

Simeonie:  It will probably open up opportunities to promote harmony for Qablunaat and for us as well.  Perhaps, it will provide us with an opportunity for us to understand each other better.  It may allow us not to be told any longer how to live our lives, like the Qablunaat ways, they will probably consult with us more in ways of how to talk to us about our previous life styles.  As it was, Inuit were living in iglus, traveling by dog teams, hunting,  and that was a way of life for survival.  Perhaps, we can as Inuit help to promote our way of life and benefit others.  This is how, I feel. 

Peter:  When we were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, as traditional Inuit, did they teach you how to use a toilet paper?  Do you remember this?

Simeonie:  No, I don’t remember this.  But, I remember about the way, we were supposed to pronounce the names of the Sisters.  Anaq(shit) was what I used to say, when they were teaching me to say, Edna.  Sister Anaq!  I remember this particularly. I remember this very well, as I was the first one to pronounce the name properly and they gave me a cookie for pronouncing it properly. 

Peter:  When you were in Chesterfield Inlet, do you remember the kinds of foods, that you used to eat?  Do you remember what they were?

Simeonie:  I remember these eating utensils, they may have been bowls, and they were upside down, I wondered why, they were upside down.  There was these cups as well.  There was porridge.  I remember about how I was going to eat, so I learned to eat, by watching the others.  I think, I used to be left-handed.  I remember being tied up right here, when we were about to eat.  I used to take it off but they would tie it again.  I then struggled to try and eat with my right hand.  That was how, I became a right handed.  Today, I can use my both hands, with ease.  I don’t know why, they did not wanted me to use my left hand. 

Peter:  When you were learning to speak English and write English, did this benefit you?

Simeonie:  Not really in English, but through understanding it yes.  I am able to do this pretty well now.  A,B,C’s is what I remember learning well.  The other things that I remember well were learning to add arithmetic.  I became more able about this one.  But, it was when my father said that the Qablunaat were going to come here more and more that they had their own language and their language was different than ours, that they had different ways of learning things than us, knowing their ways, would be more beneficial to me.  As a result of what he said, I decided that I was going to learn more about the English language.  I was not thinking about what we were learning in Chesterfield Inlet at this point, as I was still quite startled about what happened in Chesterfield.  As a result of this, I was not in the right mind to think effectively.  It was when I got home here, I was able to learn more effectively.  I was a young teenager at this point.  I was also getting some good advice from my grandmother. 

When I became an adult, I found out that Inuit were able very able people.  Their ways of teaching, was already in place, as well.  They were already able to teach all this through traditional ways of the Inuit, and this was and is very beneficial.  Listening to them through radio, the government workers and teachers, how would I say this, I am even forgetting the Inuktitut language, listening to those announcers or speakers who go on the radio, they are very able and wonderful to hear about what they are doing.  I wonder, if we were never abused, we would have been that much more able, even though, we are able at this point.  We can complete our abilities as Inuit as well.  Even, using our Inuktitut language as well, I know this. 

Peter:  Perhaps, it was because we were abused or mistreated, this is allowing us to be stronger as people?

Simeonie:  Yes, we are stronger because, we were made to struggle with our lives.  With what happened to us, it slowed us down but through healing, we can better complete what we are doing about our abilities to do things.  I believe this is how it is.

Peter:  To those who used to abuse you, what do you think of them today, are you angry at them, what are your feelings?


Simeonie:  I have thought about this quite a lot.  As long as I think about them, my life will be run by it all.  I have thought about it, but have gone beyond it.  I will re-live it I am sure, at times.  But, I have to talk about it so that others who may have the same thing happen to them, may benefit from what I can offer in terms of solutions.  At that time, there quite a lot of us who were taken to school and many were made to be hurt.  I am thinking, this type of situation will happen in great numbers in the future.  We are more careful today.  We are probably going to be better at parenting with our children.  We will raise them in a much better way.  We have a very bright future!

Peter:  What was your first Chrismas like, the one you remember first in Chesterfield Inlet.  What was it like?

Simeonie:  Richard was crawling on the desert.  We had learn about the desert in Africa, and learn that the desert had no water at all.  He became very thirsty and was crawling on all this desert.  So, he was given a small cup of water, he took out his comb, put it in the cup, and decided to comb his hair.  We had a really big laugh about that.  It looked like he was in the desert and was really thirsty.  But when he was given a cup filled with water, he took out his comb from his pocket, and decided just to comb his hair.  We had a really big laugh about that. 

Another time was when Paul Apak and what was his name from Repusle Bay, Baramabumbum(Christmas song), it was really a beautiful song to listen to.  I think, it was little Emanuel, he was one of the smallest and was also in the play a game of being married to a little girl, they were playing husband and wife.  Both of them had cute little smile, that was quite something to watch.  I remember this particularly well.  We were more free to do things at that point, and had various kinds of recreational games.  I remember it like that.  The thing was, every evening, we had to go to the church and pray all the time!!  We would pray in the morning, another praying just before a meal, when we just about to have a recess, we would pray again.  Then, at our hostel, there was a small little chapel, in addition to another church, in the community.  We would go and pray there often, and were made to dress in our Sunday best, clothing.  Our buttons were so tight that it felt  as though, we were going to “hang ourselves”.  We had little shoes as well, which were really hard on the heels and toes, they made lots of hard noises!  I remember this one.  I remember watching the little ones, getting all dressed up, when they didn’t know how to do it, they would ask about how to dress up.  That was how, I spent my first Christmas time, there. 

Peter:  Did you like the songs that were being sung by the priests, inside the Church?

Simeonie:  They were very hard to understand when they were singing.  I wondered, what they were singing abouit.    It sounded something like, “Dominos Dominos’..that was what they were doing..

Peter:  “Dominos Vubiscum…”

Simeonie:  Yes.  “boobii..boobii”, I thought that was what they were singing, apparently, it was like your said.  They were often trying to make us sing.  Oh, there was that little Alexander, I don’t remember where he came from.  I think, he was from Pelly Bay.  I remember doing very bad things with him, while were praying in the church.  We got caught and we were severely punished.  As for me, I lied about not being part of it.  Then, they turned to the little ones, including Alexander, he was so scared that he started to pee in his pants.  He was severely punished, even though, it seemed, it was not that big of an issue, to punish about that he was punished about.  It was fun for a while, then became no fun.  I remember that about this little Alexander, he was my same height, my equal.  Sometimes, we were both bad little boys, doing bad things, together.  That was how we were. 

Peter:  When you first got there to Chesterfield Inlet, there seemed a lot of Qablunaat(White People) in the community.  Do you remember things that happened to you, that were most embarrassing for you?

Simeonie:  I was being told to pronounce the name Edna and not anaq(shit), Edna.  They said, “it’s not anaq”.  I was somewhat embarrassed about that as there were many of us at that point in the classroom.  The teachers were teaching us how to pronounce names that were not Inuit names.  When we were learning to pronounce those names, I was trying to be the first one all the time.  At that point, I thought for sure, I was winning the pronounciations and then, someone said, “it’s not anaq, it’s Edna!”  I was embarrassed about it but then it was okay, because I was the winner. 

Peter:  When it was time for you to go back home, was it wonderful?

Simeonie:  Yes, absolutely!  They would feed us more good food, gave us a lot more freedom and to be outside more often.  It seemed that we can be alone more often, now that they were giving us more freedom.  It was wonderful to do all this, even though, we were conditioned to follow the others all the time, like the line ups and that.  You had so much freedom that you didn’t at times where to go, at times.  Others, who had lots of freedom, could go any where they wanted to go and sometimes for some of us, we would follow them.  The bigger ones were faster at walking so for me, I was always trying to be close to the porch, watching for the others, as to where they might be going, so that I could follow them.  That was how it used to be. 

I also remember the bigger boys, building an iglu.  We also used to go out skating.

Peter:  When you were going home for the first time, and got inside an airplane, what were you thinking? 

Simeonie:  It seemed to me that I was helped to go into an airplane, as I was with the little ones, who were the same age as me.  When we were told we were going home, I said, “am I going to see my mother?”  I was told, “Yes, you are going to see your mother and your father”.  Knowing this, I think, I had a really big smile on my face.  I don’t seem to remember that much when I got home.  Oh yes, I got home, when they had small new wooden houses, called  “Match Box Houses”.  When I first left home, they had a home-made wooden home, which was just like a small shack.  At that time, it used to look really big, but it was apparently a small one, same size as a small shack.  But the Mach Box House, was really huge!   It was so huge that I felt sort of strange.  I remember when I was getting there, there seemed to be a lot of noises and everyone seemed to be so much at peace.  When I was coming in, my mother was saying, “He is coming in!  He is coming in!”  I don’t think, they mentioned my name but exclaimed that “he was coming in!”  Then I walked in, I looked around to see but I was apparently the first one to go in.  I was feeling extremely strange!

Peter:  Towards your parents?

Simeonie:  Yes!!  I apparently became very strange and somehow feeling embarrassed.  I think, I was very conditioned to think at the hostel that I had to go to bed, that I had to go and eat at a certain time, and go to recreation hall, that I felt very strange about coming back home.  I was also expecting to be told what to do, and was only waiting for instructions.  That was how it was.  Then, I was asked, “are you hungry?”  I said yes.  Then, I was told, there is food here, then I started to eat.  Over there, I was very conditioned to follow the rules all the time.  And I did not have enough freedom at the residence, so I was waiting for instructions all the time.  I got so used to be told what to do all the time at the residence.  Then, when I got to become more aware of my freedom at home, I started to gain back my independence.  That was how I was.

Peter:  Do you have anything else to say about something that I did not ask?

Simeonie:  I have understood my ability to do things.  I do understand that I am no longer at a stand still.  I understand it now.  I am now better equipped to do things better by way of being able to do things, such as parenting my children, living in harmony with my fellow human beings, I am better prepared now about these.  I am able to follow more about what I want to do.  I am leading my own life now.  It seems, I am able to let out what I want to say.  I can better say things and express my own feelings better now.  Even when we were first down here, when we were speaking Inuktitut, we would be noticed that we were speaking Inuktitut, then we would look at them but then continued to speak Inuktitut.  Then sometime later on, we were noted for speaking Inuktitut and told to speak English.  When there was no one answering back at that point, I answered:  “You f-off!”  “That’s my English!”  I told him that.  When he heard that, he did not tell us to speak English again, after that.  He just became sort of like one of us.    He also became a sort of a good friend, that was how it was. 

