Uvanga atira kivvaq. Sallirmiut inuuvialuuyunga. Ilatka tuktuuyaqtuumin qaimayuat. Chicagomi inuuniaqtunga. Aniyuami iniruqlungalu Nunatchiami.
My name is Nikita. I am a Sallirmiut Inuvialuk. My family is from Tuktuyaaqtuuq. I live in Chicago now, but I was born and raised in the Northwest Territories.
I can only speak English, but my goal is to become fluent in Sallirmiutun, my native language. I started the journey to learn Sallirmiutun three years ago in the final year of my undergrad.
All throughout university, I was probed by fellow students to “speak my language” once they learned of my Indigeneity. I struggled with this because I moved away from my homelands at the age of six and had no recollection of my language. I began to question my identity when confronted with these expectations.
In 2017, I decided to return to the Beaufort Delta for the first time in fifteen years. Prior to my trip, I had just met Ontariomiut for the first time and was excited to share the knowledge I’d learned from them with my people.
When I shared what I had learned with my family they were confused. Inuktitut and throat singing? We don’t throat sing and we speak Inuvialuktun. This was a humbling lesson for me; I realized I was really at square one.
While in Inuvik, I discovered the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre. Filled with language and historical resources, cultural dioramas, and artwork, it contains a wealth of knowledge. I met the staff who were just as excited about my return home and my hunger for our culture as I was. They taught me how to introduce myself and sent me home with tons of Sallirmiutun resources. I can’t thank Beverly Amos, Ethel-Jean Gruben, and Lena Kotokak enough for their support.
Progress has been slow, but I am determined to learn for my cousin’s daughter. During my last visit home, I heard her counting, “atauhiq, malruk, pingahut, hihamit, tallimat.” It was basic Inuvialuktun but I wouldn’t have understood her if I hadn’t been practicing. This was a proud moment for me. I look forward to the day we’ll be able to converse in Inuvialuktun!
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