Representation through radio

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Nipivut is an outlet for the Inuit Community

It was Concordia anthropology professor Mark Watson who first told me about Nipivut Radio—which means “our voice” in Inuktitut—during a class in the fall of 2016. The project he helped launch in Montreal sounded exciting and refreshing. However, it wasn’t until I met Christine Lussier, a volunteer at Nipivut Radio, last semester that I knew I wanted to learn more.

“Nipivut is the Inuit community radio,” Lussier said, adding that the station aims to bridge gaps in the Inuit community and promote Inuktitut, the Inuit language. “We want to promote Inuit artists,” she added. “We also want to make it sustainable. We want to train our employees and make the Inuit community more unified.”

Lussier is a Concordia anthropology major with a minor in English literature at the Université de Montréal. Her traditional name is Qillasiq Naluiyuk, and she had a unique upbringing. “I’m an Inuk from Nunavik, in northern Quebec,” she explained. “I was born in Puvirnituq, and I grew up for two years in Kuujjuarapik, but then I moved to the south shore of Montreal. [It was a] very francophone setting, a francophone school situation, until university.”

As part of a course on social economy and sustainable futures, Lussier needed to volunteer for a non-profit organization. “I had heard a lot about Mark Watson,” she said. “They put me in contact with him.”

Since Nipivut doesn’t have many staff members, Lussier said she does a bit of everything—from editing and producing to holding meetings and recording. “Every episode is an achievement in the sense that there’s a lot to do, and it’s usually managed by one or two people,” she explained. “We’re trying to make the family grow more.”

According to Lussier, language is an important element of Nipivut. “We always try to maximize Inuktitut; at least 50 per cent of the program, if not a 100 per cent,” she said. “However, right now, myself and my colleague, we are urban Inuk so we haven’t grown up with the language. That’s kind of a struggle.” Instead, Lussier explained, an elder records the Inuktitut segments. “She would very much prefer for us to do it in Inuktitut, but we cannot.”

In an effort to engage with people who want to learn the language, Nipivut has featured episodes that teach listeners Inuktitut. Among the contributors to these episodes is Jobie Weetaluktuk, a Concordia First Peoples Studies professor. “He did a segment where he taught his daughter how to speak in Inuktitut,” Lussier said. “In that sense, it could become an educational tool for Inuit people in Montreal who are seeking to learn more about their traditional language.”

Nipivut also provides a place for the Inuit community to express themselves and avoid the misrepresentations and caricatures of other media. “When we talk about Inuit specifically, we’re usually very underrepresented or misrepresented,” Lussier said. “For Nipivut to happen is amazing. We promote mostly Inuit artists and Inuit issues, so it’s an amazing platform that’s just for us, by us. That’s very important.”

Many in Quebec and Canada forget or don’t realize that Inuit people exist, Lussier said, or they are associated with terms like “Eskimo.”

“It’s not really representative of us,” she said. “Most people think that Indigenous people are somewhere in a bubble, somewhere else, but we are very much here in the urban space. There are a lot of Indigenous people [in Montreal].”

Lussier was keen about welcoming any Inuit interested in learning more about Nipivut or joining the team. “If they are interested in Indigenous issues, Inuit issues, we’re open to engaging in any kind of conversation,” she said.

You can listen to Nipivut Radio every second Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on CKUT 90.3 FM, or visit their Facebook page.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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