Reconciliation Through Inuit Throat Singing
I was recently part of the Students on Ice delegation to the Canadian Roots Exchange’s National Gathering. This Gathering was a chance for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth around the country to construct a dialogue of solidarity and reconciliation through workshops, panels, art, personal interactions and more. Now that the delegation is over, I’ve been reflecting upon my experience and specifically asking myself what Indigenous reconciliation means to me.
When I first arrived at the delegation, I was surprised by the sense community; I instantly felt like I belonged there. Of course, anyone who has been on a SOI expedition before knows the beauty of the SOI community (more like family). This was no exception. Being an Inuk from Southern Ontario who currently lives in the US for school, I’ve always felt somewhat detached from my Inuit culture and fellow people. In attending this conference, I was reminded of how important community is and how it can encourage reconciliation.
One of my favourite moments at the Gathering was when our SOI delegation led an ISUMA workshop (a little ode to expedition days). During this workshop, I volunteered to lead an Inuit Throat Singing section. I began singing during my 2019 expedition and have been practicing ever since, learning from online videos and audio recordings. About a dozen people showed up to our group, Inuit and non-Inuit alike. I began to explain the history and sounds of Inuit throat singing and asked if anyone wanted to sing with me. A woman named Nina Segalowitz volunteered. I instantly recognized her: I learned how to throat sing from some of her videos on YouTube. It was through her and other throat singers that I was able to connect with Inuit culture at home and at school. I began singing with her and some other volunteers: The River, Qimiruluapik, Inuktitut Syllabics and other songs. At the end of each song, someone broke, and we were left laughing. It was wonderful to see a group of Inuit reclaiming a once banned art form and having fun whilst doing it.
A good friend of mine and another alumna of the 2019 Arctic Expedition, Kathy Snowball, was at the workshop too. We were able to throat sing at the workshop and got together afterwards to teach each other some more songs. I was able share a part of Inuit culture with a fellow Inuk. That was really important to me; it empowered me and assured me of my Inuit identity. I think simple interactions like these are critical to Indigenous reconciliation. Inuit and other Indigenous people have the right to reclaim traditional expressions of culture. We have the right to come together and learn from each other. We have the right to feel Indigenous. My experience at CRE’s National Gathering enabled me to recognize and act upon these right of mine. I would highly encourage others to do their own reflection and insist upon their own rights as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
These files are audio recordings of me throat singing with a partner. The River is with Nina Segalowitz, and the other four (Polar Bear and Wolf, Button Toy, Qimiruluapik, The Love Song) are with Kathy Snowball.
Polar Bear and Wolf
The Love Song