Women in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, learn to build cabins for the community

·2 min read
Students in Pangnirtung's cabin-building course hold up the completed frame for a cabin wall. From left are Sabeckie Dialla, Rose Tina Alivaktuk, Mena Alivaktuk, Deanne Ishulutaq, Rosie Kilabuk and instructor Alan Kilabuk. (Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk - image credit)
Students in Pangnirtung's cabin-building course hold up the completed frame for a cabin wall. From left are Sabeckie Dialla, Rose Tina Alivaktuk, Mena Alivaktuk, Deanne Ishulutaq, Rosie Kilabuk and instructor Alan Kilabuk. (Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk - image credit)

When Rosie Kilabuk first found out she was selected to take a cabin-building course in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, she didn't know what to expect.

She'd never built a shack before. The sound of loud, electric tools scared her.

But with careful direction from instructor Alan Kilabuk, she and seven other women have now learned how to frame walls, create studs and use power tools.

Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk
Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk

"I'm more relaxed now [around tools]," Rosie said, partway through Pangnirtung's two-week-long cabin-building course.

"I've never really seen Inuit women make shacks, but … we're getting good instruction."

Rosie hopes to one day build a new sewing shack for herself. She had to get rid of her old one last year due to mould.

Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk
Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk

"It went to the dump and I still miss it to this day, so that's the reason why I signed up," she said.

The course, organized by Cathy Lee and Alan Kilabuk, is the first of many Lee hopes to run in the future. Lee said the idea came to her when she was building a new shed for herself.

"Women would pass by and express an interest in learning, and said, 'You know, I really wish I knew how to do that,'" Lee said.

She ran the idea by Alan, who teaches construction in the community. Then, the two of them took their proposal to Pangnirtung's community wellness committee, which agreed to fund it.

Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk
Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk

When they publicly announced the course on Facebook, Lee said well over 30 women over the age of 35 expressed interest in participating.

"I'm so excited that there are so many women who have expressed interest, and just grateful that we received the funding," Lee said.

Women taking part in the course are learning basic construction skills, such as measuring, designing a cabin, and how to safely use tools. They're sourcing materials from Pangnirtung's wood and metals dump — lumber, screws, metal roofing and plexiglass that can be repurposed for doors and windows.

Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk
Submitted by Rosie Kilabuk

The end product will be an eight-foot-by-12-foot cabin, which they will donate back to the community.

Lee said she and Alan will survey the students and do a draw for where the cabin will go once it's finished. She said there are several ideas for where it could end up — it could become a women's sewing or skin preparation cabin, or it could be a place for elders to gather, for instance.

"I think it's very valuable. I think it can help support community wellness," Lee said.

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