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photo Inuit children playing Pang

Childrearing Practices

In Childrearing Practices, two elders from South Baffin, Naqi Ekho and Uqsuralik Ottokie, discuss traditional Inuit childrearing practices. Although such practices have greatly changed since Inuit have moved into communities (with day-care centers, kindergarten, schools, etc.), some traditions, such as wearing the amauti, are still very common today. The two elders used to live in a society in which each person had an important role as part of the group but today, they are immersed into a far more individualistic society.

Directed by, and under the supervision of, Jean Briggs, Emeritus Professor of Memorial University, the book presents transcriptions of interviews conducted by female students enrolled in Nunavut Arctic College's program for language and cultural studies. The interviews cover a wide range of issues concerning childrearing such as pregnancy, birth, infancy, children's emotions, and play.

The tone of the book is established in the introduction: "Children received a practical education and learnt from their elders." We are asked to remember that the comments received are not to be considered as a criticism of the current education system, rather they are to be viewed as reminiscences of the past.

Uqsuralik Ottokie
When I am telling you these stories about how life used to be, I am not saying that we were better than you are today. I am not saying our way of life was better than yours. In a lot of ways it was not as good. But I certainly can say we were taught to lead a very good culturally strong life. This is the kind of thing that I don’t mind talking about to people concerned with social issues, or to people at justice committees. Some people come before us and instead of judging them I like to remind them that if they grew up like we did they would not be in trouble with the law. They would have good morals, good values and beliefs.

…You want to help other people live a good life. Sometimes you think that because they did not have these values and beliefs, they are in trouble. I was very happy when I was asked to come down here and talk to you. I am not saying my life was much better than yours, but I certainly want to pass on the importance of having strong family relationships and respecting rules. (Page 2)