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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 1, 2004 - Issue 112


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Nunavut Welcomes Its First Two Inuit Nurses

by Sara Minogue Nunatsiaq News
credits: photo: Lily Amagoalik of Kimmirut and Asenath Idlout of Pond Inlet

Lily Amagoalik of Kimmirut and Asenath Idlout of Pond InletMany Inuit patients in Nunavut's clinics and hospitals are used to dealing with nurses through an interpreter. With the recent convocation of Lily Amagoalik of Kimmirut and Asenath Idlout of Pond Inlet, some will no longer have to.

Last week, Amagoalik and Idlout became the first nurses to graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Iqaluit's Nunavut Arctic College, offered in partnership with Dalhousie University. The gym at Inuksuk High School was packed for the convocation ceremony, where teachers, interpreters, hairdressers and carpenters were among the graduates.

Nunavut Education minister Ed Picco attended the ceremony to congratulate the students. He interrupted a prepared speech to remind the audience of the funding cuts that threatened Nunavut's first nursing program in June of 1998, when Nunavut Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) voted to divert $1.2 million to other areas, despite widespread support for the training of local nurses. The cuts left 11 students in the lurch until the program resumed in 1999.

The room erupted in cheers and whistles as Picco offered "a special congratulations to Lily and Asenath. They make all of here in Nunavut proud," he said.

A flushed Idlout said she feels "privileged" to be one of the first Inuit nurses to complete the program. As for her family, "they're so proud it's hard to describe."

As a bilingual Inuit nurse, Idlout could have her pick of jobs across Nunavut, but after six years in Iqaluit, she hopes to return to her native Pond Inlet.

In addition to her degree, Idlout was awarded the Baffin Regional Medical Staff Award for Professional Practice sponsored by Baffin medical staff.

Amagoalik also hopes to go out to one of the communities, preferably Kimmirut, where she lived for three years after graduating from high school in Iqaluit. Amagoalik won the Clinical and Academic Achievement award sponsored by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

For now, both nurses still must complete a three-week leadership course that began this week, as well as their final practicum. Idlout will finish her six-week on-the-job training at the Health Centre in Pangnirtung. Amagoalik will work at the Baffin Regional Hospital.

Both will be ready to take up full-time jobs July 1.

Standing beneath a ceiling sheathed in balloons, guest speaker Levinia Brown, the territorial health and social services minister, said she credited education for all of her professional achievements. She also offered some words of advice to current students, saying, "Sometimes learning seems too hard. It's then that we have to gather our strength, change our perspective, and meet the challenge."

Dr. Tom Traves, president of Dalhousie University, traveled from Halifax for the historic event. NTI president Paul Kaludjak also attended, winning laughs with a speech about Nunavut "can-do".

Valedictorian Nevee Hanson, who received her Bachelor of Education degree from McGill University, summed up the mood of the graduates who are conscious of the expectations and responsibilities that come with their education. "Our pride in our achievements is evidenced by the smiles on our faces... but who's more excited: us or you out there?"

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