Nunavut Sivuniksavut is a unique educational program in Canada. Based in Ottawa, it’s an eight-month college program centered around teaching Inuit history, with everything from culture to legal matters included in the curriculum. The students are all from Nunavut, the massive, sparsely-populated spread of territory and islands that spreads north of central Canada. Nunavut Sivuniksavut’s education, which includes everything from computer science to Inuktitut, one of the principal Inuit languages of Canada, is mainly aimed at arming Nunavut youth with skills to improve their communities up north. It’s set on Ottowa, hundreds of miles south, on purpose – the urban, busy environment has skills to offer too.
Donovan Gordon-TooToo’s uncle is the MP of Nunavut, and the first-year Nunavut Sivuniksavut student from Rankin Inlet is interested in politics too. But right now, his interests are set on play. Specifically, on playing and teaching traditional Inuit games.
With a few of his friends and the support of the Ottawa Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Gordon-TooToo is doing his best to promote healthy living through Inuit traditional games, like the armpull game and leg wrestling. Supported by part of a $525,000 grant that Wabano received from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, they are making a series of videos to show off these traditional activities.
Throughout January, Nunavut Sivuniksavut students were tasked with choosing traditional games or activities that they enjoyed and writing instructional scripts. On February 18th, a handful of those students were chosen by Wabano to perform their scripts and demonstrate their activity on camera.
Gordon-TooToo and Kyle Hainnu, another Nunavut Sivuniksavut student from Clyde River, both played these games growing up, but this project has reminded them that they aren’t only childsplay, they are a cultural legacy, and a way to stay healthy as well.
Nunavut Sivuniksavut students are used to public performances, as well. One of their responsibilities as students has been public performances and cultural demonstrations around Ottawa. All students are taught drumming, singing, and dancing. Traditional sports should now be added to the set.