'One word a day, that's all it takes' Inuvik, N.W.T., residents find strength in language classes

Corinne Bullock has been taking language classes is Inuvik to connect her children to their roots. (Dez Loreen/CBC - image credit)
Corinne Bullock has been taking language classes is Inuvik to connect her children to their roots. (Dez Loreen/CBC - image credit)

People in Inuvik, N.W.T., are finding a sense of strength by learning their Indigenous languages.

Language classes are popping up all over the community. Classes in Inuvialuktun are offered at the Inuvik Community Corporation every week, while Gwich'in classes are also being planned for each of the four communities in the Gwich'in Settlement Area.

For one Inuvialuit mother, it's about connecting her children to their roots. Corrine Bullock learned some of the language in elementary school but hadn't put much thought into it until she became a mother.

"My oldest daughter brought a word home one day and I knew the word, but I felt like I was failing her by not knowing more," said Bullock.

That was six years ago. Since then, Bullock has taken courses in learning Inuvialuktun and is enrolled in the N.W.T. government's Mentorship Access Program to learn even more about the language she heard her grandmother speak when she was a child.

"I just found as she aged, as her peers and siblings slowly left, she spoke Inuvialuktun less and less. I wanted to be a bridge between my grandmother and my children," said Bullock.

Bullock said she started learning from friends. Dwayne Drescher is an Inuvialuktun teacher who she leaned on for support early on.

"He told me something so important," said Bullock.

"One word a day, that's all it takes. And I think that's something I am really reflecting back on, incorporating language into my daily life."

The journey to speaking her language has not been easy, but Bullock thanks those around her for supporting her while she gains more knowledge.

"I've had to consciously make an effort to locate language wherever I can and I think anyone wanting to learn, find a way just like anything else, like active living or anything else you want to reinforce in your home, just practice it every day," said Bullock.

Janelle Wilson is the language revitalization specialist with the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

She said the GTC is working to hire positions and train them to bring language classes to each of the Gwich'in communities this year.

"The language is always very intertwined with the culture in that, when you break down the meaning of a word in the Indigenous language, you learn more about the culture because it has so much to do with each other," said Wilson.

Classes in Inuvialuktun and Gwich'In are also being planned this summer at the Inuvik Greenhouse.