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don’t use those words

September 28, 2011

Sometimes Inuit people don’t want to name behaviours which together we’re trying to put an end to. Things like suicide and family violence. “If we speak about it, that could give people ideas,” we hear. “Those words could make it happen.”

And in a high school, a counsellor may take down a suicide awareness poster because a student said, “I feel like that,” and the counsellor does not want the student to be upset, and does not know what else to do.

The not-naming is called “cultural tradition” and I’m not sure if that’s accurate. There may be silences within Inuit culture and some of those silences may be adaptive, serving a useful purpose for community cohesion. But taboos against speaking of the violences which happen at home seem to exist all over the world. I think they belong to a culture of trauma, a culture of not-knowing-what-to-do, of tiptoeing and let’s-not-upset-the-ogre. I think they are enforced to keep abusers free to continue the hurting.

I wonder what good things might be hiding within those silences.  What would be a good way to share ideas with those concerned Elders (and youngers) who fear the naming?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 12:56 am

    There’s a push going on in Nunavut now to start talking about suicide, to give people who are feeling rotten and people who want to help words they can connect with. ASIST trainings are happening and I hope they turn out to be a good fit for Inuit people. (I’m not sure that they will.) I hope the GN suicide prevention strategy results in sustained, effective action, and people who are suffering find relief and allies and ways to live in beauty. I hope…


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