In 2016, territorial departments in Nunavut started a search for approaches to build cultural competence for its employees. The Government of Nunavut is unique with its legal obligations to serve Inuit with cultural competence as referenced in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act (alternate Plain Language Guide), and the Inuit Societal Values and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.
“Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) is the term used to describe Inuit epistemology or the Indigenous knowledge of the Inuit. The term translates directly as “that which Inuit have always known to be true.” Like other Indigenous knowledge systems, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is recognized to be a unified system of beliefs and knowledge characteristic of the Inuit culture. The term ‘Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit’ was formally adopted by the Government of Nunavut; however, the descriptors used to capture the essence of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are recognized as being consistent with Inuit worldview as it is described in various Inuit circumpolar jurisdictions.” (excerpt from Inuit Qaujimajatuqangi: The role of Indigenous knowledge in supporting wellness in Inuit communities in Nunavut).
The Government of Nunavut selected the IRG’s Indigenous Cultural Competence course to support its employees to strengthen their individual cultural competence and understanding of Inuit knowledges, history and culture. The Indigenous Cultural Competence course was shaped by Elders’ input from across the country and New Zealand and Australia, and follows the Wharerātā Group’s foundational values:
- All cultures have value.
- We learn about other cultures in relationship.
- We are stronger together.
An awareness of epistemology gives us the tools to compare and contrast how different knowledge systems assign value and set priorities, determine where and how permeable the boundary is of who is in and who is out of a culture, and even how aware a culture may be of its own rules and norms. This is also self-awareness: how aware am I of my own biases and sense of “what is norm/normal”? The concept of normal turns out to be culturally based, what is normal for one culture may be very different in other cultures. Should we allow the differences to break us apart? In ICC, we choose to uphold the values of Wharerātā as fundamental values to build community, and build the foundation for reconciliation.
The IRG is honoured to support Nunavut on its journey to wellness, and in March 2017 a cohort in Iqaluit graduated as Certified ICC Facilitators. Another two cohorts are planned in Nunavut to increase the number of local facilitators, to reach as many territorial employees as possible. The ICC course upholds commitments to implement Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, the Action Plan for suicide prevention in Nunavut 2016/2017, and other reports calling for cultural competence by those serving Inuit clients.
Are you thinking of working in Nunavut? Here’s a primer on what you need to know to be effective.