Peter:  Is there something that you would really want your children, your grandchildren and your fellow-Nunavutmiut, to hear about a message that you want to say?

Simeonie:  Inuit are extremely very good about their abilities through their language and their legends.  They were always as good as anyone else, as long as they promoted then.  I think, they will now be promoted more about their abilities or about things, they can do.  This is as long as they have the freedom to do so.  This is how I feel.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  I want to say hello to my relatives, and my fellow-Inuit from Nunavut.  I say, very warm regards. 

Peter:  Thank you.

Simeonie: 
Yes. 









 

Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

Year of Production: 2008

Country: Canada

See more

More from this channel: DIAMA

    • 1h 56m 16s

      Peter Irniq Testimony

      uploaded by: Zacharias Kunuk

      canal: Truth and Reconciliation

      Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2008

      English Translation of Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 12, 2008, Iglulik, Nunavut


      Peter Irniq: We had a terrible Hudson’s Bay Trader back in 1956, like many of these people, were terrible. That summer in 1956, the Dew Line ships came and when left later on, they left a whole lot of material. Some things like pellets beach along the shore line, so one day, my father and Celestino and his father, walked over to where these pellets were beached, with the idea of taking them back to our tent. When we got there, the two adults, Celestino’s father and my father tie up the pellets with a seal skin rope, and Celestino’s father, started to pull the pellets back to his tent. Right at this point, this Bay Manager came along with his Jeep. With his was his girlfriend, even though, he was married. Well, me I took a beached light bulb, that was no longer going to be used, as I wanted it as my toy. Just when the Bay Manager was coming up, my father said to Amarualik, who was pulling the pellets, back to his tent. “He’s coming to get you!” meaning, the Bay Manager. He dropped his load and ran like heck to his tent, running away from the Bay Manager. My father waited for the Bay Manager to stop. When he stopped, he ordered my father not to touch the pellets. “Don’t touch those pellets, they will be used again.” My father responded in Inuktitut that translated into something like this: “You are a big lyer!” Then, he pointed to the woman inside the jeep and said to the Bay Manager, “she will be used again, stop being with her!”

      That night Amarualik came over to visit and while drinking tea, they had a great big laugh about what happened that day. All they wanted to do was to use the pellets for qamutiik(sleigh) cross bars. The thing was, nothing was going to happen to the two men or the two of us boys. They were also not going to re-use the burned out light bulbs.

      Zach Kunuk: Perhaps, you could tell a story about where you were born.

      Peter Irniq: Yes, I was born in Naujaarjuat(A place of plentiful seagulls fledgelings) Lyon Inlet. My parents are known around here in the Amittuq, particularly by Elders. My father’s name was Angutitaq and my mother’s name was Katak. My sister’s name was Iguttaq. My older brother’s name was Ipuittuq Ivaluqut. Prior to my birth, they used to live around here. They lived here, perhaps from around 1940 to about 1946. At that particular period of time, they traveled by dog team from Gjoa Haven’s Utkuhiksalik(Back River) to Naujaat’s Ukkusiksalik(Repulse Bay’s Wager Bay). They lived there for a time, then they traveled this way through Naujaat-Repulse Bay, Sanirajak(Hall Beach) and then to Iglulik. They traveled all the way here, by dog team only. They used to talk a lot about people from this Region. When I became an adult, I got to meet the people they met and I used to say to myself, “oh those are the people, that my parents used to talk about”.

      Over there, we never lived really in the community of Naujaat – the Settlement, as we were true Inuit, living off the land traditionally. We were true Inuit, with truly living the Inuit traditional ways. For example, for those watching us, we lived much like the ones that Isuma Produced sometime ago, Nunavut Series. The ones you guys made. At these scenes in the spring time, that is exactly how we used to live. We used to look for eggs, when there were eggs. And also, we hunt young mature seals, called Nattiat in the spring time as well. We went fishing, when it was time to fish. My father fished with kakivaak(fish leisters), that is how, he used to catch fish. He used to do this on the rivers and on the lake ice. He used iqaluujaq(fish inviter without a hook). As you pull the iqaluujaq up and down, just like jigging for fish, the fish would come, and my father would spear the fish down below, with his kakivaak. He used to catch a lot of fish, along with my brother-in-law at that time.

      I grew up in a place called Nattiligaarjuk(a lake that has seals) Committee Bay. We used to fish there and we also used to fish at saputit(fish dam) built across the rivers to trap the fish, from going up stream. We fished just like in the films that you made. I used to participate in fishing, when I was just a little boy. When I started to learn how to fish at saputit, it was always hard to get some kakivaak material, such as muskox horns. That is what the kakivaak were made of. So, instead of using the precious kakivaak that the adults were using, my father used to make me kakivaak out of old fox traps. He fashioned them just like the real thing. We had no muskox around Naujaat either, so it was hard to get the real stuff to make the kakivaak. There is still not much muskox, perhaps you see one in the long run.

      Up there, when we would fish at saputit in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be lots and lots of fish(Arctic Char). We would be spearing all the fish. I was a young boy at that time around 1952 or 53. When I was fishing inside the saputit, the water used to go up to my chest, so I was pretty small, fishing with my father and my brother in law. When my father and my brother-in-law were wading in the saputit, the water was just up to their knees. I guess, I was pretty small then. When I would spear a fish, I would pull the wooden handle of the leisters, towards my mother, who was on the dry land, then she would pull the fish on to the dry land. That was how I used to catch fish.

      I remember when we were fishing one evening. It was so much fun and it was so wonderful! I remember being hit by a big fish, right behind my knee or at the back of my knee. That hurt really, really bad. When the fishing was finished that evening, my mother and I decided to look at my leg, I had a really big bruse(sp). Ouch!! It was painful! The reason for this was that the fish were swimming very fast all over, inside the saputit.

      I also remember another story. It was a beautiful day and when we looked at the saputit from our tent, the fish were almost jumping up above the water. There were so much fish! I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. As a rule, my mother woke me up very early, so that we could all go fishing. When everyone else had left to the saputit to fish, I stayed behind. I was thinking that I didn’t wanted to leave the nice warm bed inside the tent, after all, I was a young child. I was going to go along with everyone but I decided not to go, as I really wanted to stay in bed. The bed was too cozy to leave!

      After the fishing was done, everyone had came back to the tent. My mother was extremely angry with me. She was trying to teach me how to fish at saputit, and teach me how to fish. She then, spanked me quite a few times on my bum. That hurt very much. Every since then, I learned my lesson and tried to be obedient as I did not wanted to be spanked again. We Inuit, when we were spanked once, we would learn a great deal of lesson. Spanking was one of the ways of disciplining someone, it allowed us Inuit to be listenful, that was how it used to be.

      The other thing was when the days would now begin to get dark in the evenings, and you could see the stars in the darken sky, and it was now obvious that the fish had stopped swimming upsteam. Now then, the little ducklings were swimming, with their mothers the sea water. My father would have an age-old knowledge, that they are now swimming in the sea, it was time to move inland to search for caribou. At this point, the caribou fur or hair was just right for making clothes, and there is now lots of tunnuq(fat) on the caribou. We would then practice our traditional methods of hunting caribou through “tagjarniq”, “nunarpangniq” in your Amitturmiut dialect, “moving inland”. We would do this on foot and walked many miles in search of caribou for survival of our family, dogs and for our clothing and winter supply of food. As a child, this walking on the land was very boring. Adults would be carrying heavy loads on their backs of our belongingss, such as tents, beddings, etc. The husky dogs on the other hand, would be carrying our other supplies as well on their backs, such as tents, kettles, food we had to survive on. When I would get tired, “kaka” me, by putting me on his back, and carry me, along with all the load that he was carrying on his back. When I was no longer tired, I would again start running back and forth, in front of family.

      Up where we used to live in Nattiligaarjuk(Committee Bay), we lived all of the seasons. At one point, when we were inland, walking on this big sandy area, that extended many miles. Well, as I was walking and running ahead of the others, I noticed a little black spot ahead of me on this sandy surface. I ran towards it and when I got to it, it was one side of muskox horn. It was so old that it had lichen on it. It means, it was there for quite a while. I grabbed it and then here I ran back as fast as I could towards my father, mothers and other members of my family, to show off my find. I gave it to my father. My father was ever so thankful for me, for finding such a treasure, now, he could make a kakivak out of it. At his spare time, when the days were not good for hunting, he would patiently make a kakivak(fish liester) out of it.

      During this particular period, which was in the fall time, my mother would sew all our caribou clothing, preparing them for winter use. On the other hand, men did cache the meat and fat for the winter supply. I truly love to eat the tunnuq(fat) and marrow. It’s amazing, how much I love to eat the caribou fat and marrow. I used to truly enjoy eating the patiq(the marrow). One time, my mother made me eat lots of patiq. I ate so much of it that, I got sick and had enough of it. Again, she was teaching me a lesson, not to eat too much of it. Since that experience, I don’t like to eat as much patiq as I used to, but still I like them, including the tunnuq. I also enjoy eating “kiksautit” and “iluit”, the caribou guts. These are the most delicious parts of the caribou. I also used to enjoy eating the eyes and ears of the caribou. These were the kinds of things I used to crave for, when I was a little boy. These were the delicacies for the little boys, like myself, when I was a little boy. To this day, whenever I go out caribou hunting on the land, I still eat the ears and eyes of the caribou. To me, that taste of a good delicacy is still there. My thought sometimes instantly returns to Inuit culture and traditions. This is how, I grew up in and around Naujaat.

