Inuvialuit News + Culture
Tusaayaksat Volume 22 Number 3
National Aboriginal Role Model
ISR Graduates! Governor General Visits Inuvik + Tuk
Climate Change Discussion
On the Amundsen
DREAM BIG! SUMMER 2008
Children from Tuktoyaktuk excitedly crowded around Michaelle Jean, governor general of Canada, because they heard she can perform magic (details in story).
TUSAAYAKSAT SUM M ER 2008
Special Feature Nuitaniqsaq Quliaq
Words and photos by Zoe Ho
“I think the message they [youth] must receive from us is don’t be afraid to think big. We need to encourage our children to reach for the stars, they have the potential, they are intelligent, they are beautiful, they have the energy, they can make it.” Michaelle Jean
hich one’s the governor general?” a young girl giggled as she asked me. We were in Kitti Hall in Tuktoyaktuk, where the doors had just swung open to minus-thirty degree weather outside. The Governor General, Michaelle Jean, and her entourage of staff, security personnel, press photographer, and videographer were making their official entrance. Admittedly, her Excellency Michaelle Jean is so down to earth and casually dressed that it would be hard for the girl to guess she was the VIP. Also, Inuit northerners usually have more urgent priorities than who’s who in government, especially after having experienced many boom and busts caused by government decisions. Nevertheless, two nights ago, I had witnessed the empowering effect the Governor General had on youth who attended the Youth Town Hall in Inuvik. I knew that the young girl might be shy to approach the Governor General, but that it would be a good experience for her.
Special Feature Nuitaniqsaq Quliaq
The Tuktoyaktuk Drummers and Dancers showed Michaelle Jean some movement dances.
“She’s magic,” I said. “When she touches you, you will start glowing like stars, like fireworks!” The girl eyes widened, and she giggled, “Really?” There was an unprecedented turnout at Kitti Hall. Everyone in Tuktoyaktuk, young and old, were curious and excited to welcome the Governor General to their community. They could not wait to hear and see why Inuvik cannot stop gushing about her. Even children were given the day off from school to come to Kitti Hall. Although this was the fourth day of her five-day official visit to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, the Governor General had already participated fully in community events, visiting the Gwich’in Wellness Centre, awarding Nellie Cournoyea with the Governor General’s Northern Medal, hosting a Youth Town Hall, working with elders and community leaders, encouraging Inuit educators at the Inuit Education Summit, and hanging out with youth at the Inuvik Youth Center. She has also climbed onto the blanket toss with elder Abel Tingmiak to take a turn, and drum danced with the same rhythm as Inuvik’s elders and children. There was a storm on this day, but it did not stop her from carrying her message to Tuktoyaktuk. Michaelle Jean began her speech, reiterating to Tuktoyaktuk her gratitude and delight expressed in Inuvik, to be once more “at the edge of the world,” to “visit this region filled with treasures,” and to get to know people “with a history of endurance, resourcefulness, and wisdom dating back thousands of years.” “I know the full measure of determination and courage it took for you to preserve your stories, traditions, cultures, and languages, as you found yourself suddenly thrust into a completely different world,” she said, “One thing is clear, the North is at a turning point in its history and development. It is urgent that you prepare your youth to take the lead in developing your resources, in all aspects of society.”
TUSAAYAKSAT TUSAAYAKSAT SUM SUM M M ER ER 2008 2008
She then spoke directly to the young people in the room. “Dare to dream big, make those dreams a reality. Seize every opportunity and do so with confidence and pride in who you are.” “What is your dream? To become a doctor, mechanic, pilot, sculptor, architect, cook, carpenter, engineer, truck driver, or even Governor General? Why not?” The room was hanging onto her every word. As she had everywhere else on this Northern visit, Michaelle Jean had broken down barriers, becoming a human who cared, instead of just an official figure to everyone in the room. She was once “born in the poorest country in the Americas, Haiti,” she had “never imagined, that one day, she would “have the immense privilege of crossing the Arctic Circle to stand before you now and tell you how proud I am of you.”
The Governor General is not shy to say “I love you, I am proud of you,” to everyone she meets, especially youth. “She’s so personable and takes time for everybody,” said Jackie Jacobson, MLA of Nunakput and homeboy of Tuktoyaktuk. “She redefining the role of governor general, she’s really raised the bar.”
Eunice Nasogaluak enjoyed the Governor General’s sense of humour.
“She’s really passionate in the way she talks about the North and the way she talks about the youth. The youth that you’re seeing today is our future, not only the Inuvialuit, but all the youth of Tuk. Like she says, dream big!” After her speech, the Governor General enjoyed a demonstration of Arctic sports by Craig Gruben and Matthew Anakina. She then donned an atigi (traditional parka cover) and joined in the drum dance with the Tuktoyaktuk Drummers and Dancers. She even managed to invite Jackie Jacobson, Nunakput MLA, and hamlet mayor Merven Gruben to dance with everyone. “We were dancing and I haven’t drum danced for 40 years,” said Merven. “It was really good. Everybody just fell in love with her, I think.” Merven was also glad the Governor General had promised to take the concerns of his community to Chuck Strahl, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. As always, the Governor General makes time to speak to everyone she could before leaving for the next place on her agenda. She even showed the drum dancers a Haitian dance. The delighted drummers and dancers declared her an honorary member of their group. An hour later, as she is really about to leave, a group of youth swarmed up to her, led by Ruby Nasogaluak, the young girl whom at first did not know who the Governor General was.
“Are you magic?”
She asked the Governor General. “I heard if you do magic on me, I’ll light up.”
One of us:
The Tuktoyaktuk Drummers and Dancers declared Michaelle Jean to be a great dancer, and immediately made her an honorary member!
Special Feature Nuitaniqsaq Quliaq Michaelle Jean recovered from her surprise quickly and jumped into the role of dream collector and magician, creating Harry Potter worthy sound effects, her fingers dancing around the child’s head. “What are your dreams?” she asked, “What do you want to be?” The rest of the children all wanted their turn and the Governor General willingly performed her magic for every last one of them. Later, when asked about the dreams she had collected, she said, “it was nice…a lot of them said it’s graduating.” Tuk youth Chelsea Jacobson said although she did not think much of the visit before she met the Governor General , the visit now “meant a lot to me and a lot to the community.” “She just showed all our communities that she really cares and she is just perfect for the job. When she was sitting down with all the kids at the youth center, reading books and singing them a little song, it was so cute.”
“She told us to just go for it and to dream big, and she believes in us and is rooting us on, and it makes me want to…and I am sure it makes all the kids want to just go for their dreams and just do it!”
TUSAAYAKSAT SUM M ER 2008
Michalle Jean reads with youth at the Tuktoyaktuk Youth Center.
Inuvik’s highschool students were happy to meet the Governor General as she sends off students for the summer on board the Amundsen program.
Trista Arey and Bonnie Jacobson of Inuvik’s youth center performed for the Governor General. Jordan Maring (not pictured) also drum danced.
>> Drum dancing in Inuvik:
Wearing a parka made specially for her by Jessie Colton, Michalle Jean delighted the community by participating fully in drum dancing, even getting on the blanket toss with Abel Tingmiak!
<<Meeting new friends: (L) Shannia Jacobson Blake was happy to take
pictures with Canadian Press photographer Fred Chartrand’s camera.
(R) The results: Shannia’s picture of the governor general and Tali Warrington’s son blowing out the candles on a cake Tali made for the occassion.
Photo above by Phil Morin: www.inuvikphotos.ca 67