For the past five years, as the Elders’ Programming Co-ordinator, Mimie Natanine has been developing programs for Elders that have been requested by the Elders’ committee in her community.
Natanine plays an “extremely important” role in making all the Elders’ programming “come to life” in Clyde River, says Malcolm Ranta, Ilisaqsivik’s executive director.
“We’re super lucky that Mimie’s position is super unique,” said Ranta. “There’s not an Elders’ co-ordinator position in a lot of other communities that truly works for an Elders’ committee,” he explained. Natanine’s position allows her to work to support the Elders and make their programming ideas become a reality.
This year alone, Natanine has been running a variety of Elders’ programs for making traditional tools, qamutiiks, kamiks, hunting clothes and tents.
Besides these one-off programs, throughout the year the programming co-ordinator runs the Elders’ Qammaq from Monday to Friday. Between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Elders can get together to work on sewing projects and socialize. Since the qammaq is open to everyone, youth can also drop-in to get advice from Elders, said Natanine.
Earlier this spring the qammaq had to be closed due to Covid-19. It reopened in summer with social distancing protocols in place.
Although the qammaq can hold up to 10 people, these days less than five Elders may be found at the facility.
“It’s important to acknowledge a lot of the Elders remember the previous infectious disease outbreaks that have happened in their lifetime,” said Ranta. “So there is this extra level of hesitation on their part on how they’re going to come together and do things.”
Throughout the year on Fridays, Natanine also arranges for Elders to play games, drink tea and eat country food together at Ilisaqsivik. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, this social event had been cancelled since spring.
Next week, however, this Elders’ event is expected to resume, said Ranta on Sept 9.
Natanine also plans to start a seal skinning course for the Elders in about two weeks.
Besides bringing programs to fruition for Elders, Natanine said she feels enjoyment from playing games, having snacks and learning about traditional ways from the Elders.
Ranta explained that Natanine has already proposed various programs for Elders, but it now depends on funding.
“Basically, all of it comes from Culture and Heritage,” said Ranta, referring to the funds needed to run the programs. Annually, the organization provides Ilisaqsivik with an Elder’s committee grant to run the group. It also provides some money for Natanine’s position as Elder’s Program Co-ordinator, he said.
“It’s been incredible how they’ve supported our staple programs for the last 20 years,” said Ilisaqsivik’s executive director.
The Elders’ programs are of “vital” importance to the community. They provide a space for sharing traditional knowledge, socializing and games, said Ranta. However, he said, all these programs do not happen without Mimie.