      In the winter time, I remember my father and others used to hunt seals very traditionally through the “agluit” “seal breathing holes”. They used very traditional hunting methods in those days, using only a downed hair of a bird, as an indicator when the seal would be coming to breathe through it’s seal hole. They also used a small thin piece of metal, which was lowered to the seal hole, to know when the seal would be breathing and then, it was time to harpoon it. They could not see the seal breathing, as all the seal holes were covered with snow during this period of time, which was normally in the month of March, when the days were getting longer. As a young man, I learned the techniques and I hunted using these thousands of year old methods. That was part of my life. In 1961, when my father decided against me going back to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, this period of my time was a really awesome period for learning about my own culture. Hunting with “qiviutaq”s birds downs and savgutaujaqs(thin metal) indicator of when the seal was coming up to breathe, these are one of the many things, I learned from my father about my culture. I learned a great deal from my parents, sometimes learning about Inuit myths and legends, listening to them telling stories about these was one of the most pleasant past times.

      I used to ask my father to tell Inuit legends. Sometimes, he would tell a story about Kiviu, Inuit legend, who journeyed through many places. He would tell a story about Sakaliktuarjuk, a poor hunter who fooled every one in the village, that he was actually a good hunter. He would tell a story about Akturraarnaat, an evil mother, whose son was blind. My mother would tell a story about a sister and brother, who became thunder and lightening. These are the things I grew up with, as a young child. I learned about traditional pisiit(songs). My mother, father, my sister and my brother-in-law were very good sings, so I used to listen to them singing, traditional songs. I grew up to become an adult, knowing some knowledge about traditional songs of the Inuit and know how to sing some songs, to this day. I also have some knowledge about shamans. I used to watch my brother-in-law, practicing his healing of the sick. He was a shaman. My brother-in-law used his powers to heal the sick, using his angakkuuni(being shaman) techniques. My father, on the other hand, used to say, that he was not a shaman. Later on, I learned, people used to talk about him, that he was also an angakkuq. He was an extremely good hunter. He used to say, “out there” there must be something that we could see in terms of animals such as caribou. He would repeat this often, to the point where, it was repeated too often. He then, used to tell a story about spirits of angakkuit(shamans).

      He used to tell stories about some Inuit who had birds for spirits. Some other people had other spirits, such as wolves, and Nanurluk(a polar bear spirit). Others used to have human beings as spirits. Sometimes, they used their parents, normally deceased as their spirits, such as mothers or fathers or other relatives. My father used to tell us a story about having a ptarmigan for spirit, and how unpleasant this was, when flying. He said, this is because, they not only fly very fast but flew all over the place. It seemed like, you can hit a hill or something. He said, he used to hear this from other people. He said, other hand, having an ukpigjuaq(an owl) for a spirit, they are very easy to fly with. He said, they would fly high up in the sky and can look both ways. And they could see everything and anything down on the ground. I used to think later on that maybe he was talking about himself. Maybe, he used to fly, but we just didn’t see him fly. This was probably how, he used to know where these animals are, that are “out there”. When he finally goes over to the land, that he was talking about repeated, sure enough, there was caribou. He was like that. I grew up learning by observing all the things about Inuit cultre.

      In the summer time, as children, we used to go down to the beach when the tide was low, looking for Kanajuit(sea scorpions or scanvenger fish with large mouth). Sometimes, we used the go down, when pieces of broken ice were on the beach. We could start to hear the “qallupilluit”, they would be knocking again the ice or the ground. Qallupilluit are spirits, and cannot really be seen by any human being, unless you have extra ordinary powers, such as shaman. My father said, they had feathers like ducks. When we were children, like my friend, the late Simon Aglak, we used to like to go down and look for kanajuit. We used to live on the east side of Naujaat, at Kuugaarjuk, quite a bit of distance from Naujaat. When the tide was low, Simon and I used to look for kanajuit. We used Inuit Traditional Knowledge, looking for these kanajuit. Sometimes, when we would be walking close to the ice, qallupilluq(single) would begin pounding against the ice. When that happens, my mother would yell and say, “you might be gotten by a qallupilluq, come up to the land here”. When you were going to sleep at nights, as long as there was ice around, you could hear the qallupilluit pounding against the ice.

      When we were looking for kanajuit, my mother also used to say, when you are out there, and if you see a “nipisa”(a round-shaped black fish with sticky pad protruding from throat with which it clings on to things, or sticks to your hand, like a scotch tape). My mother would say, the only way to take it off is with an ulu(a half-moon) woman’s knife. One time, when Simon Aglak and I were looking for kanajuit, I lifted the rock to see if there were Kanajuit, and all of a sudden, I saw this fish, I grabbed a hold of it, and it got stuck on the palm of my hand. My mother carefully, took it off with her ulu. That was how, I grew up as a child, with my parents in Naujaat.

      Ever since I can remember, I used to hear about other Inuit from Uqsuqtuuq(Gjoa Haven) Region, Qairnirmiut(the people of Baker Lake area), Talurruaq, my father used to live within those regions. I used to hear about our fellow-Inuit in those areas. I grew up as a true Inuk, living in an iglu in the winter time. While living in an iglu, it can be old at times, especially when there was no oil on the qulliq(Inuit oil lamp). When you live on the sea coast, you used seal fat to light your qulliq. But when you are on the land, or inland, you would have a small oil lamp, that you carried with you. Since there was no seals on the land, my mother would use tunnuq(caribou fat) to light the small qulliq. She used to light the qulliq when she was going to sew our clothes in the evenings. We also used to chew the caribou fat to make candles. We used them for lights in the evenings. This is how I grew up in the Aivilik Region of Nunavut. When I was growing up, I grew up with much happiness and with wonderful things happenings. That was my cycle of life.

      Zack Kunuk: What is it your Inuktitut name?

      Peter Irniq: Taqtu Irniq, those are my Inuktitut names. My mother used to tell a story of her dream, when they lived in Maluk&ittat/Naujaarjuat or Lyon Inlet. She said, she dream’t about this Irniq. That Irniq had relatives in Naujaat as well here in Amittuq. He lived in that area around 1940 or 47. In her dream, my mother said, this Irniq wanted to be named in me. She said, her dream was almost life-like or as though she was awake. We were not related at all. This is why, I was named after that Irniq. Taqtu on the other hand, belonged to a lady relative of ours in Naujaat. When I was born, she named me after that special lady named Taqtu. When I was born and getting older, I remember calling her, “Taqtuuqatiga” “my fellow Taqtu”. This was part of Inuit culture that we practiced. To this day, whenever I talk about her, I refer to her as “Taqtuuqatiga”. This is very important aspect of Inuit culture. I only have two Inuit names. On the other hand, when I was born in 1947 and baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, I was named Pierre. Inuit called the priest Kajualuk(because his big beared was brown) so Inuit called him Kajualuk, translated to “Big Brown”. When I was going to a residential school, I became to be called as Peter, by the Qablunaat(White people).

      Zack Kunuk: When you still a true Inummarik, I guess, you would never pronounce the names of the older people? You would have calling titles for them, “tur&urautiit?”

      Peter Irniq: Yes, particularly, the old, old people, people who were much older than us. They were the fellow-Elders of my parents, my father. We were taught from never to call them by name. Even, if we did not have calling titles for them, we were told not to call them by their names. We respected their Elderships and their ages. It was like honoring them. As children, we were told not to call the older people, those who were older than us, by names. Some we had calling titles for them, and even when they were not related to us for example, we would call them, “my avvakuluk” “my dear little same name”. “My uncle over there”. We had different calling titles for them. “My same-age or equal-age person”. When people were named after certain individuals, we naturally had calling for each other. We were taught to respect and honor. When an Elder came into our tent, and I was sitting down, I was to stand up immediately and allow the Elder to sit down. I was told, do this, without being told.

      Zack Kunuk: When was it that you were sent off to school?

      Peter Irniq: Some Naujaarmiut(people from Naujaat) were sent off to school around 1953, 54 and 55. In those days, they were being sent to school in Igluligaarjuk(Chesterfield Inlet). As for me, I knew I was never going to school. I knew this because, I grew up as a true Inummarik, and knew that I would live an adult life as a true Inuk, a hunter, fisher, and trapper. Ones that are older than I am, they started going to school around 1954-55-57 to Chesterfield Inlet. It was around that time. For me, going to school was something that I was not prepared for as we never lived in a community with other people. My father used to say that living in a community, all you get is welfare from the Qablunaat. He didn’t want to be like that. He always wanted to be close to animals for food and clothing. We lived in Naujaat, I think, only two times, once in 1956 and another time in 1957. At that time, my fellow-youth, were being sent off to a residential school. As for me personally, we living in Tinujjivik(a favorite fishing spot of the Inuit in the spring time, when the fish were swimming down stream). We living there in the summer time and it was in the month of August. It was a time of year when the days were really beautiful, sunny and hot. Tinujjivik is not visible from Naujaat, but if you live in Naujaat, you could see in the distance, the outpost of Tinujjivik. It is around 13 miles west of Naujaat. Tinujjivik is a place for fishing. In the spring time, people would build saputit and when the tide is low, the Arctic Char would be trapped inside the saputit, and that was how we used to fish at Tinujjivik. We would move there in the spring time and moved a short distance to the east, where there are more seals in the area.

      Well, that summer of 1958, we could see a boat coming, with an engine. We could see it very clearly, as it was a very beautiful day. As our custom goes, my mother started to make tea by burning heathers, as this was a summer time. We only used heather and other moss to boil tea in those days. It was such a wonderful feeling that we are having some visitors, so she decided to make tea to welcome the visitors. Then they beached the boat. As they beached, we walked down to the beach to greet the visitors, and all of us, walked down behind my father. But that father, a priest, the late Father Dedier, came off the boat, first. He came off the boat, and said to my father, “Peter Irniq is going to school in Igluligaarjuk so we came to pick him up”. He didn’t even greet my father by shaking hands! I have never seen my father panicked but at that point, he was panicky. So he ordered me by saying, “they came to get you, go put on some nicer clothes”. My mother and I quickly went back to our tent and she made me put on niururiak, a seal skin boots, with the fur outside. I got all dressed up in my best, and off we went to Naujaat. The visitors didn’t have tea. As Inuit, they would have stopped to have tea, if they were regular visitors, then leave after they had tea. I don’t have any idea why this happened the way it did. I wondered, if the priest had told them earlier that, before anything happens, we should leave immediately. I don’t know. When we were traveling towards Naujaat, my goodness, it was lonely. It was the loneliest time of my life! It was too awesome!

