fortunate to have been solidly indoctrinated in Inuit-ness in the first
twelve years of my life. Living in igloos and tents for the first nine
of those years defined my core identity. We spoke only Inuktitut, ate
Inuit food, and lived and breathed dog teams and qayait. We knew
nothing else. My only ambition as a boy was to grow up to be a competent
hunter. These were the absolute tail ends of traditional life, as Inuit
had known them since time immemorial.
helped equip me later on to articulate how Inuit ought to be regarded by
others. In my earlier years, I’m proud to have helped lead Inuit in
Nunavik and Canada to assert our rights to our lands, and to seek the
constitutional recognition of our right to self-determination. By then,
I had acquired fluency in the English language, which is another story
in its own right. I had embarked on a second lifetime totally different
from that of the first – Inuit – lifetime.
mother was half Scottish and half Inuk, which made her an oddity among
full-blooded Inuit. But, like other half-breeds of her generation, she
was dyed-in-the-wool Inuk in all her ways, possessing the skills and
knowledge handed down from previous generations of Inuit. She, in turn,
handed down to us an outlook of life centered around positive survival
instinct, which has sustained us during the periods of Great Transitions
we have lived through.
mother’s first child, my older brother Joanasie, was born in the summer
of 1948. He had white skin, Caucasian features, and red hair set in
tight curls. The birth of a Qallunaalaaraq (a White baby) was
quite a sensation among Inuit in the vicinity. Many people traveled to
my parents’ camp that fall and winter to take a first-hand look at the
curiosity my brother was. Other than this one vivid outburst of
Caucasian genes, we have all lived normal ordinary Inuit lives.
are products of our upbringing in the Arctic environment. Finding the
source of our part Scottish-ness has not changed the fact that we’re
still as Eskimo as ever. A long-dormant part of our identity has been
awakened, but we’re not any more Qallunaaq than we were before. Then
again, being part Qallunaaq in this day and age is no longer the object
of intense curiosity it was in our mother’s generation.
Instead of regarding that part of our identity as a liability, we can
celebrate it. We have finally found our complete selves!