Sunday, January 20, 2013

I was over fifty when I started to learn Inuktitut

The solitudes separating aboriginal and settler people in Canada are profound. 

As a child I learned that Canada was a nation settled, yes by people who came long before my parents, but by people who carved a nation out of the "wilderness". 

Only as an adult - indeed as an adult beyond my middle age - did I come to understand that the settler story is just a story. Canada is older than 1867 or the settlements in Quebec or the fishers off the coast of Newfoundland. 

Visiting then working in Nunavut I realized, no appreciated, that Canada was as old a place as England and Rome and Egypt. Yes, before that I knew intellectually that the land was inhabited before Jacques Cartier but the reality of that fact had eluded me. 

Only by actual contact with the living culture of the Inuit did my perspective change. And so I started, painfully, to learn more and to learn to speak Inuktitut.  I began to realize the real history and culture of Canada. Canada as an Iroquoian word Kanata. 

My lesson from this is that Canada's deep history should be taught in school. Ojibwa, for example, should be taught in the schools of Sault Ste Marie. To learn a language is, to some degree, to appreciate a culture.  And that, perhaps, is a step towards rapprochement

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