      Zack Kunuk: You then, left your parents?

      Peter Irniq: “Yes!”

      It comes back instantly! My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my little brother, who died in later years, my niece, I watched them, as we are traveling farther and farther away from them. They were all standing by the shore, seeing me off, until I was no longer visible by eye. Wow! Perhaps, it’s that particular incident, when I was suddenly taken away, it’s been long time ago, since 1958, to me, it comes back quite suddenly, to the time I was a child. That very part, it is very difficult to become adult with. You stayed a child forever! Even though, I am a old person now, but sometimes, you have to returned to it, or re-visit it, instantly. And so, we were on our way to Naujaat.

      Zack Kunuk: How old were you at that time?

      Peter Irniq: Eleven. Yes, I was 11 years old, when I was taken away. So, we were traveling towards Naujaat. I watched my parents, as they were no longer visible by eye sight. They were still standing on the beach. They were also watching until we were no longer visible in the horizon. When we finally got to Naujaat, I was made to go to Angutinguaq family. My father and Angutinguaq were cousins. So I was to stay with this family, according to the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church. They were the adoptive parents of Jack Anawak. We had been here for some days, I guess my parents would watch from where they were, to see if the plane had come and coming to land in the water in Naujaat. Even though, Naujaat was some distance away, they could see airplanes from where they were. Since, they did not see any planes landing in Naujaat, a few days later, my father and my brother-in-law, came over by canoe with an outboard motor. When they arrived, it was so wonderful! Since they arrived, I became relaxed, knowing that I now have a foundation here in Naujaat.

      At that point, Angutinguaq, who I called Haluuruluk. Since they were in the south in 1925, spokes some English, I was to call him, my Haluuruluk(my darn Hello). Now that my father and my brother-in-law here, I had a foundation and practically no more worries and stress. At that point, Father Dedier had said, the plane would be here to pick us up, after three or four days, to bring us to Igluligaarjuk. He said, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. Now that we are free to do whatever we wanted to do, and there was lots of broken ice in Naujaat at this point. My Haluuruluk had a boat called Uvajuk, it was very tippy so it was called that name. Using Uvajuk, we would go down to the sea, in between the ice, to see if there might have been bearded seals or walruses. We were doing this, while we were waiting for a plane. Once we were out there, they got me to steer the boat, while my father, Haluuruluk and my brother-in-law were on the look out for the animals, maybe polar bears. We waited may be about four days, a single engine plane came to pick us up. And so, we board the plane, and we were now on our way to Igluligaarjuk. It was my first time in an airplane. I remember my father having a discussion with another Inuksuk, when I was much younger child. This man was on an airplane previously. My father had asked him, when the plane was taking off, do you watch the ground? We used to get very few planes in Naujaat in those days. So, this man was telling about an airplane ride he had. He said, when they were taking off, and he was looking down on the ground, he could see that as they were going so fast, he could see stripes of blue, green or red or yellow. Remembering that story, I was looking down on the water as we were taking off. As you know it was my first time on an airplane. I kept on a lookout for green, red or yellow stripes. There was nothing. It was actually a slow airplane. Perhaps, he was exaduating(sp), to make the story more interesting. And when we were going back home, we were taking off from the snow, it certainly was not like that, there were no beautiful stripes. There were about 10 or 12 of us, who were brought from Naujaat to Igluligaarjuk. We traveled to Chesterfield Inlet for about two-and-a-half hours.

      Zach: With a single engine airplane?

      Peter Irniq: Yes, with a single engine airplane. This airplane belonged to the RCMP, the one they used to bring us over. On the side of the airplane was a yellow stripe, with a dark blue paint. The tail of the plane had a yellow paint as well.

      Zach Kunuk: When you are getting close to Igluligaarjuk and the time you were landing to Chesterfield Inlet, can you tell us about that?

      Peter Irniq: I remember this very well! I don’t forget things at all, so I remember it very well. I am an Inuk. I grew up as a real Inuk, at that time. My mother and father, always used to tell me to be looking or observing…always. If you see something, then you will be able to tell me. Look for animals. I used to look around for anything, at that time. When we left Naujaat, it was a beautiful day. We arrived to Igluligaarjuk, it was even more beautiful. Hot! There were some clouds. There were beautiful clouds, with the sun shining. When we got closer, the sea water didn’t seem to be as beautiful. But the land, was beautiful, much like Naujaat environment. The stone formations were beautifully bright! I could see all those each time I look down below me, from an airplane. They very much resembled, Naujaat rock formations. Naujaat has those. When we were getting closer to landing, the land and sea were both beautifully pleasant. That time, we landed at Tasiraaluk(a small big pond). Tasiraaluk belonged to Iguligaarjuk, it was situation just around the houses. We landed there at Tasiraaluk, a fairly big pond. The airplanes landed so it was quite a large pond. The Roman Catholic Church used it for water supply. We beached on a beautiful rocky beach with the plane. When we beached, we all got off. I saw some Inuit there but then, I saw the Sisters, the Grey Nuns, for the first time in my life. They wore long dresses, and their hoods had little “furs”, but with lots of little holes, just like window screens. Some of the nuns were extremely beautiful! When I first started seeing Qablunaat, they were always beautiful. To see the Grey Nuns, they were even more beautiful than the Qablunaat, that I had seen previously, which weren’t many. I started to see the Qablunaat there, some belonged to the Department of Transport and others were priests. I used to think, I wonder if White People had ugly people. They all seemed to beautiful and handsome. The Grey Nuns that I noticed so much being different than most people, were to be our care takers, supervisors. They came to meet us. So, I was standing there, as I didn’t know where to go, nor have any place to go. My fellow Naujaarmiut were there, Paul Maniittuq, John Ninngak Mike Kusugaq, and Katherine and the late Francios Nanuraq. There was also Nick Amautinnuaq and Jose Kusugaq, who we knew only as Amaujaq in Naujaat. When our names were changed by the Government of the Northwest Territories, he became Jose Kusugaq. He was along with us. There was also Agatha from Naujaat. There were others, Maria, Theresie, now Theresie Tungilik. She has his father’s name today. Those are the ones who came here to Igluligaarjuk. There was this little Qablunaaq, he was slightly bigger than I am. As I was 11 years old, I was not that tall. I maybe, was about this height. As he was standing next to me, and kept looking at me and then asked me: “What is your name?” with a French accent. I understood what he said, as the year before in 1957, we were taught some English by the Roman Catholic priest, perhaps for a week or so. We were taught in English about things that were inside the Roman Catholic Mission in Naujaat. “Box” “Seal” “House” so we learned a little bit in English, then. “Fish” I used to tell my father about what we had learned. He used to recognize the words that I told him about. The four of them, including my Haluuruluk Angutinguaq, Tapatai and Savikataaq were in the land of the Qablunaat in 1925. They were in Newfoundland, Halifax and in Montreal. When they returned, they learned some English and were able to speak some English. So what I was learning, he would recognize them once I tell him about them. We were taught by Iksirajuakuluulaurtuq(Formerly Father Franzen), and Father Dedier. So, when he asked, “what is your name”, I understood him. As I answered him, I was extremely timid and said, Peter. Also, I was feeling very strange to see the Inuit of Igluligaarjuk. Everything was too awesome for me!

      From there, we were led by a Sister to the hostel. I walked along with my good friend Paul Maniittuq. Both of us walked in behind a Sister, as we were told to follow her. We were apparently going to the big house, the Turquetil Hall. It was a huge building, green in color. I turned to one side and noticed another big building. These buildings looked really big. I also noticed the Church Rectory, it was beautifully built. When I looked to the west, there was a Statue of Virgin Mary, surround by rocks, it was beautiful. From there, we saw another large building, two-storey, this was a hospital as well as being a home for the Nuns. This one was not to be our home, at that point. The one, we were going to was a two-storey hostel, it was to be our home for entire winter or during all the time, that we were going to be in Igluligaarjuk. We called it Iglurjuaraaluk – a real big hosue. When we got there, we were told to take our clothes off. We were to have a bath. We were deliced. We got our haircuts. We got our haircuts with those old fashioned manual hair cutters. I had a very short hair. In fact, all of us young boys had very short hair at that point. I also noticed that day that the young girls also got a hair cut, by cutting their hair, right across their forehead. They looked so different. It was the firs time I ever saw a bath tub, as we didn’t have bath tubs in Naujaat. It was the first time I ever saw and worn shoes. I put a short sleeve shirt for the first time. That was the first time, I ever put on a foreign clothing like that. Wow, it was so awesome! There were lots of boys and girls, Iglulingmiut, Qamanittuarmiut(Baker Lake) kids, Arviarmiut(Arviat kids), there were many of them. That day was something to remember, that very day in Igluligaarjuk.

      Then when the night time came, we were told to go into our large, huge bedroom. There were many beds. I was given my bed, complete with sleepers or pjamas. I didn’t know a darn thing about these items, as we did not use them in Naujaat. As an Inuk, I slept completely naked, at home. Just before, we went to bed, we were told “to kneel down” and pray. I guess, this was the beginning of praying. We prayed a lot. That evening was just the beginning of our praying. When we woke up the next morning, we prayed firs thing, then just before our breakfast, when we got to the school, we prayed first thing, we used to go to school at 9 in the morning. Right after we said the Lord’s Prayer, “our father who art in heaven…” then we sang, what is apparently a “Oh Canada” song, Canadian National Athem. I didn’t know what I was singing about but just trying to follow along and copied everybody. I was completely unaware of what these songs mean’t.

