Saturday, February 27, 2010

On being stopped by cops in Quebec and Ontario in a span of 15 minutes

Strange things always happen in this strange world.

I slept in this morning, well more than usual, and got up at 12. The best thing about not having a 9-5 job is that you get to choose the hours of work. And this morning i chose to take my time and do everything slowly.

so i walked slowly and deliberately. I made sure that i walked like everyone else and was even aware of my bow-legged walk. I wanted to look like everyone else. But to my surprise, i didn't look like everyone else. hahaha

as i was about to cross the street, right when i pressed the cross button, a cop car stops right beside me and tells me to take my hood off and give him my identification. So i complied. He looked at my ID and he talked in french to his radio. I don't understand french but i knew he was describing my look, because i understood the word black in french, which is noir and my jacket is black. Someone in dispatch said something and he just let me walk and said sorry to me in English.

As i walked, he was looking at me. he made me feel like i had done something wrong. he watched me as if i was an animal he couldn't hunt on a sunday.

I started thinking: is it the colour of my skin? I don't like to think like that because its usually not the case. But i started wondering that probably some native guy who has brown skin was wanted and i must have fit the description and the reason they stopped me.

I kept thinking about race relations in the nations capital because i have been the victim of racial profiling by the general public, especially cab drivers. Cabbies like to point out to any aboriginal that there are too many of us that just drink. "how come you guys can't get jobs? You guys even have help through federal departments. you don't even pay taxes." Those are just a few comments i have received. I never have a straight answer and sometimes just to put them in my shoes i wanted to ask: "why is it in your country, you treat all the women as if they were dogs? they have no rights and are subjected to strict controls." but i never say that because they would launch a human rights violation lawsuit, while the aboriginal people's of Canada experience this every single day, we never bring a lawsuit to any people.

As i crossed the bridge to Ontario, another cop car stopped me while i was walking and asked me what my name was and I said Tommy Akulukjuk. He asked me how i spell it and I do for him - A.K.U.L.U.K.J.U.K. He types it in the computer and he says: what are you doing now? And i tell him that i am going to work to translate and that i have to open the office. He looks at me sternly and long and studies my face as if he wants to recognize me. I cooperate and he tells me to have a good day and i do the same.

I really started to feel like a criminal. made me feel like i had done something wrong without ever doing anything wrong. The only illegal thing i have done lately is jaywalking and maybe littering.

When you have been faced with discrimination of any sort, systematically or not, you gain a distrust for authority right away. you feels like you can't trust them or that you can't gain their trust. when a cop is nice to me, in uniform, i start thinking that he is staking me, studying me. I think it's just how they've always looked at me. I feel the same for some teachers, nurses and politicians. It's a feeling of that "third class" stare, where you feel lower because in some ways you've been taught to feel lower from the nurse telling us we have bad health, teachers telling us that we always have bad school marks, politicians telling us they can fix out lives. Its always either telling us we are unhealthy and uneducated and that they are here to help us.

We no longer need your help, thank you very much.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Conversation with T.J. Akulukjuk

Have you every thought of talking to yourself? Or do you already have a daily conversation with yourself?

Maybe the real thing about going insane is that you start believing that you are not yourself. I know i am myself, because i pinch myself every morning just to make sure. When i pinch myself, i feel myself saying ouch and it is not someone else. My cat would know that i am going crazy and leave me, so until then, i am not crazy and talking to myself.

What do you think of the world outside T.J.?

Snow and wet. The worse thing about living down south is that the snow is never the same. Well, it is the same, I guess, its just the presence of so many people that ruins the joy of snow. The people are enjoying the hockey game that Canada is playing and they have no idea what it is like to lose your own land. The outside is so full of itself, so full of ego and so full of hate and hardly any joy or gratefulness. The outside is full of fake compassion.

So how about seals?

