Today I had the good fortune of attending a cultural orientation workshop. It was a great introduction to the Inuit culture, and how they have survived in such a perceived inhospitable environment. Myself, and a number of other employees – both new and old – attended to learn about guiding principles known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (pronounced kaw-yee-mah-yaw-too-kan-geet…approximately). We also learned about Inuit history, tools, games and heard many fascinating stories from the two Elders who attended the workshop.
I have quickly learned that I am butchering a most interesting language – Inuktitut. It is a fascinating language to listen to…sounding somewhat of a mix of an Asian dialect, with a bit of French and Middle Eastern languages thrown in. That’s probably a horrible description actually, but that was my first impression of it.
IQ is essentially represents Inuit traditional knowledge. Its principles read like a version of the ten commandments – though there are eight principles adopted by the Government of Nunavut. They are wonderful concepts to live one’s life by – and I’m happy to be cognizant of adopting them into my everyday work and life.
Inuuqatigiitsiarniq: Concept of Respecting Others – When people show respect towards others, their relationship is strengthened and the community grows. A strong community is capable of supporting those in need, and provides a safe environment to foster caring and more respect. Respecting others can also be extended to respect of one’s surroundings, including the environment.
Tunnganarniq: Concept of Being Open – We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. When people are open to others through communication, a positive relationship can be developed. These positive relationships mean consensus and acceptance to all viewpoints – or at least an understanding.
Pijitsirarniq: Concept of Serving – The ability to serve others and the common good contributes to the leadership style of the Inuit. It is important to understand that all members of a community are able to contribute in their own way, and each contribution should be valued. Being selfless in serving means to recognize that your viewpoint is not the only one to consider, but is just as important as those of another.
Aajiiqatigiingniq: Consensus – Decision Making – Decisions of any magnitude often require the agreement of a number of different viewpoints. The concept of consensus within decision-making is important – there are often shared goals which require collaborative efforts to reach. Resolution of conflict is one such goal, as Nunavut is a place of many different perspectives and that can lead to many conflicting viewpoints.
Pilimmaksarniq: Skills and Knowledge Acquisition – Living in such a difficult environment requires that its inhabitants attain skills and knowledge that has been passed down through the generations. When one acquires such skills, one is empowered to lead their life in a productive and successful manner.
Qanuqtuurungnarniq: Being Resourceful to Solve Problems – The climate of Nunavut means that while there are resources, they may be limited and should not be overextended. The ability to be innovative and resourceful to tackle any and all problems is important for Inuit survival upon the land.
Piliriqatigiingniq: Collaborative Relationship or Working Together for a Common Purpose – The Inuit believe that the whole can be more important than the individual and that working together for a common purpose is a worthwhile endeavour. This concept also supports the idea of developing strong community relationships and concensus building for decision-making and problem solving.
Avatimik Kamattiarniq: Environmental Stewardship – The relationship between the Inuit and the land is a strong one. The culture has traditionally hunted and lived off of the land for generations, and protection of the environment is essential for their way of life.
These principles are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they overlap greatly and are truly common sense. To be honest, I think more organizations need to adopt these principles – they promote a peaceful and inclusive working environment where all are valued and looked to for input.
I’m looking forward to learning much more about the Inuit culture in my time in Iqaluit. I hope to be able to attend more workshops like this one – and I’m sure community events will promote even further learning opportunities. I still don’t think I’ll be able to switch gears and go out on the land to hunt anytime in the near future… 😉