      We had our teacher, who was a Grey Nun. After that first morning of schooling, we had to pray again, just before we left for lunch. When we got into the dining room of our hostel, we prayed. Just before we left for school, we prayed again. When we got to the afternoon school, we prayed again and then sang, God Save the Queen. We stayed in school during the afternoon for about two-and-a-half hours. Then when the English classes were finished, a Roman Catholic priest came over to teach us catechasm. This activity was also very noticeable to myself, especially, during the early stages of staying there. I was happy with this exercise, as we were able to speak our own Inuktitut language. Whereas at the school, we were told to speak only English. We were completely forbidden to speak our own Inuktitut language.

      At that time, Father Farard used to teach us catechasm. I had some idea about the Bible and the prayer, mostly I’ve learned this from my mother. This was prior to going to Igluligaarjuk. Prayer books were used quite a lot in those days, I even have one at home, one of the first prayer books of the Church. The top page has a drawing of a church, couple of iglus and Inuit. I have the old prayer book. When that priest was teaching us about the bible, I was the most knowledgeable one about it. I knew so much that I won a prize from Father Fafard. This was shortly after, we’ve been there for a short time. For my Prayer Book knowledge, he gave me a green apple for a prize. I didn’t know it was an apple. When you go outside, you can eat it, he said. So, when we got outside, I decided to take a bite out of this apple: Oh, what a horrible taste!! I found the apple so horrible tasting, so I gave it to Marius Qajuuttaq, who was walking with me up to the Turquetil Hall. I told him, I just hated the taste of it so I said, you can have it. A year ago, he has already been to that school, so he like it and found it very delicious! As for me, I ate a lot of Inuit food, such as dried meat, so I totally found dried fish very delicious. So, I gave that apple to Marius. I wonder, if he sometimes thinks about it today.

      Zack: Would you like some break?

      Peter Irniq: Yes, let’s

      Filmmaker: Zacharias Kunuk

      Filmmaker Contact:

       

      isuma@isuma.ca

      Year of Production: 2008

      Country: Canada

      Region: Nunavut

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      Filmmaker Contact:

       

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      Year of Production: 2007

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      Joe Ataguttaaluk Testimony

      uploaded by: Zacharias Kunuk

      canal: Testimony I Residential Schools

      Click on 'Read More' for English Translation of Joe Ataguttaaluk Testimony by Peter Irniq, May 2009

      Interview with Joe Ataguttaluk

      Iglulik, Nunavut

      May 2008

      Joe Atagutaaluk:  I remember this one incident, when we were at a lake, this guy was running along and wanted to drink water with us from the lake.  He came in between us, and fell right through the ice.  He had a flashlight, and the flashlight fell to the bottom.  This guy, he started to swim away from us but we yelled him to turn around and swim towards us.  You could see the flight light in the bottom for a while, that was funny.

      Peter Irniq:  Was it getting dark?

      Joe Atagutaaluk:  He thought, we had made holes on the ice and drinking water but we were just along the edge.  It was a bit far to that lake as well.  We had our skates too, so the two guys were skating as fast as they could, and the guy was really running in between. 

      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember when Rene Otak broke his collar bone?

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Rene, yes.

      Peter Irniq:  He broke his collar bone, when we were playing foot ball.

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  We used to do all kinds of things..

      Peter Irniq:  We had some happy times in Chesterfield Inlet. 

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, absolutely!  There were some happy moments..at least to me.  There were quite a few happy moments. 

      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember all the happy times and what were you happy about?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Sort of. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Can you talk about some of them?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  One of the things that I was very happy about what when we would go out trapping foxes.  Those of us who were bigger.  Every Saturday, we would go out and check our traps, by walking.  We would wait the entire week to visit our traps.  When we go to check on them, we would catch a fox on a trap.  At that time, when it became November 15, we would have an anxious time.  We would down to the beach in front us at the hostel, we would go and look for food garbage, that they used to throw out there.  At one time, a Sister was trying to keep us from going to sleep until 12 midnight and when midnight came along, couple of us, would go down to the beach in the dark, and then set traps, with a hope of catching a fox.  When they went to check them later on, they had a fox.  And then, us, me and Jack(Anawak), Jack was my really good friend.  Behind the community, there was a little shack, we noticed a small fox went under the house.  We set up the trap and went out further for sometime.  When we came back, we noticed we had a fox already.  And then, we had another fox where we set up another trap.  My goodness, we truly wanted to get foxes.  That time during the year, it was fun, as a man.  We noticed  four men, side by side.  Each had foxes in between them, in fact, they had lots of foxes, at that time!  At that time, we were being taught how to skin a fox.  Those made it sort of fun, as they were sort of preparing us, for eventually becoming true Inuit. 

       

      Sometimes, it was not happy at the hostel.  Our house, it didn’t bother me that much, even though, it does bother me at times.  Over there, there were some unhappy situatins.  When I got there for the first time, there were children who were eight years old.  When I look at my children today and they are eight years old, they are still pretty small.  That was how old I was when we left to go to school. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  You were still a little child?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Apparently, yes!  I still remember most.  When we got there for the first time, I had a favorite aunt.  She was my mother’s younger sister.  She also went over there.  Today, she is no longer alive.  I could not see her for three days, when I was first there.  When I did not see her for three days, I wanted to see her as I was remembering her.  Where do these women go, I was thinking to myself.  I must have been trying to becoming more clever, at this point.  When I first started to try and notice where they went, I see the women would go upstairs and we boys were down here.  When I would see them through a small window, they would go the stairs.  I wondered, if she was up there too?  So, I proceeded to go upstairs.  When I got upstairs, I was asked, what I was doing?  I said, I was up there to see my aunt.  I was met with absolutely no smile, by a Sister!  I was told, I am not supposed to be up there, they grabbed me and dragged me downstairs, back to boy’s dorm!  I was brought to our supervisor immediately.  Here, I was eight years old, I was put to bed right away.  One who didn’t understand any of the rules applied to us. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  There was no attempt to make you understand why and here you were, you wanted only to see your aunt?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  You only wanted to see your relative?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  It seemed we were not allowed to see our relatives immediately, upon arrival.  If it was your sister, you were cut off from seeing her.  Yes, over there, there were some very unhappy experiences.  Also, I remember being put to bed, I don’t know how many times, I was put into bed, even though, I thought, I was being pretty good, all the time, at this point.  I thought, I was pretty obedient, but then, I would be dragged to be put to bed.  At one point, we were outside and then went inside the hostel.  When we got in, we of course, were told to go in.  With the girls, we had to take turns to go in and out.  When the little girls were out, we boys, were instructed, not to go outside.  When we do go out, there was a special for the boys, to be at.  When they got the little girls to go in, then, they allowed us boys to go outside.  Soon after we had been outside, I was instructed to go inside.  I didn’t know why, I was told to go in.  When I got in, I was brought to the boy’s washroom, where we had several toilets.  And I noticed there was someone who put into the toilet, the entire toilet paper.  Someone flushed it and it got so full that it overflowed.  It was so full that it spilled all over the floor, and there were toilet paper all over the floor.  Then, they(Sisters) started to interrogate us little ones about it.  They knew, I did not do it.  As long as they pointed at me, then they said, it was me, who did it, there was no question about it. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Was there someone who told on you?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It was a fellow-child.  When I was being pointed at, they said, it was me.  I tried to tell them, I didn’t do it as I knew, I didn’t do it.  I was blamed for it.  When they got to know it was not me, but it was already to late, to correct it, then it became me, who did it.  The Sisters made sure of that.  Then, they dragged me to go to bed. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  During the broad daylight?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  During the afternoon.  It was after, we had finished schooling in the afternoon.  The next day, I had to prepare a toilet paper like this.  See those little lines and blocks on the toilet paper?  The next day, they made me, prepare this toilet paper into three little pieces like this, on this toilet paper.  They made me to fix them up and set them up, on top of each other, for other people to use.  For a time, it was only me, who was doing that, but then, it became all of us doing this.  We would use them to blow your nose and to wipe your ass.  That entire exercise became a rule! 

       

      Peter Irniq:  And only because the toilet was overflowing?!

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, only because the toilet overflowed.  I was not responsible for it.

       

      Peter Irniq:  Did they find out, it was not you who did it?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I don’t think, they ever found out.  Also, at one time, some one broke a window.  I never know to this day, why I was blamed for these things, often.  One of my fellow-children, blamed me for it.  At home here at that time, I never knew anything about a window.  The last thing I would have thought of, is to break a window, let alone, not knowing, that a window would break.  They said, it was me, who broke the window.  Again, they put me to bed, in the day time.  I was of course, not sleepy at all!  We never got any orientation what-so-ever.  For one thing, we were not told about the windows being able to break easy.  When they thought, we did something, they put us to bed.  Then, I went to bed again.  We must have been thought of as foolish children.  As a child, I didn’t think, they were a big deal for us to be put in bed.  When I was younger, thinking back about the way, we were treated,  I used to think, “good, they have all died!”  Now, I don’t think that.  At that time, I used to think, since they did so many bad things to us, I used to think, they got what they deserve.  As a result, they will not be able to do anything like that to anyone else.  But, that was how things were done at that time. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Are those types of punishments, that were part of the rules?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, those were the ways of punishing us, instead of teaching us, they totally avoided teaching us or informing us the right way.  They would punish us, and wanted us to know, before hand, that these things were not the right way.  They expected us to know things, that we did not know.  They had an attitude that, you should know about these things, before hand, that they were wrong ways of doing things.  The minute we got to Chesterfield Inlet, they got us to become adults, immediately!  It looked like that.

       

      Peter Irniq:  As a young boy, when you lived near Iglulik or around Iglulik, and when you suddenly spilled the toilet bowl, would have been punished severely by your mother?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No!  I know, I would not have been punished.  If you have an accident not on purpuse, people know.  He didn’t do this on purpose.  People knew, when you did things on purpose.  If I did something like that at home, I would not have been punished for it, either by my mother or my father.  About these things, they brought us up, totally differently, in Chesterfield Inlet.