Seals are cute and tasty. But the tasty wins over any cuteness in the world. The people who see animals and see nothing but cute have never had to struggle. Only through struggling, through physical ordeal and endurance will people appreciate the environment. If you never have frozen your ears or cheeks on a hard winter caribou hunt, you have no right to reduce my culture to a caricature. If you never had to eat nothing but crumbs of bannock because you ran out of food other than country food, you have no right to oppose my people's right to continue their traditional existence. Seals are creations of the earth and this earth is sacred, so is everything part of earth.

Left or Right?

It's not a questions if it's left or right, not even if it's bottom or top. What matters is the discussions of everything around us without being labelled anything. We are all of the political or social parties. We can all become rich or poor or we can all become conservative or liberals. If that is so, then we are just as the same as everyone, regardless if its Stephen Harper or Jack Layton. Our feelings may not be as sensitive as people suggest, we are a people with a consensus government that encourages people talk to each other. We are more democratic in many ways than the freest of people.

How about tradition?

Ha ha. Tradition... I recently realized that i am becoming a conservative when it comes to traditional activities, especially drum dancing and throat singing. I just believe that we have made them to be playthings, too much entertainment and not much soul. I am creating a new traditional dance that people can use rather than drum dancing all the time. It's called the Macarena!


My government's should be scared of me, rather than us being scared of the government. The government pretends to listen but they never get to work. i wish i were a government servant so that i can have a pension for the rest of my life. I basically have no respect for governments of any kind. Well, maybe i care about Ghana, but everything else is just cakes and cream, or whatever that saying is.


One of the greatest inventions of the mind that has ruined more lives than all the wars combined and all the atomic bombs added. money is not only the root of all evil, it is also the tip of all goodness. The tip is usually pointy as an ice pack and has to be picked up carefully.

Any advice?

My only advice would be to have fun. laughing is one of the best that evolution has given us. Laughter has the a better chance of surviving than frowning. I try to laugh everyday, even if it's on my own, watching a movie or reading. Fun is more medicine than emotion. emotion is suggestions while fun is the action.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The joy of being colonized!

I am not admitting defeat.

I am merely challenging the fact of colonization by accepting and embracing the good parts of it. Actually, i never really had a chance to confront colonization until now, personally and trying to write about it.


I think everyone is colonized and some people just realize it better than others. For instance the aboriginal people's of the world just seem to notice colonization sooner and more plainly than the majority of the world. For people who are noticing globalization, that is colonization at its best.

If i were not colonized, i would never have had school, never would have read a book, never would have fired a rifle, never would have driven a snowmobile, never would have flown on an airplane, never would have eaten vietnamese, chinese, thai food at all, never would have tasted hummus.

Colonization is a part of life, even white people are colonized, maybe even more so than the aboriginal population. They have been colonized so far they they intend to colonize for the rest of their history. They have created policies and and taught in schools how to properly colonize people better than many people. They have become so good at it they don't realize the depth of their colonized minds. They defend colonialism and are willing to die for it, just as the Canadian and american troops are doing in Afghanistan. They colonize themselves so well that the questions about school and their governance system has failed through out the years.

I take the pleasure of being colonized by buying books that further colonize my mind. I take pleasure in eating the food that the Canadian have made their own which i get unhealthier from. I take pleasure in the fact that i make paper currency one of my cornerstone activities and will be for the rest of my life. I have rubber boots in Pang that were made from petroleum products and i had to pay for the rubber boots which further contributes to an economy that id hardly regulated even thought it is far from being natural.

I am not afraid of being colonized and the earlier i accept the fact that there are people that want to change my life, the better i have a chance of actually realizing the scope of lost i will have to endure. And by accepting anything less than colonization, I will have a better chance preserving anything that they are trying to get rid of, like seal hunting and whaling.

My name is Tommy. I like long slow walks on puddled roads during August when the moon just came back. I like eating frozen foods with Soya sauce slathered on them. I like reading on a soft comfortable chair and learn about Che, the history of reading and the occupational hazards of being a politician.

My name is Tommy and i willing to decolonize myself by admitting that i am an colonizer myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are we too nice for our own good?

I have been thinking about this question for a while.

Are we, as Inuit, too nice for our own good?

