We just heard the sad news that Inuit Leader Jose Kusugak died yesterday at age 60 after a battle with cancer. Kusugak was renowned throughout Canada for his work promoting Inuit language, culture and rights. Tributes are already pouring in from all over Canada. You can read some of them here and here.
We at Eye on the Arctic met Jose Kusugak for the first time while working on the documentary Losing Their Words which explores the controversial question of creating a pan-Inuit language and dialect. (Kusugak is quoted at the 4min20 and 14min08 marks.) Kusugak was a longtime advocate for standardization and he ended up being the very first interview we did for the piece. He was an unforgettable guest and not just because of his intelligence and obvious passion for language, but also because of his humour. Not only did he have me and the TV crew laughing during set-up, but he even managed to crack up the TV crew while the interview was being shot. A very rare occurrence indeed.
For more of Kusugak’s thoughts on how standardization could ensure the Inuit language’s longterm survival, read the Eye on the Arctic feature story “Speaking the Same Language.”
For more about Kusugak’s life and contributions, there’s a lovely obitutary here on the Nunatsiaq News website.
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