       

      Peter Irniq:  They introduced you to a totally foreign culture, that was not part of Inuit culture?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  When I first went to Chesterfield Inlet, I did not at all know, English.  No wonder, and it’s not surprising that I never entered a classroom before.  As soon as I entered the classroom in Chesterfield Inlet, the teacher opened the window, and threw out my Inuit language, out the window, immediately!  My language in Inuktitut was then, left outside!  We were then taught to speak English!  They allowed us to do things, with such force or vigour!  Inside the classroom, you are not to speak Inuktitut!  If you speak Inuktitut, you will pay for the consequences!  If you speak it, you will be hit a with a large measuring tape, a yard stick, and hit on your hand. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  That was if you spoke in Inuktitut language?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes!  If you spoke in Inuktitut inside the classroom.

       

      Peter Irniq:  When you first left Iglulik, were you not able to speak in English, at all, as well?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes. Absolutely!

       

      Peter Irniq:  And you were eight years old?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  We always lived at a small outpost came.  We never lived in a community.  And the Qablunaat(White People), who were in Iglulik, did not go to outpost camps.  Those of us who lived in outpost camps, were all Inuit, and all spoke Inuktitut language.  Only in Inuktitut, since time immemorial. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Now that you are an adult, do you speak to your fellow-Inuit in Inuktitut, since long time ago?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I normally do.  But, when you go out to different places, and when people speak a different dialect, then you feel, maybe they won’t understand me, speaking my own dialect, then you sort of have to speak in English.  When you go into a different community, whose dialect is different, then you have to do this but here in our community, I try to speak Inuktitut all the time, to my fellow-community members. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When we were in Chesterfield Inlet, at that time, one of the things that was really wonderful for us, was the movies, and we would go to the movies, every Friday night, it seemed.  You mentioned earlier that you had punishements, and knowing the fact that, going to see movies, were one of our favorite past times, as we enjoyed watching cowboy movies.  If we did do something, and if we didn’t listen for example, without knowing or not on purpose, we would have been told, “no picture show for you tonight on Friday”.  Do you remember this as well?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Some were made to do this, and it was done to me as well.  I used to be  very envious of the children going to the movies, and again, my punishment was to go to bed, again.  I would be in bed, wide awake.  I was “bad” in their eyes, so they would stop me from going to the movies. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  It was really fun going to the movies.

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It was wonderful but sometimes you think the other way as well.  Sometimes, when you didn’t feel like going to a movie, especially when someone said, what we are going to watch tonight is a scary movie, so you didn’t really wanted to go to a movie but, they let you go anyways and told be “part of it”.  You had to go along.  We had to follow all these, and we were not free to not to them. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  So, when we did things that we liked  doing, we would be punished for them, if they thought, we were doing things, against their will?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, the punishment that used to get, was very big for what we thought were for small things.  When you did things without knowing or what they appeared to be small things, you would get a severe punishment for it.  At one time, we walked to the land, going out to check our fox traps, then when we got home, we were cold, and it was not a wonder, it was cold outside.  We put all our boots into one spot, and you will obviously remember, Sister Girard.  She spoke French fluently, as a French woman.  She also spoke some Inuktitut.  She was also learning to speak English.  She started to speak to us in English and there were quite a few of us, sitting on the floor.  I started to imitate how she was speaking in English.  She came over to me when she found out, took me to dormitory and had got me to sit on the floor.  I was trying my best to apologise to her about what happened.  But, she just told me to sit on the floor.  When it was 12 o’clock, she came over, and told me to go for lunch.  I responded by saying, “you told me to sit down, I am going to remain sitting.” 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Our big house, the place where we slept, can you describe it?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Where she had me sitting down, she got me to have lunch, then after lunch, she got me return to our dormitory.  She then, got me to sit on the floor again.  She got me to sit on the floor around 10:30 in the morning,  had a quick lunch, got me to sit again in the dormitory, finally at 3 p.m., when she said, it was time for my bath, she got me to stand up.  That was how it was, and it was a long period of time.  Later on, when I became an adult, I went to see where we used to sleep, it was one huge room.  It had beds, all lined up like this, and there were quite a few.  They may have been a row of six this way, and perhaps 24 rows this way.  There might have been about 40 beds, as there was may be 40 boys, that went to school.  The beds were all lined up very straight this way and that way, in one huge bedroom, the dormitory.  At each end of the dormitory, our supervisors had their individual rooms, where they slept. 

       

      At one time, I was curious about where they used to pee, especially since they had huge dresses, as Qablunaat.  When I got older and became an adult, and was free to do what I wanted to do, I went to see their bedrooms.  Apparently, they shared one washroom, between the two bedrooms, where they slept.  I had overcome my curiosity.  Also, some beds could be on top of each other for some.  Perhaps, you were there or had gone to where else, at that point.  These were particularly set aside for the big boys.  At one time, they had me sleeping on top bunk.  I fell off the bunk bed, at one point! 

       

      Peter Irniq:  I think, I was no longer there.

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  I think, there I was taught a pretty good schooling, there.  There was loud siren that they had, whether it was night or not.  And they were teaching us what to do, when that happened.  There was a door way from our dormitory, and then there were stairs from there.  We would wrap a blanket completely, and used to go outside, when there was a practice drill.  We did this at night, even though, we had been a sleep.  We would go down the steps and went outside, even though, it was cold outside.  No one froze.  I think, we were taught pretty good about this then. We were also taught pretty good, if there was an emergency, especially taught not to panic.  I don’t think, I learned very well, when I was a “trader” at the coop here, when the store was on fire, I became panicky.  It was extremely scary! 

       

      Peter Irniq:  If in fact, there was a fire at the hostel and there were about 70 or so, boys and girls, together.  Where do you think, they would have send us to?  Have you been told, where we would have gone to? 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, for sure?  Not at all, we were told nothing, the only thing they taught us, was how to get out of the building, in case, there was a fire.  We kind of knew about this prior, as we were told that we would have fire drill training.  If there was a real fire, this is where, you are going to go to.  No one told us about this.  Perhaps, they would have send all of you to the school. 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, perhaps.  Maybe to the hospital.  I am not sure, where they would have taken us to.  I know one thing for sure, they would not have taken us to Inuit homes, at that time.  The local  Inuit there, as our fellow-Inuit, we used to try and make friends with them, by visiting them.   It was fun to visit local Inuit, at that time.  But when our Supervisors found out that we were visiting, we would then again be told to go to bed, as part of the rules applied to us.  They would get the boys together and the girls together but separate from each other.  The boys were gathered and were then asked, as to “who have you visited?”  When the question was asked, all of the boy’s hands went up.  I did not put up my hand, as I did not participated visiting.  When there were only a few us, perhaps five of us, who did not visit the local Inuit.  All the others, who put up their hands, indicating that they had visited, were all put to bed, as punishment.  They apparently did the same thing to the girls.  Those who did not visit, came downstairs, they were not many, perhaps seven.  Those who indicated visiting, apparently were put to bed to punish them.  Those of us, who were “better” than the others, they got us together.  They got us to play bingo, and had placed various things on the table, for prizes.  Then, we were playing bingo, as though it was a real bingo game.  While participating at a bingo game, I suddenly remembered, that I visited certain people.  As soon as I remembered, the supervisors there seemed to know all about what happened.  I became very scared!  I wanted to tell them out loud that I had done this, while playing bingo at the same time.  I was actually quite struggling to tell.  I figured, the supervisors knew about this, wow, it was scary!  I wasn’t doing this on purpose.  If I had remembered earlier about my previous visit to the local Inuit, I would have been put to bed right away, along with the others.  Only when we got together, I remembered my visit, it became extremely scary.  If they found out about this, I would have been considered a lair.  Now at least, that’s in the past. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When we were made to trap foxes at that time, how much money did you get for one fox, that you caught?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  What I remember about this was that one fox was worth $3, at that time. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  That was in 1958.

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Around that time, 58, 59. One pelt was worth $3, so I got seven foxes, that entire year.  I got a lot of money, totally $21.  I was told that I had $21 and then was told, I could order things from the catalogue.  When she brought a catalogue in front of me, I was looking through it with anxiety, right through it.  And then, wow, I found a rifle, a 22 calibre.  There was no cartridge and only allowed to put one bullet, at a time. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Yes, you load, only one bullet at a time.

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, if you shoot, take out the empty bullet and then put another one in. It was that kind.  I bought a rifle.  It cost something like $14.19.  Wow!  Then, I was looking and found beautiful wrist watches.  They were very cheap.  Now, I bought those two for less than $21.  I then added several other things which I bought with the rest of the money.  That was how, I started to buy things.  The big thing was, I even bought a rifle.  I bought these things with the seven foxes that I got that year.  When you consider the 22 with no cartridge today, they cost a lot of money now.  It was fun, at that time. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Did you have money left over?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No, we had to make sure, we spent them all.  As we had to spend all of it, I bought three things with the money.  Prior to that, my father sent to me $2 at that time. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  This must have been a lot of money.

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:   When I got the $2, it was huge money!  It was taken by our Supervisor right away.  After the school was over, I asked, if I could go to the store with the money.  So, we went to the store to the Hudson’s Bay Company.   You know these brown papers like this, I loaded up with things, with the money I bought it, it was right full.  It was full of things, that are really useful things.  I bought sweets with him, such as candies, chocolate bars and gums.  After I had spent a dollars, then I still had a dollar left over, to spend.  I saved it for future so that I could use it, sometime down the road.  At that time, things were very cheap.  Wow! 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When you entered the classroom for the first time, do you remember what it looked like inside?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  No really.  The thing that I remember most was when we were brought inside the classroom that, they opened the window, and then throw  out your Inuit language outside.  They closed the window, and then started to teach us in English. 