The reason I ask is that i was in Iqaluit last week and went to a concert where the half or more than half the audience was Inuit or English speaking Inuit. No french, well maybe, but you could count them in your hands. But in spite of that, the audience was listening to french performers from Quebec and an over-hyped french MC.

I have nothing against the french, except that they are kinda arrogant. And I know because I have lived among the french-canadians. They are nice people and are not too nice for their own good. I like their toughness and insistence that people who go to Quebec speak their language, which is french. I like that about them.

So back to being an Inuk.

When I was growing up I have been told to be nice through out my whole childhood and to respect people no matter who or what they might be. And I believe I act in such a way sometimes. Not all the time but sometimes and anyways, who was the last person that was absolutely nice to everyone? Even Jesus wasn't nice in the church when he went mad. Buddha wasn't always nice either and made some mistakes. My parents who are mostly nice are not always nice either. Even you who might disagree, your grandparents were not always nice. Inuit were not always nice. Its a fact. We are just human beings.

So to that concert, again. No one understood except the two black performers who spoke french and maybe the MC. After the concert, I was having tea with my father when i told him the show sucked because no one understood them and he said something that surprised me: imagine you were bilingual and you get mail from the government and you have no idea if you are summoned for a jury or if you own money or if its just mail. It hurt me that my father has been on this earth for 68 years and has never had a good service in Inuktitut.

And then, it hit me again. Are we just to nice to not be demanding Inuktitut in our services? Are we too nice not to force the Northwest Company to start hiring Inuktitut speaking managers, or make every traveller have a difficult time understanding when they come through?

Do you think this is bad?

It never stops a white man to travel to China just because he doesn't speak chinese or to Japan. Those countries don't succumbed to english just to welcome their money or just to be nice to them. They've had enough of people going to their country and accommodating them.

Have you had enough of accommodating these people?

I have had enough of turning the other cheek. Not only turn the other cheek, it's as if we had been bending over for them, walking on fire for them and even zipping their fly for them.

I am going to force the next person who doesn't speak Inuktitut to hire an Inuk to translate for him or her and not just succumbed to being nice.

I went to a government of Nunavut services desk and, get this, its an Inuk lady that say qanuippit perfectly, but when i start speaking Inuktitut she gives me a look of disgust because she doesn't understand anything i say. This is a government that prides itself of being in an Inuit territory. Its not the way to go anymore and we have to be assertive.

I am doing this because i no longer want my father to feel like an outsider in his own town, territory and country.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the ii, pi, ti, kii of Tommy

I recently came back from a trip to Iqaluit. I haven't been up north in about three years.

Before i write too much about my trip to Iqaluit, I want to point out that I like Ottawa. I like Ottawa so much, i have said it is my home now. When people ask me what i like about Ottawa, I usually point out that I like the books and the cheap DVD's here in the city, which there is plenty of. I also like the privacy that i get here, where not a lot of people know me and the best part is, where they actually don't care. That might sound bad but it's not. I also like the bums of Ottawa, they are easier to talk to and they are honest and direct.

Now, lets get back to the trip to Iqaluit. I went to Iqaluit for the Nunavut Language Summit, where some 200 people from all over the circumpolar Arctic came to Nunavut's measly capital. I have never really liked Iqaluit ever since I first went there when i was 7. I was born there when it was still called Frobisher Bay, when it was still an Inuit community and still had the candy store and Ventures was called Salluminiq.

I am a cheap. Cheap. I have a phone that runs out of minutes every month. I eat many noodles. I have shoes that smell so bad it would disgust a skunk. I have a t-shirt that I have had since i was 18. I will take a free drink, especially at government and institutional events, to quench my thirst.

When I landed in Iqaluit, I turned my phone on and the first text i get is from a lady named Amber and it reads: I got your number from a friend, want to have a good time tonight? I laugh alone, just before i board off the plane. First thing I notice is the cold on my legs. I am a skinny guy, always have been and my legs are cold in two seconds. I am not ashamed of that. I get to the airport and there they are, my sisters waiting for me. I give them a hug and kuniks and i especially give a kunik to my most beautiful niece Sheema. I am happy to be around them.

