Recalling April 1, 1999, Piita Irniq says he was looking after 50 Inuit elders from every community in Nunavut.
“I was a DM (deputy minister) of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth,” says Irniq.
“All the Elders had a great time, celebrating Nunavut’s creation. There was lots of excitement and hope for the future.”
Casting an eye over today’s landscape, Irniq notes the successes of Nunavummiut.
“We have graduated about 10 Inuit lawyers. We have graduated more Inuit in the medical field, such as Nurses. We have graduated a young Inuk surgeon from Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet),” he says.
“That is a big achievement for a young territory.”
On the other hand, there’s more to be done.
“We need to get our people into more high technical areas and need to train more Inuit in the field of finance officers in the governments and Inuit orgs.”
But overall he says Nunavut is doing very well.
“We will do even better in the next 20 years. But, we need more Inuit elders who can help to take back and bring forward our Inuit culture, customs and traditions, especially those that we are losing, such as traditional Inuit songs and shamanism back into focus, as they are our true Inuit cultural identity,” he says.
“This way, we can be proud, strong and full of hope for our future.”