       

      Only when I got  a bit bigger, perhaps during the third year, or second year of schooling,  I wanted to go to the washroom.  The immediate answer was flat NO.  It’s not a wonder, I needed to pee.  The answer was flat no.  Then, it became completely hopeless.  Here I was trying to learn something in school, at the same time, I needed to pee so badly, knowing full well that my teacher did not allowed me to go to the washroom.  So finally, I was asked to help someone, perhaps it was Karlik or Komaksiutiksaq, who had requested some help to fill up a water tank with water.   They chose me to go.  When I got chosen to go, I went to the furnace room, and started to fill the water tank with water.  Then, over there was a doorway.  Here, I should just gone out and peed outside but didn’t.  But I guess, hearing the water running,  I peed in my pants, by accident, as I could no longer help it.  I tried to hold on to my pee but as soon as it started go, it went all the way.  Here, I could have just gone out and peed, as no one would have caught me.  I was scared.  When I peed, my pants got all went, no wonder.  It was  12 o’clock at this point, I left with the other students to go to the hostel to eat.  Here, I was all wet.  If the supervisors found out about this, I would have been beaten by them.  They could have done anything to me.  I just continued using my wet pants.  Only when Saturday came along, we used to change our clothing.  We wore our clothing for entire week but when Saturday came along, we would be allowed to have a bath, and only then, we would change our clothes.  My pants were wet at first, but as I was using them, for what looked like an entire week, they dried up.  I kept using them all the way, I must have gotten pretty stinky.  I was really scared of the supervisors.  If they knew, they would have done something to me. 

       

      I remember one other time about the other children.  The weather was some what like this outside, when snow was beginning to melt(in May).  These children were playing outside when the surface became wet and as a result they got all wet.  Well, I remember the Sisters ordered them inside, told them to take their pants down, and started whipping them, with the belts.  That is what they might have done to me, if they found out I was wet from peeing my pants. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Do you remember some students because they could not speak English and ask the teacher, “I would like to go to the washroom” that they ended up having an accident inside the classroom and peed their pants?  Have you ever notice some of those?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I actually did not notice anyone.  I think, that was sometimes obvious for both boys and girls as well.  It was extremely difficult to try to tell the teacher that you needed to go.  This was a hard part for us, as we did not speak fluent English, because we were real Inuit to begin with.  And when we needed to go to the washroom, they didn’t think, it was the major problem.  That was how, they treated us.  I just never got anything done to me, because I was hiding things very much. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Was there a teacher teaching Inuktitut inside the classroom?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Not right inside the classroom itself. But, just outside of the school, there was a workshop, so that gentleman from Kangir&iniq(Rankin Inelet) Pierre Karlik, used to teach us how to make toy sleigh, he taught us some Inuit cultural ways, even though, it was in a small way.  That was only at that place and when you got inside the actual classroom, then you have nothing in Inuktitut, what-so-ever. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Did you learn to make fish net there?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, at home, where we were.  They were fun to do!  I used to finish, two spools at a time.  We used to stand next to each other making nets, which was fun part.  And the other fun part was when we were trying to see who could finish first.  So, we used to have a competition, as to who, could finish the net first.  I can and know how to make fish nets, but I buy the ones that are already made, ready for use, from the store.  The first one I made over there, I gave it to my grandfather.  I made three nets in three years.  The first two I made I gave them to my grandfather and his brother.  The third one I made, I gave it to my father.  So we made fish nets.  The floats were not included from the store, so we made floats out of ordinary wood.  We made them very good looking.  We learned to make things like that, at that time.  They really were wonderful. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  What about the priests, did you have catechisms?  Did they come around to teach as well?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, they came and to preach about religion.  They taught us, inside our classrooms. When they came to our home, they did not talk about it. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to school in Chesterfield Inlet, we had all kinds of rules, in which, many of those have quite a lot of impact on all of us, in every which way.  Many Survivors talked a great deal about how, we used to be abused, as a result, we have to have a healing for life, and it is a real healing for us.  Do you have something to tell us about this?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I cannot  really talk about it, in depth.  I cannot talk about it to it’s end.  I don’t think, I can even talk about it in every detail.  I will probably jump from issue to issue.  Well, when I first got there, I was taught about praying, believing.    I can speak about praying and it’s something that is good.  We would go to pray at 6:30 in the morning, started the church service at 7 a.m.,  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  On Sundays, at 6:30, then later in the morning, at 10:30. And after lunch at 3 p.m., then 7 in the evening.  Four times a day.  Then, on Monday, during the week, we would say the rosary, every day, right after school, at our hostel, for entire year.  That first year, I remember it very well.  But, the next year, it was not as much as it was during the previous year.  But, I like it.  To this day, I am not angry about the church services or prayers we had.  Whenever I can go to church, I go to church, at every opportunity.  But the thing is, because of who the priests and Angilican are today.  It is not what they were.  This is why, I can go to church today.  In Chesterfield Inlet, there was that darn person, who tried to make friends with the children, in (a sexual way).  If that person is here and working here today, I would not be going to church whats-so-ever!  And to think of this, it is not what these priests were then, I am able to go to church today.  And I struggle to try and make sure, that these church people we have today, are not those of what we had at that time, as a result, I am able to go to church today.  I am not praying to those people, I think they are sent to as messengers to preach about believing.  But, when those others were doing things that they were doing to us, it makes you very angry.  Looking back, it makes you extremely angry.  I never had any real close friends, I think, because I was put to bed too many times.  My fellow-children used to turn on me.  My fellow children used to point fingers at me.  It makes you think, that was the only kind of friend I had and accepted it.  Looking back about it, it angers me very fast.  Having talked about it somewhat, I am now able to leave it behind, more so than before.  Now that I can leave it behind me, I can now refrain from thinking about it.  It taught me a great deal of lesson and I have seen many people, who done this sort of thing here in our community.  I have never wanted to pass on this issue to our children.  Looking back to what happened to us in the past over there, it sometimes, makes me think that, “good  now that these people are gone, those who have done wrong to us”.  It is not a wonder, that these people did things that they were not supposed to do. 

       

      Why is it, that Catholic priests are not supposed ?  How come the Grey Nuns cannot have husbands?  We are all made to want, all of us.  I believe that this topic should be considered seriously by the Pope.  That is precisely what I think about.  This business of wanting, will always be around.

       

      I also hear of Anglicans who went to schools as well.  Those of us who were brought up as Roman Catholics, we were the ones, who attended that school over in Chesterfield Inlet.  And also, others who went to other schools, they were sexually abused.  It’s exactly the same way.  I wonder why, this is such so strong.  I don’t want to let go of my beliefs.  As a result, as long as I can go to church, I will.  But, whatever I learned in Chesterfield Inlet, in terms of praying and in terms of the faith, I will use it.  I know that I did not get them from the priests and Christian brothers, at that time.  We were taught about religion but this faith is much bigger.  This is why, I am able to go to church.  I think, sometimes we do not consider those, who were hurt.  This is how, I can say it. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Those things, for example, if you don’t want to answer my question, it’s okay but if you want to answer it, that is okay.  Those who were sexually abused at that time, the children, or as very small children, if we were at home, we would not have been abused like that, as it is not in the culture of the Inuit, those who were sexually abused, they are healing today, forever or lifetime.  They want to heal since then, from there.  What would you say to them, your fellow-Inuit?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Well, I cannot say it.  But, I am aware of a need to feel.  A need for feeling  of needing to  help a child, because, he/she is a  child.  Sexually abusing a child, is not helping the little child.  A little child doesn’t seem to feel as a child but when they start to grow, and become aware of things, they can get angry.  He will have a reason to be angry.  I think, we need to think further ahead.  Ever since then, what happened to us, has been following us, this is how I see it.  As we grew up, we kept holding on to what happened to us over there, and in the end, we are very angry about it.  As for me, I have been able to heal about what happened as I have been able to get it out in to public, not particularly to yourself but it has healed me much more.  I have been able to heal great deal more from it.  I am able to think more about the fact that, “let’s not do these things to little children.”   Children do not think about these things.  When they become older, they can think for themselves.  Sometimes, they are made to take some things, they are going to be angry about later on. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When they were sexually abused as little children, as a result, their childhood was taken away from them?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes, that is right.  When they sent me to Chesterfield Inlet to school, I think, it was their attitude that I should be knowledgeable like an adult, at that instant.  This is probably how, we were treated during the time, we were away and for those of us, who were sent away.  Even some of those children, who were not sent out, they were also abused by some teachers.  They forget to notice the fact that they are children!  It’s nice that we have children, they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do, if they want to play in the puddle of water, that’s okay.  The thing is, when you did that in Chesterfield Inlet, then guaranteed, you were going to be whipped.  We were taught to do adult things right away.  Now, you do things the way, adults do, that was how we were treated. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Those who were supposed to be our “mothers” and “fathers”, they didn’t have on their hands, any skills, to do with parenting?  Is that right?  It seems like, they did not have any love?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Perhaps yes.  But, maybe because, our culture was too different to their culture.  We even had a Grey Nuns, a Sister, who was an Inuk.  She was just an ordinary employee, so she could defended us but she was not given any powers and had no strength.  She knew the Inuit ways, but she had rules to follow, so she could not do too much.  Those who had authority, had absolutely no idea about Inuit culture, that was the problem.  It was like them saying, “leave your Inuit culture behind.”  Expect instead to becoming a Qablunaat, a Whiteman.  This was what I think, was happening right away, right from the start. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When they took us to go to school in Chesterfield Inlet, was it their policy to make us Qablunaat(White People)? 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  It seems pretty much that way.  I could perhaps say, I do not target the people of Chesterfield Inlet, at all.  I want them to be my friends.  I want to have them as my good neighbors.  But the ones, who were our Supervisors, authorities, they seem to wanted us to become White People.  In regards to the White Man’s culture, learn it well, that was why, we had to follow what his culture was.  Today, you can go sleep and woke up at 12, these children are able to do it, they can do it.  If they totally understand Inuit culture, they can use it.  I think, they wanted us to be assimilated to becoming Qablunaat(White People).    We had to use forks to eat.  When I first using forks to eat, I could not do it at all in the beginning.  It’s not a wonder, when I lived in my hometown, I never, did really see any of these these eating utensils, prior to going to Chesterfield Inlet.  Today, we can use them properly.  My children are taking them at my own home.  At that time, we just did not know how to use them.  We used to eat frozen cow beef,  as there was absolutely no caribou.  We had maktaaq.  We had frozen Arctic Char.  We had fish, whose guts were still in the fish.  When we were going to have boiled fish, they would cut up the fish into chunks, and then, they would have their guts attached to them, that we are now going to eat boiled!  We were made to try and drink the fish broth!  Like, they had guts in them!  Then, we had to eat them.  Prior, that was not how our people did.  They could eat some of the guts but,  they used to and knew how to separate the guts, between what was good to eat and not good to eat.   But, we at the hostel had to follow their rules and eat them, the way they served them, and we had to eat them ..for sure! 