The Nunavut Language Summit was organized by the Nunavut Department of CLEY (Culture, Language, Elders and Youth) and they asked me if i could be part of a panel and i agree to come up to Iqaluit to speak. How i go about speaking is that i don't think about it too much until its one hour before the actual talk, which i did too in Iqaluit. Its not important what i said, so i am not going to write it down.

I have been to a bunch of conferences and summits countless times. Me and a friend of mine say that we save the world one conference at a time. But this summit in Iqaluit was different, so different that i can confidently say that it actually worked. I am still motivated by it and i feel very good about the discussions that went on. Many types of issues were talked about, such as the standardization of Inuktitut writing, inuktitut in working environments, popular music in Inuktitut. And i am glad to say, i didn't hear throat singing through out the whole week. I have heard enough throat singing to last me into the afterlife.

The elders were all there as well. People say that the elders are the holders of knowledge. I agree with the statement but not fully. I believe there is no limit to knowledge and wisdom and even though they have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, they still can be stubborn and make mistakes. I had this point out to me by a respected elder from Pond Inlet, when she said that she still learns and makes mistakes and she still tells herself that she needs to be open. The only advice she gave me was to not become not too hard emotionally and intellectually. One of the best advice i have received in a long time. She said that we disregard laws nowadays, especially Inuit laws and the repercussions are too much sometimes that people lose lives and fall into a pit of self-despair. I agree with her. She also said that too many young people think they are adults when they are far from being an adult and how the western thought says that an 18 year old is an adult is not true at all. I agree with her too because i thought like that too when I was 18, and got angry at my parents for trying to give me advice and i lashed out and said that i am old enough now. We laughed at what i did. It was me and her conversation, so you, the reader, is out of luck into what i did. too bad, its the power of being a writer. hahaha, look at me calling myself a writer.

Since i am talking about a conference, I feel compelled to tell you about the awful food that these events usually offer. Hey but remember about me being cheap? Well, I'll take free food anytime, no matter how bad it might be. So i ate the horrible sandwich lunches we had. I mean i am sure my 14 year old niece can feed a group of 20 people better than what they fed us.

The most i liked about the event was to have such respectable people (to me anyways) such as Zebeedee Nungak, the writer of the qallunology series and former Inuit politician. Jose Kusugak, a teacher, politician and an advocate of standardization of Inuktitut. Carl Christian Olsen a co-founder of Greenland University and a linguist. And of course the political community of Inuit across Canada and Nunavut. The talks were very agreeable, especially when it came to the standardization issue. I believe that Inuktitut has to be standardized as well, just to ease the communications between regions, territories and countries. I would love to be able to freely communicate with a person from Greenland as much as i like to talk to my father. I want to be able to write and translate in any dialect and have every Inuk understand it. I want to be reading Ernest Hemingway in Greenlandic. Don't you?

This was not the typical thing about language. People talked about language and i was very glad that they didn't talk too much about education. But rather Inuit talked about Inuktitut as a living thing, talked about using it at home more than using it at schools. I want to see Inuktitut in the school system just as other concerned citizens, but there is a limit into how much we put power into schools. I rather give power to the parents and have them design the school system rather than Louis Tapardjuk telling the parents what their kids should be learning. Language should be as natural as taking a shit, and you don't hear Mr. Tapardjuk telling us how to take a shit, do you?

Just as i am ending this, i want to tell you now why i liked this trip, personally. I liked this trip because I reconnected with friends and family. I learned something about myself and what i like and get ready for this: I liked the slow pace and the eased atmosphere that everyone has. Laugh is the first language of Nunavut. I laughed with my good friends that I went to NS with on the trip and joked around with them, such as the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, the absurdity of Year of the Inuit and just the general gossip and rumours that are always flowing like holy water in Iqaluit. I realize there are no good bookstores in Iqaluit but that didn't matter when i was there because i saw families eating together, fathers playing with their daughters, friends laughing at the time we were drunk in Quebec, and sisters making me coffee and breakfast in the mornings made up for all the books this world might offer.

as this ends, i want you to sing the ii, pi, ti, kii song.