L-R: Lillian Elias, Susan Peffer, Rose Ann Snow — who has been a longtime student of Inuvialuktun with her daughter Kate.
(photo courtesy of Inuvialuit Communications Society.)

Happy Valley Park has transformed into an outdoor Inuvialuktun school, with Elder Lillian Elias and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation resolution health support worker Susan Peffer leading the lessons every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

For each lesson, Elias runs the group of eager students through some simple verbs, numbers and phrases to help people practice their language.

“One by one, you’re going to say it out,” explained Elias during the June 17 lesson. “It’s just to practice. Even if you make a mistake it’s okay.

“If you know them all, you say them again. You say it over it and over, and pretty soon when you’re talking you know where all the ‘n’s and ‘r’s are when you’re translating.”

After the round table reads through the basic verbs, individuals read them out one by one and get feedback on their enunciation.

Free to attend, the classes go over the basics of vocabulary, grammar and intonations, weather permitting. A spokesperson for the IRC said there was room for up to 50 students — keeping physically distant, of course.

Documents to help expand on lessons are to be provided online at a later date, as interest from Inuvialuit from across the Beaufort Delta and beyond has been strong.
Lessons themselves are also broadcast over Facebook Live.

In the first lesson, Elias runs students through the basics. In the second, she is joined by Peffer to help students learn.

Also involved in the lessons are understanding the different accents applied to vowels and consonants, written out in both English alphabet and the traditional Uummarmiutun script.

And of course, learning a new way of speaking usually has its verbal trips, so everyone keeps a good sense of humour handy to help keep the environment friendly.

One of several opportunities to learn traditional Inuvialuktun, these lessons are similar but unrelated to another program for which funding was announced March 2 by N.W.T MP Michel McLeod. That program designates $150,000 for development of an Inuvialuktun education immersion program with the ultimate goal of establishing an accredited Inuvialuktun Bachelor of Education Program.

“Inuvialuktun is now at a critical point,” said IRC chair Duane Smith at the time. “These new funds are specific to the task and will allow Inuvialuit to begin the development on a much needed Inuvialuktun immersion training program.

“Taking responsibility for revitalization of Inuvialuktun means that we must first enable Inuvialuit with strong tools and approaches, guided by input from Inuvialuit Elders, so they are able to be immersed in the language and teach others.”

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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