Inuit are incredibly resilient people who are making one of the most rapid cultural transitions from traditional to modern life of any culture in the world.
Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s mandate is to facilitate that transition and its’ mission is to enhance and empower Inuit lives while doing so. A strong indication of Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s success is the large number of requests from other urban Inuit communities across the country, seeking Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s assistance in establishing similar programs. Tungasuvvingat Inuit willingly answers those calls, in the same way that it responds to its’ home community.
Just look in on Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s country-food feasts for the community every month. They are a wonderful, vibrant hive of social interaction, often abuzz with 100 or more family and friends meeting each other, some keeping an eye out for the delicacy of a piece of seal flipper in the stew-pot.
When the United Nations ranked Canada as the best country in the world to live in several years in a row during the early 2000s, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization, ran Canada’s 53 Inuit communities through the same 40 health, education and economic indicators used by the UN. Because of a severe lack of resources in The North, the Inuit communities would have ranked 93rd in the world, if they were a country.
Tungasuvvingat Inuit delivers the reality that because of severe, Inuit-specific trauma from cultural oppression in the 1950s and 1960s and the lack of resources in The North to address it, Inuit are in a high-needs situation. It is all about tackling deep needs head on, needs which are far disproportionate to the usual per-capita perspective. Its needs, not numbers, that count for Inuit.
“No wonder my parents and grandparents were drinking,” said a Mamisarvik Healing Centre client from Nunavik (Northern Quebec), while successfully dealing with her own alcohol issues. “They were angry. They couldn’t do anything about it. The RCMP shot (our dogs) still in their harness.
“The old patterns I learned are going to stop with me. I came here for my drinking problem and went through healing I didn’t expect. I think I’ve opened the door for my family. I feel rich in my heart.”
The Government of Canada apologized to Inuit in 2010 for forcible relocation to the High Arctic for sovereignty purposes. The Quebec Government apologized to Inuit in 2011 and paid $3 million in compensation for systematically killing sled dogs in an attempt to move nomadic people into settlements.
Despite these challenges, Inuit culture is flourishing. The official establishment of Nunavut as a territory in 1999, by a small group of Inuit leaders leading a population the size of North Bay, ON, covering an area larger than Mexico, is an incredible constitutional accomplishment.
There are many new, traditional, living-on-the-land programs returning. People are developing sled-dog teams again. There are growing Inuit education, job-training, music, film and television sectors developing in The North and The South.
Some 63 per cent of Inuit can converse in Inuktitut, the highest rate of any First Peoples’ language, and wide-spread efforts are under way to increase that number.
Tungasuvvingat Inuit is a leading edge driver of this inspiring growth.
Its’ highly effective, culturally appropriate offerings enrich almost every aspect of Inuit life; including community support, family, culture, health, youth, Elders, housing, trauma- and-addiction treatment, employment and learning, and recreation.
Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, other Inuit organizations and the general public all consult with Tungasuvvingat Inuit on important Inuit issues. Tungasuvvingat Inuit has been involved in establishing Inuit-specific protocols with the Children’s Aid Society.
Correctional Service Canada introduced a policy of making Ottawa the terminus for all of the Inuit in its’ system across the country who are returning to The North. One of the main reasons is to ensure Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s services are available to them, especially the trauma-and-addiction treatment program of Mamisarvik Healing Centre and Transition House.
“Family, friends and a feeling of belonging to a community give people the sense of being part of something larger than themselves. Satisfaction with self and community, problem-solving capabilities and the ability to manage life situations, can positively influence long-term physical and mental health. One’s social safety net is a critical component to maintaining one’s safety” (Chief Public Health Officer’s Report, 2008).