A culture of professionalism

Nunavut cultural contingent leader notices difference in cultural role over the years

Casey Lessard | Iqaluit
February 29, 2016
photo courtesy of Bruce B. Gordon Rosalie Suclan, left, will head to Nuuk as a member of Nunavut’s cultural contingent, while Rachel Michael will lead the rest of the Inuksuk Drum Dancers for Arctic Winter Games performances in Iqaluit.

photo courtesy of Bruce B. Gordon
Rosalie Suclan, left, will head to Nuuk as a member of Nunavut’s cultural contingent, while Rachel Michael will lead the rest of the Inuksuk Drum Dancers for Arctic Winter Games performances in Iqaluit.

Nunavut’s cultural contingent leader has noticed a big improvement in the role culture plays at the Games over the years.
“In the first few years I did it, we didn’t have the big gala performances,” Mary Piercey-Lewis said. This will be Piercey-Lewis’s seventh Arctic Winter Games leading Nunavut’s cultural contingent, starting with the 2004 Games in Fort McMurray, Alta.
“(Now) we have all the sound gear, they really treat us like professional performing artists. It’s better for the students because they get a taste of what it’s like to be a real performing artist, and they’re treated that way.”
Travelling with Piercey-Lewis will be Madaline Allakariallak, Olivia Chislett, Sinisiaq Ikkidluak, Tooma Laisa, Rosalie Suclan, and Leanna Wilson
“I am really excited to go,” said Laisa, a Grade 11 student at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit. “We’re going to be performing every day, and I love performing, so it’s going to make me really happy.”
Rosalie Suclan graduates this year, and is ready to perform.
“I’ve been with Mary three or four years, so I’m the most prepared I can be,” Suclan said. She’s eager to come home with great memories. “I’m very excited to see what it’s like. Not only to see Greenland, which will be insanely beautiful, but also to learn about all of the other cultures.”
“It’s extremely valuable because we get to share music from Nunavut with everyone across the circumpolar North, and also with international audiences that come in,” Piercey-Lewis said. “They can get an idea of what we can do culturally, throat-singing, drum-dancing, contemporary Inuktitut songs.”
And the youth come home with new experiences driven by collaborations with cultural performers from across the North.
“We do workshops all week long,” she said. “There are Sapmi people, people from Russia (Yamal), and people from Alaska, and they all come together to show their particular culture.”
Apart from two gala performances, the group will join other cultural contingents visiting various community sites – including seniors’ homes, stores, the hospital – to perform every lunch hour during the Games.
It will be a lot of work, but Piercey-Lewis says the trip will be a success if her team has fun and returns home with an appreciation for others from the North.
That means soaking up every minute.
“We work together on our stuff and get it really, really good,” she said, “and then I advocate that when we get to the Games, there’s all kinds of chances for them to have open-mic and sharing, and for them to get up as individuals or in small groups as they feel comfortable to share a part of themselves.”