Inuk teen says more work is needed to advance reconciliation

OTTAWA –

One Inuk teen says youth play an important role in advancing reconciliation in Canada, but notes it will still be a lengthy process to achieve it.

Michael Sammurtok, 14, was in Iqaluit this summer to witness Pope Francis’ apology to residential school survivors.

“It felt like I had a weight lifted off my chest,” he said. “It felt like I let go of something that happened to my family.”

He added, “Knowing that someone from such a high power saying sorry is going to be really relieving for a lot of people.”

Sammurtok, who was raised in Rankin Inlet but now lives in Ottawa, says his grandparents were residential school survivors, but he only learned about it after his grandfather passed away.

“It makes me sad because I didn’t think to ask if he was okay,” he said.

Sammurtok said his generation has not been able to escape the trauma.

“Residential schools impacted us because we lost our language, losing family members with a lot of stress and not being able to let go of this,” he said.

Sammurtok said there is a long way to go in reconciliation, but says youth just like him can play an important role.

He wants to advocate for better health-care access, better housing and clean drinking water for his community, and wants to teach Inuit culture and language.

“I want to allow people to have the mindset that they can let go,” he said. “Maybe raising money to get it taught in schools, to talk about it, to have shows about it and stuff.”

“I think it is good to move on from something, but it will always be a part of us.” 

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