Our Story

In 1989, the United Nations’ International Year of Literacy, a group of northerners received funding from the federal government to organize a conference on literacy. Over 100 people from all regions of the Northwest Territories (NWT) attended and formed an ‘Interim Council’ which later led to the establishment of the NWT Literacy Council with Edna Elias as its first president. Including Edna, the following leaders have honoured us by taking on the role of President of our Board of Directors: Sandy Kusugak, Jane Aupaluktuq and, currently, Clara Wingnek.

In 1999, the NWT divided into two territories and Nunavut was created. In short order, the NWT Literacy Council divided into two new councils and the Nunavut Literacy Council was born.

Our early work was focused on literacy research and policy, and creating public awareness by hosting the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament. We also began to experiment with non-formal, culture-based programs, such as the Miqqut program. Inspired by successes we were seeing, we decided to undertake a large-scale, in-depth evaluation project to assess our model of non-formal learning. Our research demonstrated solid, consistent and lasting outcomes for participants. This was all the impetus we needed to further invest in our style of programming.

The period from 2010 to 2018 was both transformative and turbulent. Along many other Canadian literacy organizations, Ilitaqsiniq lost most of its federal government funding. Despite this devastating setback, we continued to evolve and articulate our programming to clearly embrace Inuit culture and traditions. This was done in response to the overwhelming demand for more community programs.

Starting in 2018, things started to take off. In the next five years, the concept of Ilitaqsiniq Inu-vation crystallized, our portfolio of programs grew exponentially, programming became regularly offered in all three regions, staff were required to be based in Nunavut, new bylaws and human resources practices were rolled out, and refreshed vision and mission statements were introduced along with our first-ever strategic plan – to mention but a few of our initiatives.

We are excited about the future and what it holds for Ilitaqsiniq. We look forward to contributing in the ways that we know work for Nunavummiut.

Our sincere thank you to everyone who played a role in the foundation and growth of our organization.


Our Name

In 1999, our organization was founded as the Nunavut Literacy Council.

In Inuktut, there is no specific word for the English ‘literacy’. Our organization therefore posed the question to a group of Elders in Gjoa Haven, “How would you describe literacy in Inuktut?” One Elderly man’s response was to describe literacy in Inuktut as “seeing and knowing what you see.”

Having collected this important wisdom from our Inuit Elders, the Board felt it fitting to give our organization the Inuktut name Ilitaqsiniq which translates to “continuous recognition of the world around us.” It perfectly reflects who we are and what we do as an organization.

Ilitaqsiniq was added to our name in 2011. However, in 2021, we were ready to formally change our name to only be known as Ilitaqsiniq as a more accurate reflection of our identity.