“Language is larger than just the language itself — its culture, its connectedness to community and its willingness to also be part of that community,” Ukallaysaaq Okleasik with Northwest Planning said.

Okleasik and political science professor Paasha Mahdavi followed up with listeners about the results of a survey that aimed to find a connection between Inuit languages and community engagement. The study showed a positive relationship between someone’s comfort with speaking an Inuit language and involvement with cultural, community and civic activities.

Mahdavi and Okleasik were surprised that independent study emerged as the second most common way respondents learn Inuit languages. Okleasik pointed out that very few communities have immersion programs. The two suggested providing more opportunities and funding to learn Inuit languages as a way to strengthen communities.

“What that shows is that there’s a motivation there. It shows that people are going after the resources that they can reach. If we have even more resources within reach, we are going to see a lot more engagement with the language itself,” Mahdavi said.

They hope that organizations use this research to spur conversations and spark change.

Image at top: Scotty Campbell and Ukallaysaaq Okleasik (who is also a KNOM board member) discuss language with listeners. Photo by Davis Hovey, KNOM (2022).