What Does It Mean to Be an Eskimo? By Abe Okpik

The survival of the Eskimo people depends on the survival of the language. When people meet Eskimos, they are disappointed if they cannot show their knowledge of Eskimo ways. The Eskimo language is big. It could be used to give many great thoughts to the world. If the Eskimos themselves don’t use their language more, it will be forgotten, and very soon the Eskimo too will be a forgotten people.

It is up to the Eskimos of today to use their Eskimo strength of word and thought. It is up to the young people. If they don’t learn and use the language and the stories and songs, they will have nothing special to give to their children. It’s no good looking like an Eskimo if you can’t speak like one.

There are only very few Eskimos, but millions of whites, just like mosquitoes. It is something very special and wonderful to be an Eskimo – they are like snow geese. If an Eskimo forgets his language and Eskimo ways, he will be nothing but just another mosquito.1

An excerpt from North, 9, March/April 1962.

Abe Okpik was born near Aklavik. He is known for heading “Project Surname” in 1969, a Government of Northwest Territories project in which they asked Inuit to replace their old government disk numbers with surnames.

Literacy is not an end in itself, but rather a means for participants to shape reality, accomplishing their own goals.

Pat Campbell in Teaching Adults to Read