The Inuinnaqtun language—the foundation of Inuinnait culture—has less than 600 fluent speakers remaining.
By most estimates, it is a language that will be extinct in less than two generations.
We're not alone. As we face an advanced state of language shift across Inuinnait communities in the Central Canadian Arctic, Indigenous languages across the globe are disappearing from speech. The United Nations has declared 2022-2032 The International Decade of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness of the consequences of this disappearance, and to lay a roadmap to implement the internationally recognized rights of Indigenous Peoples to our languages. Reconciliation must also start with the acknowledgment and understanding that Canada is a country with far more than two official languages. There are an estimated 70 Indigenous languages in Canada—two thirds of these languages are considered endangered. Inuinnaqtun is among this statistic.
We are bringing Elders, Inuinnaqtun linguists, fluent speakers and researchers together to reverse the loss of Inuinnaqtun in our communities and create programs to document our language, mentor the next generation of competent speakers, and develop innovative tools and resources for learning and language reclamation.
For 25 years, we have actively supported healing across our communities through the revitalization of our language and culture, and we continue to do so, with urgency. We're building on this history of work to develop, pilot and strengthen critical initiatives and long-term programs that are creating universal and adaptable tools needed for language and culture revitalization.
This evidence-based program pairs a fluent speaker (mentor) with a learner (apprentice) for 300 hours of one-on-one immersion per year.
INUINNAUJUGUT / WE ARE INUINNAIT PODCAST
Inuinnaujugut / We Are Inuinnait is a podcast by Inuinnait, about Inuinnait life, experiences, and traditions, with conversations in Inuinnaqtun.
We're leading Inikhaliuqatigiit / 'Those who make the way forward together', a small group of language leaders from Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk, and Ulukhaktok. Together, we're focusing our energies and expertise on developing the Inuinnaqtun resources and strategies needed for transformative revitalization across all of our communities.
INUINNAQTUN WORD OF THE DAY
We share an Inuinnaqtun Word & Phrase of the Day, complete with pronunciations. Follow along on our social media channels @uqarlutainuinnaqtun, or explore the online library of all past Words of the Day here.
Our Inuinnaqtun 101 video series introduces you to basic words and phrases to start having conversations in Inuinnaqtun. Check out the playlist here.
A language nest protects and immerses those inside in a world that nurtures and supports their growth in Inuinnaqtun. We're working to make the May Hakongak Community Library & Cultural Centre an immersive Inuinnaqtun environment and a safe space for healing and cultural revitalization.
It is going to take a collaboration of available human resources to tackle Inuinnaqtun revitalization and a comprehensive documentation of the language is one key activity. In partnership with Dr. Kumiko Murasugi, School of Linguistics and Language Studies, Carleton University, we have developed an online tool where linguists can collaborate by entering vocabulary and related multimedia.
Our team works from the past and present to develop resources for language learning. We have used Inuit language resources from ethnographic material documented 100 years ago, transcribing original texts to the modern language standard. We're also creating new courses, tools and resources that are grounded in Inuinnait culture, and focus on rebuilding wellbeing alongside language acquisition.
Rapid changes since settling in communities mean that many domains of language related to traditional life are rarely used or ‘sleeping’. Our multiyear project is working weekly with Elders, fluent speakers and linguists to record vocabulary specifically related to environmental phenomena and the natural world.