An Iqaluit woman's invitation for people to learn Inuktitut prompted a wellspring of responses from across North America.
Miali Coley-Sudlovenick is the owner of Allurvik, a business that focuses partly on education and the Inuktitut language. Now, she's teaching students online to speak Inuktitut.
"It's actually a very rich language — it helps you to really understand the land and understand a different perspective of how to treat each other and how to really connect," Coley-Sudlovenick said.
Coley-Sudlovenick said after she put a call out online for students who want to learn the language, she received interest from people far and wide. Some have a connection to Inuit culture; some simply want to learn a language they have never been exposed to before.
Classes began last Tuesday.
The importance of language
Coley-Sudlovenick said speaking Inuktitut was an important part of her childhood when she was growing up in Iqaluit.
Her mother, Elisapi D. Aningmiuq, had survived residential day school and had lived through the reality of being scolded for speaking Inuktitut and losing parts of her culture as an Inuk, Coley-Sudlovenick said.
"When she had me, one of the things that she really wanted to make sure was that I spoke Inuktitut. She raised me, but I was also among my family members [and] many were unilingual," she explained.
"I kept it up a lot because she insisted that we speak Inuktitut in the house — she didn't want us to speak any English in the house. And that was her way of just really ensuring that we got Inuktitut, because she knew English was everywhere."
She said ultimately even learning beginner Inuktitut helps give people a better connection to Nunavut, and a better understanding of it.
The right time to teach
Coley-Sudlovenick has a teaching degree and experience as a classroom teacher instructing elementary students as well as adults.
"For me to be able to [do] this, it just seemed like the right time. A lot of people are interested in learning the language, a lot of people want to be able to have access in another way, whether it's through Zoom or however," she said.
"This is just one way I'm able to really connect with people who are interested in learning Inuktitut."
She now has two language classes happening during the afternoons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, one of which is specifically for Inuit.
She wants to keep the classes fairly small, and says she has the feeling that the students will mesh well together if they can get to know each other in an online setting.
"It's already challenging enough to try to create a community that's online, and so I'm really trying to cultivate a space that they'll be able to make more attempts in speaking and really be able to utilize the space for Inuktitut," she said.