       

      Peter Irniq:  At our own home, we would not have eat what we ate at the hostel?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Yes.  Yes, that was the case.  Here is one, I used to think of quite often.  Whenever we would be leaving for Chesterfield Inlet, my mother used to make me brand new seal skin boots,  that were water proof, but when we got to the Hostel, they were taken away and they gave us new, shoes.  When we got back home to Iglulik, they didn’t appear, they didn’t come back home with us.  My mother used to ask, what ever happened to your seal skin boots?  The only answer I used to give her was, “I don’t know”.  She thought, we would be using them while we were over there.  The thing was, when we left from here, we used them, that was the last time we saw them.  We never knew anything about what happened to them, even though, our mothers worked really hard to make them well, chewing and softening the soles, sewing the entire boots, we used them once and after that, that was it, we never saw them again.  What happened to them?  They just left them to rott!  Should we try to do something about that?  I don’t know.  I think, there is something out there, that we can do something.  Have you had that experience?

       

      Peter Irniq:  My experience was exactly the same as yours.  When I got home, I check my bag, there was no kamiik(no boots). 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Here they were, our mothers worked really, really hard to sew those boots.  They sewed them really well, to make them look nice.  How do we retrieve those boots.  I sometimes think of what to do about this. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Today, if we could have another meeting, as long as we are alive.   We now meet about the things that happened to us, and we met in Chesterield Inlet, in 1993, July 5 to 9.  We talk about bad things, I mean, not bad things but things that touched us personally, things that had impact on us, and we talked about those issues for five days.  The things that we talked about, things that we worked so hard about, did they help our fellow-Inuit?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  To me, yes.  When we were preparing to go there, I really did not wanted to go, because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get into.  I was think of wonderful times or maybe I wasn’t going to make other people happy but when we got there, we let out, what was bothering us for a long time.  That part had a great deal of help to me.  Perhaps, my friends had felt the same way as me.  Suppose we have another gathering, I think, we could bring out issues that are much more positive this time around.  Over there, we talked a lot about negative impacts on each one of us. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  If we were to have another reunion and talk about our successes at the Residential School in Chesterfield Inlet.  Would this be helpful?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  I would like it very much to talk about the big help this educational facility has had to us who went to Chesterfield Inlet.  Looking back to the time that I was in Chesterfield Inlet, it was not all bad.  The system of moving education, was extremely good.  Looking back, how did we retrieve so much of Inuktitut language, from our parents?  Over there, they wanted to begin stopping Inuktitut in the classroom, but modern education in southern way, something I gain a lot of understanding from.  Can we talk about the foundation of the schools in our communities.  We already know that we are trying to keep on our hands, our Inuktitut language.  We are trying to make sure this happens.  But, education in English,  it is becoming a way of life for Inuit.  I know, we are not going to return to the traditional ways of the Inuit, completely.  Never-the-less, we have to take pride in the fact that our Ancesters have brought us here to this day, even though, it was a long journey.  It think, it would have many uses, if we could meet again in Chesterfield Inlet and talk about the modern education system.  Like, how can we improve the current education system, within Nunavut? 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Most of all, do you think the Government of Nunavut could learn a great deal from us, who have gone to the Residential School? 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Some of it, yes.  They could learn some from it.  It is quite obvious.  For example, you Peter Irniq, have participated in the making the Government of Nunavut, perhaps, those who have gone to school there, could provide more strength to the Government of Nunavut.  Especially with what we are trying to do today. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to school there at a residential school, we did not learn almost nothing about Inuit culture.  But looking at the Survivors who went there, they appear to be very strong people.  I think, they could also vision the future.  Also, we had very strong parents at that time.  They knew their Inuit culture in a very big way, and practiced it well.  It would seem to be that these young people who are going to school today, would benefit from learning more about Inuit culture and where Inuit came from.  Especially at the high school level.  If they take more of their own culture, do you think, they could use this for their future strength?  Is this true?  Does it seem to have any truth to it?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:   To think of it, it seems to be true.  I think, we have to return to our past.  For example, in Ottawa, Nunavut Sivuniksavut is working very hard.  They have a lot of responsibility.  What they do is they learn things down there, that they could have learned up here and when that happens, they say, oh, really, we could have learn that at home.  They finally come to that conclusion, when they are learning more about Inuit culture, when they got to Ottawa.  Perhaps, what they learn down there, they could be transferred to Nunavut and put into practice inside the classrooms in Nunavut.  I think, they could gain a lot more knowledge.  Talking about my own children, they do not have a complete knowledge about Inuit culture.  We have not taught them.  We were taught by our parents.  And because, I have other responsibilities, I don’t have all the time in the world, to teach them all.  They should be put inside the classrooms.  They would have a lot of people to our students. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Regarding as to what happened to us in Chesterfield Inlet, in terms of what happened to us about abuses and regarding our education system, what would you like to tell our southern Qablunaat in particular in the rest of Canada? 

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk: To tell the people down there, maybe if I was a big boss..

       

      Peter Irniq:  Suppose, you became a Prime Minister of Canada…

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Inuit live here and they know about their land more than anyone else.  They should be asked more questions, what do you want for your land?  What would you want for your territory?  Today it seems as though, we are just put or located here.  Even though, Iglulik is here, and here is what it needs…as a commuity..we are just given things here and there.  And the things that Inuit truly need, they are not coming up, they are not popping up.  Just using Nanisivik as an example, there are no more people there. 

       

      And now, they just want to give it to the Military.  Why does Military have to be here?  There are lots of other things that need to be considered.  We need instead that we as Inuit can enhance what we need.  Where are they?  I think, these things need to be felt more by the Canadian Government.  Government always, “we have no monies”.  It is pretty obvious now that the designed for Nunavut, particularly of what Inuit need, priorities, things that can allow us move forward, we need to see the money increased.  And for those who are the survivors of residential school, many of them are hurt and need healing.  They say, there is some money for healing but, they are not at all easy to get into.  They seem to be really hard to get into, unless, you have all kinds of policies or have to go through so much red tape to finally get something.  If you can get through all that, then you can finally get some of it.  I think for another, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools, only has five-year mandate.  But as long as you have rules that are completely tied up, then, it’s not going to be easy.  It is then, it seems, useless to get into it.  Or trying to get something from it.   I don’t know how.

       

      Peter Irniq:  When we were going to a residential school, they were trying to have us assimilated into the White Man’s world, and not having any Inuit cultural programs for a long time, afterwards.  The school opened in 1953 and closed in 1969. When was it have you decided to retrieve your Inuit identity, or your Inuitness?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Not very long ago.  After Chesterfield Inlet, I returned home, probably in 1969 or 68.  Probably in 1968, I returned home for good.  So, when I got here, I started to work and started to make money, around 1968.  And also, I wanted to take some of the culture of the Qablunaaq(White Man).  But, my father was a full-time hunter, he would be out hunting with his dog team and would return, so my mother would tell me, “go and help your father”.  I tended to follow my mother’s instructions.  Perhaps, it was around that time, that I started to return to the ways of the Inuit, particularly Inuit culture.  It was like this, when my father came home from hunting, then if my mother tells me to go and help my father, then, I would do whatever she wanted me to do, to help my father.  Today, when they are told to do that, they seem to be able to tell you, “wait”.  At that time, it was not possible to say, wait.  When you were told do something, you had to do it, as it was to help someone.  A need to listen and follow what you were told by your mother, was an Inuit way of life and part of our culture.  I think, it was around 1968, I decided immediately, to take back my culture. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  The teachers who hit us with a yard stick, when they heard us speaking Inuktitut, and they used to severely punish us, it seemed as though, they went overboard, I think, as Inuit, we think that…are you carrying anger towards them?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Part of it, yes, it used to be.  It was during the earlier years that I used to be more angry but since then, I have been talking about it quite a lot, I tend to be carrying less anger.  But, following Inuit culture, if a little child was not behaving, we used to be able to spank them.  Looking back at their system, when the punished us, it was like, they could have just spanked us but they used to go overboard with the punishments, I think, that part broke us apart.  Then later on, the government made law, that you are not to touch your child.  They then, broke more of the Inuit unwritten laws.  Now, up to this day, we are not to do anything at all, to our children, in a way of discipline.  As long as they are able to speak, if you do anything to them, then, they tell the police and the Social Workers get involved, that is the way, they are today.  If the teachers at that time would have been reported about what they were doing, then they could have been dealt with as well.  They hit us!  If they could have used Inuit culture and only spank us, without needing to use a weapon.  I would not have mind so much, if only they spanked us to discipline us, I would not have mind so much but, the yard stick was three feet?  They used those to hit you, and hit you hard!  Then, they could have been dealt with by the Police and by the Social Services!  No one was moved or cared about to do anything about what they did to us.  I used to be very angry at those but having gotten them out of my system, I am no longer angry about them. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  I have no more questions, Joe, do you have anything else to tell?

       

      Joe Ataguttaaluk:  Hmmm..well, when we were in Chesterfield Inlet, referring to men, especially those, who were our age group, for those of us, who were from the hostel, I wonder why, we allowed ourselves  or for whatever reason, we had them as our enemies or opponents.  For this reason, I have apologized to them.  To those, who lived in their own homes, we were friends inside the classroom.  But, when we got outside of the classroom, we then used to start a fight.  Looking back, I think to myself, what was the use?  What a waste of time, it was!  I have told them personally, I was sorry about this.  And I was very thankful to Andre Tautu, who came from Chesterfield Inlet, he also acknowledged and apologized to us.  I don’t know why, we were doing that, perhaps, because we were just being little children.  I just wanted to emphasize this. 

       

      Peter Irniq:  Thank you very much to you.  Wonderful!  

       

       

       

       

       


      Year of Production: 2008

      Country: Canada

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      uploaded date: 10-12-2008