Nunavik Sivunitsavut student aims to become a leader in Kuujjuaq

Nunavik student

Tukai Augiak sews during a week of kamik-making workshops in February. Photo courtesy of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq/Jade Duchesneau Bernier.

After spending time in Montreal, Nova Scotia, the Gaspé Peninsula and even an Arctic expedition, Tukai Augiak is set to graduate Nunavik Sivunitsavut and wants to take what he’s learned back home to Kuujjuaq.

Augiak, 19, is part of the seventh graduating class from the one-year program, based in Montreal, that offers an intensive curriculum on Inuit history, governance, language, politics and culture.

“[The program] made me learn who I am, my identity as a person,” he said.

Augiak has been involved in numerous programs from a young age that have taken him to various places throughout Canada.

While attending high school in Kuujjuaq, he took part in Students on Ice, which offers expedition cruise trips to students from around the world.

Augiak finished high school on the Gaspé Peninsula, thanks to an opportunity to live with people he knows in the area. This, he said, gave him the chance to learn French and live away from Kuujjuaq.

His most memorable trip was to Nova Scotia’s Sable Island, known for its population of wild horses and seals.

“The experience alone was easily one of my favourites,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”

After spending a year in Gaspé, Augiak said he felt the need to return to his Inuk roots. Enrolling at Nunavik Sivunitsavut gave him that opportunity.

The program offers both theory and practical courses. There are lectures on Nunavik and Inuit history, which Augiak said was his favourite class.

“I always tried to show up early to class and see if I could ask any questions beforehand or afterwards,” he said.

There are also courses on how to build traditional qulliqs, drums and boots.

“After having been here at the program,” Augiak said, “I am fully strong, and I know who I am. Now I feel like I can go elsewhere because I know my history.”

Students are also taught how to write essays and tackle larger assignments like those that can be expected from post-secondary education. Most graduating classes include about 20 students.

Augiak found the Nunavik Sivunitsavut experience helpful in other ways. He said it gave him access to a community of other Inuit students living in Montreal, which helped provide a buffer from the “shock of the city,” he said.

“It’s big, it’s loud, it’s the complete opposite of home,” Augiak said.

“With [Nunavik Sivunitsavut], you still have a community … As soon as you get to know everyone, you get used to it.”

Now that he’s set for June’s graduation ceremonies, Augiak is looking toward his future.

He has applied to a program offered by Forward College in London, England, that would allow him to earn a bachelor’s degree in politics and international relations across multiple universities around Europe.

Eventually, he said, he wants to take all he has learned back home to become a leader.

“I want to show that we are capable as a people, that we can do whatever we put our minds to,” Augiak said.

“I realized that I had a responsibility to my people … Our previous leaders have put these seeds in so that we may be able to grow, and I want to bring those plants to life.”

Story by Cedric Gallant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News

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