This post is co-authored by Amanda Chalupa and Eli Oda Sheiner, team members at the Montreal site of the Listening to One Another program.
This March we had the opportunity to visit Kuujjuarapik, a vibrant Inuit community located in Nunavik, on the coast of Hudson’s Bay. Working in partnership with the Tasiurvik Family House, we travelled to the community to explore the possibility of adapting the Listening to One Another program with the local Inuit community.
We arrived by propeller plane on a Wednesday afternoon and were immediately struck by Kuujjuarapik’s sunshine and crisp winter air. We were greeted at the airport by Sarah Fraser, a researcher partnered with the Tasiurvik Family House. Making our way through the snowy town, we were greeted by friendly faces and kind words. Along the way to the Tasiurvik Family House, we met Caroline, an Elder and core member of Tasiurvik, and her nephew. At our destination, we received a warm welcome from Maria, the Tasiurvik coordinator, and Jeannie, a community member currently attending college in Montreal. Later that day, we were given a tour of the town by Jennifer, another core member of Tasiurvik. She showed us local highlights, from docks on Hudson’s Bay and the community arena, to the community fridge and the giant inuksuk.
Over the course of the next days, Maria, Jeannie, and another new friend, Vanessa, of Youth Protection Services, taught us about their community and connected us with Elders and locals who could help us adapt our program materials. One of the first lessons that we learned in Kuujjuarapik is that food brings people together. So, it should come as no surprise that many of the meetings that followed took place over a meal. Speaking with Elders who came to eat and talk with us at Tasiurvik, as well as a home-visit, we learned about how the most senior members of the community lived as children, and how the town has transformed over the course of their lives. One of the Elders, Willie, invited us into his home to tell us the story of Kuujjuarapik. We sat cross-legged on the floor watching attentively as he looked into the distance as though looking back in time. We were also privileged to see his childhood toys: various bones preserved from his youth that represent different characters.
Throughout our stay, community members shared incredible insight about local strengths and challenges, helping us understand the context that contributes to some of the struggles that youth deal with on a day-to-day basis and how to go strong together. Elders also offered wisdom to help youth and families get back on their feet and stressed the importance of values such as forgiveness.
Our stay concluded with a brunch at Tasiurvik. Young and old alike enjoyed a meal and fun times together, including painting, drawing, games, playing music, embroidery, and the joys of simply being together! Jeannie and Ray, members of the core team, joined in to share their valuable insight. We look forward to continuing the conversation, perhaps next time in Montreal!
Meeting with local role models of all ages, we got a sense of Kuujjuarapik’s strengths. With continued teamwork and a shared vision, we’re hoping that Listening to One Another can be a platform for some of these role models to share their talents with the local youth. We met community members who travelled huge distances on foot to raise awareness for different issues, learned about athletes who represent Kuujjuarapik at the Northern Games, and heard stories about talented hunters. We got to know, among the people we met at Tasiurvik, throat singers and gifted clothing-makers, embroiderers and beaders. We met soapstone carvers, skilled cooks, and community champions. The diversity of talent in Kuujjuarapik was truly impressive!
Since our return, we have kept in touch with our new friends in Kuujjuarapik and at the Tasiurvik Family House. In the months to come, we hope to continue our collaboration with community members and co-create a program that reflects and responds to the community’s goals. We are grateful for the kindness and hospitality shared by the Kuujjuarapik and Tasiurvik community.
Til next time,
Amanda and Eli