The great Gjoa Haven elders database

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If elders were school teachers, they may have a few classes in particular that they’d be most comfortable teaching.

Elders Mary Aqiliriq, Susie Konana and Sarah Ulikatuq partake in an elders’ tea at Quqshuun Ilihakvik in Gjoa Haven in August.
photo courtesy of Quqshuun Ilihakvik

With that in mind, staff at Quqshuun Ilihakvik invited Gjoa Haven’s elders to enjoy some tea on Aug. 11 and to share three knowledge areas in which they’d like to be called upon during the school year.
Close to 25 elders showed up for the event, which included snacks and door prizes.
Interim principal Susan Hillier said sewing, wildlife and various methods of hunting were among the topics identified where some of the elders would be happy to advise.
“So if a teacher is doing something on foxes, then they’ll check the list and they’ll see who has written down that they have stories and knowledge of foxes that they like to speak about,” Hillier explained. “The elders come as needed… It’s a resource for the teachers to supplement the curriculum.”
“Elders have an important role in our school and community,” added school community counsellor Christine Porter. “When elders come into our school to share and tell stories, the classroom becomes so quiet because students want to hear their stories and wisdom.”
Hillier has witnessed the same thing.
“They’re eager to hear the stories of long ago,” she said of the captivated students.
The elders also take delight in their roles, she added.
“There’s a certain pride. The elders like to share their stories,” she said. “They’re very comfortable sharing their knowledge.”
Last year’s list included close to 30 elders.
“We try to use as many as we can,” said Hillier.
Some of the elders speak Inuktitut, and that “supports our language instruction” at Quqshuun Ilihakvik, which is an immersion school, Hillier noted.
The school also has two elders coming in weekly to assist with a language program, specifically.
New community members could become eligible to be part of the school’s elders database each year as turning 55 years of age is a criterion.