I acquired my Inuvialuktun language at home with my parents and family. At that time in the 1960’s, it was the dominant language.
Spending time on the land and from living in a tiny isolated village, I was taught by example to be aware and to be watchful, mostly having to do with the environment and wildlife. On many occasions we encountered the polar bear, or nanuq, within the village and during our travels.
One time there was a nanuq right close to our tent. It was at the dog tie-out line and the dogs were lying flat on the snow — they were quiet and afraid of the nanuq, it was so close. They were trying to hide as best they could, just lying flat. I started to cry, so my mom covered my mouth, talked to me quietly, and told me that we mustn’t bring attention to ourselves.
I experienced these things because I didn’t attend residential school. Being sent away from home was avoided because my dad said no.
We were on an isolated island, but the plane would come every year to get the kids. But he said no. He didn’t believe that kids should be away from their parents at such a young age.
It was very quiet to be in a community with no other children my age. I became accustomed and to this day, I still enjoy time alone; I can better collect my thoughts of the day, reminisce about the past, and think about what I envision for tomorrow.
I am so thankful that my father kept me home. I’m adopted, so I’m even more thankful to be raised by strong traditional Inuvialuk parents. My dad’s name was David Isaac Amagana Aiviq Nasogaluak, son of Joe Emsley Nasogaluak and Susie Qablusiaq Anngik (Ruben). He passed away in 2016 at age 81. My mother’s name was Agnes Kanraran Aullaran Carpenter, daughter of Fred Ajgaliaq Carpenter and Lucy Siliuyaq Wolki.
I have the unique perspective of seeing the before and after effects of residential school on survivors. The impacts will be with us for many years to come. Now we’re starting to wash off the layers of our people’s experience, trying to heal wounds that are still sore and raw.
Decolonization has to happen to regain pride in our ancestral identity. Inuvialuit can do this by reclaiming their language. They can make it their business to relearn without shame or fear of reproach, and the healing can happen.
Elders fear that the majority of the Inuvialuit language will go with them. When it’s my turn to pass away, I hope there is a group of people to fall back on for our Tuktuuyaqtuuq language.
Thank you to Beverly Siliuyaq Amos, longtime Indigenous language advocate, for this submission. Beverly lives in Inuvik and grew up on Banks Island.
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