Friday, December 9, 2011

What's your Inuktitut name?

Its not everyday you have to search for your Inuktitut name. Its not everyday you call your mother to ask her what your Inuktitut name is.

Many years ago now, when i first went to Nunavut Sivuniksavut, i got asked the question what my Inuktitut name was and i didn't have an answer. Maybe it's a Pang thing, but I've never had to deal with the question what my Inuktitut name was, and i suspect no one in Pang really cares what their Inuktitut name is either. My suspicion is that we already consider ourselves Inuk too much to think of our Inuktitut name, if that makes sense.

the story starts from 2002 when i was confronted with the question. I tried my best to say that it's Tommy, but that wasn't Inuk enough, and then it was Jimmy, but that wasn't Inuktitut enough either. I was completely stumped. it was the first time i have ever been asked what my inuktitut name was and i didn't have an answer. my classmates thought that i must've been embarrassed about my name to not say it, that i was ashamed of it. This was our inuktitut class, and everyone had an inuktitut name except me, and after awhile, i really did feel bad that i didn't have one.

That same afternoon, after we had our class, i called up my mother and asked her what my inuktitut name was. She was surprised, to tell you the least. she laughed for a bit and i had to explain why i needed an inuktitut name. so i told her the story and she laughed a little bit again. and she had to think and finally said, say Tommy is your name, its Inuktitut enough. i told her that they thought that wasn't inuktitut enough and she laughed again and said, try Jimmy, and i told her again that that is still not Inuktitut enough. she laughed again. and asked what kind of classmates i have. she was as perplexed as i was about the questions, because everyone in Pang is an Inuk, no matter what their names are.

she said something along the lines of: how much more inuk do they want you to be? and i did agree with her. in Pang, an inuktitut name is whatever name you have because you are an inuk to begin with, born with it. So she said, just call yourself Nuvaqqi, which was the last name of my namesake Tommy. So in 2002, after twenty two year of being inuktitut nameless, i became nuvaqqi, as my inuk name. in a way, it felt childish.

Its not that people from Pang are ashamed to be inuk, actually, i think we are just too inuk to have an inuktitut name. We've never felt we needed them to have one ourselves and we were inuit to begin with and didn't need strengthening with a name. and its not that we are not proud of our namesakes, we just know them by heart and never feel the need to flaunt or be more inuk about it. it just never crosses our minds. if you've met people from Pang. you'll probably notice that we are loud and sometimes obnoxious and probably more proud than anyone.

next time you see me, call me Tommy or Jimmy or i could create my new hillbilly name: Tom Jim or Jim Tom.

10 comments:

Susie said...

So true Tommy
My inuktitut name is Susie :)

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