While I’m sure Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal was disappointed he couldn’t fly into Arviat last week, he certainly made some valid points while speaking about the Young Hunters program.
I’ve written about the program a number of times over the years. It is well-deserving of the accolades the minister bestowed upon it and the confidence he showed in its continued success.
Two points Vandal made in particular hit the bull’s-eye.
There can be no denying the importance of more and more Inuit youth reconnecting with their culture, language and traditional ways through initiatives like Arviat’s Young Hunters program.
It connects the youth with elders to learn about their heritage and develop traditional skills that enable them to become reliable hunters capable of bringing fresh supplies of country food back to their families and their community.
Youth participating in the program also learn skills to monitor climate change around their home community. This makes for an effective marriage between traditional and modern skills.
The program has put numerous youth in touch with their culture and helped them develop pride in being Inuit with a better understanding of their people’s past through their contact with the elders.
And that’s on top of developing invaluable hunting and land skills that will help them feed their families for years to come.
Being aware of who one is and where one come from does, indeed, increase one’s confidence in themselves, as well as their pride in their culture, heritage and traditions.
And, Vandal was bang-on in observing that the strength of the Young Hunters program in Arviat stems from the fact that it’s a homegrown initiative.
Homegrown initiatives in the Kivalliq often prove themselves to be more effective in dealing with local issues and challenges than would-be solutions developed in the south and then adapted this way or another for the North.
A case in point would be the men’s healing program, Men Rising Up, which has been received with open arms in a number of Nunavut communities since its beginnings in Coral Harbour more than a decade ago.
Similar effects can be seen in the youth sporting world when one looks at the annual season opener Rankin Rock hockey camp, which was developed in the North, for the North, and in the educational field with the highly-successful qayaq program developed by Victor Sammurtok School teacher Glen Brocklebank in Chesterfield Inlet.
Both the Rankin hockey camp and the Chester qayaq program are past recipients of Arctic Inspiration prize monies to help them further develop and continue with their success.
The Arviat Young Hunters program is, indeed, both inspiring and deserving of the accolades it’s received for its positive impact on local youth.
And it’s not alone in the Kivalliq region, where homegrown programs often lead the way in originality, cultural relevancy and overall effectiveness.
And that, in many respects, is the way it should be.