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The Arctic’s Emerging Young Leaders

An Inuit Teacher’s Deeply Personal Path to Education

Angela Nuliayok Rudolph, a graduate student at the University of Alaska’s Fairbanks campus and a Jane Glassco Northern Fellow, is focused on improving education for Inuit students to help them avoid the struggles she faced herself.

Written by Eline Gordts Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
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Students enrolled in Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a postsecondary program for Inuit youth in Ottawa, listen to a speaker from Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada during a recent visit. Angela Nuliayok Rudolph credits her time in the program with inspiring her to become a graduate student who’s now working to improve Inuit education.Photo Courtesy Nunavut Sivuniksavut

Angela Nuliayok Rudolph’s path to a graduate degree in education was a very personal one. After nearly failing some of her classes in high school, she realized while completing Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS), a program for Inuit youth in Ottawa to learn about their Inuit history, government and culture, that she wasn’t at all bad at social studies and history. It’s just that the way these courses were presented in high-school classes didn’t make sense to her.

“When I went to NS, I was able to learn really amazing things about who I was as a person in society. I understood all the things that made me an Inuk today, put together in a way that I could understand why certain thing were happening or certain things were the way they were. It was at that moment that I decided to go into education,” Rudolph told Arctic Deeply.

As a teacher, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a Jane Glassco Northern Fellow, Rudolph is focused on improving education for Inuit students to help them avoid the struggles she faced herself.

Arctic Deeply spoke with Rudolph as part of our series highlighting the work of emerging leaders in the circumpolar Arctic.

Arctic Deeply: What are you working on?

Angela Nuliayok Rudolph: I’m a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I’m in the Arctic and Northern Studies Department and focus on Indigenous Arctic policy. My research focus is on Inuit educational progress. This is my second year.

Arctic Deeply: Is there any issue you’re particularly passionate about in your work?

Rudolph: I’m really interested in finding ways to decolonize education. I think that there are a lot of issues within our education system as Inuit that have been caused by the colonial processes that we’ve gone through. Although we’re living in a postcolonial society, those colonial policies from a couple of generations ago are still really prevalent in the communities and are still a big part of our lives in a lot of ways. I think that creates a lot of issues and getting at the root of those issues is what I’m passionate about – understanding them and understanding how to address those.

Arctic Deeply: Has there been a defining moment in your career?

Rudolph: I took part in the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program, which was the first postsecondary education I accessed when I got out of high school. It really changed my perspective and it really helped me to understand who I was as an Inuk in modern-day society. I remember I had so many difficulties with social studies and history in the way that it was taught to us in high school. I nearly failed the course. Then I went to Nunavut Sivuniksavut and learned that I wasn’t bad at social studies and history – I was just bad with what was presented to us as Inuit students. It wasn’t really what was relevant or important to our lives. When I went to NS, I was able to learn really amazing things about who I was as a person in society. I understood all the things that made me an Inuk today, put together in a way that I could understand why certain thing were happening or certain things were the way they were. It was at that moment that I decided to go into education. I never thought of becoming a teacher before, but at that moment I realized that there was a lot of work that needed to be done within education for Inuit students. I found my purpose in life at that program.

Arctic Deeply: Who inspires you in your field?

Rudolph: In the field of education, I am greatly inspired by the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program and its staff. They are an amazing program, making real and beneficial changes for Inuit and Nunavut in education that really work.

In the field of policy, I am greatly inspired by Natan Obed, who is the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. He is a leader that I can relate to on many levels as a young Inuk who was born and raised in a settlement, who does not speak fluent Inuktitut (but is learning) and who has gone through the education system. I am also passionate about many of the issues he addresses and really appreciate the way he approaches them. I believe I can learn a lot from watching him and the work he is doing for Inuit in Canada.

Arctic Deeply: What motivates you?

Rudolph: I look to many things as motivators, but my biggest motivator is my mom. She is an amazing human being who has experienced the brunt of awful colonial policies, such as residential schools, relocation to settlements, TB treatment and so on. She is such a strong person. For her to have gone through all those things, and still have become an amazing person who has provided me with an amazing life, really shows her strength to be resilient and not let those historic moments define her. As a young Inuk woman in modern society, it often feels as though there are constant barriers and issues to overcome. I find myself constantly trying to channel my mom and her strength and resilience.

Arctic Deeply: What’s your vision for the Arctic 10 years from now?

Rudolph: My vision for the Arctic 10 years from now includes Inuit and all Indigenous peoples being able to determine what their lives should look like on their own grounds. I hope we continue our progress within our many levels of governing structures to fight for our unique way of life and being, and to have that seen as valid and equitable. I am hopeful that we can harness the capacity of our people and the strength of our culture to address many of the issues we face in the Arctic.

This Q&A is part of our series on young leaders in the Arctic. Read more:

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