On National Indigenous Peoples Day, today’s Doodle, which is illustrated by Ottawa-based Inuk guest artist Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona, honors Canadian Inuk historian and author Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk. Throughout her life, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk advocated for Inuit culture and wrote the ground-breaking Sanaaq novel in Inuktitut, which was later translated and appeared on bestseller lists all over the world.
Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk was born in 1931 in the small Canadian village of Kangiqsujuaq, which is located in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec and Quebec. She went through her initial years carrying on with a conventional Inuit way of life. She became interested in storytelling after being tasked with fishing and skin preservation for the village as the oldest child.
She didn’t get a formal education until she was 20 years old, when local missionaries taught her how to write syllabic Inuktitut. In return, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk assisted them in creating an Inuktitut word, legend, and history dictionary. Dazzled with her work, the preachers requested that she compose stories in her language. Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk began writing Sanaaq, one of the first books recorded in the Inuktitut language, despite never having read a book before.
Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk also taught in Nunavik schools and worked as a consultant for the Kativik School Commission while writing Sanaaq and the Inkituit dictionary. Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk was hired by the Kativik School Board later in her career to develop the language curriculum and teach teachers about cultural awareness.
Finally, Sanaaq was published in Inuktitut in 1984. The book gave a true account of a large Inuit family’s day-to-day life and quickly became the most influential book in her culture. Later, it was translated into French, putting it on Montreal’s list of best-sellers in French.
In recognition of her life’s work, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk received the Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1999 and the Order of Canada in 2004. Her books, essays, and curriculum are still widely used in Northern Canadian Inuit schools. Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk is still regarded as a cultural icon, and her efforts have inspired Inuit storytellers of the past, present, and future. Today and every day, we honor her contributions to education, the preservation of language and culture, and as a role model for aspiring Inuit historians and writers.
Thank you, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk!
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