“I’ve known for awhile that going down the road of law or politics was the way I wanted to help my community,” says Ella Estey.Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two young women from Nunavut were recently announced as among the 20 recipients nationwide for the $10,000 RBC Indigenous Youth Scholarship.

Ella Estey will be graduating from Grade 12 at Inuksuk High School and going on to attend University of Ottawa while Alayna Ningeongan of Rankin Inlet will be starting her masters degree in September after completing an internship with the Arctic Council Indigenous People’s Secretariat in Norway. Both will receive the scholarship “which recognizes both strong academic performance and community involvement.”

Heavily involved in the Inuksuk High School choir and drum dancing, Estey views her contributions as a larger cultural offering.

“We do truth and reconciliation, as well as every year we do a performance for [Qulliit Status of Women’s Council] Violence Against Women [ceremony of remembrance]… the choir in general is a non-profit organization and we do voluntary performances for a number of things.

“What we do is sing a plethora of traditional songs… we also do traditional throat singing and drum dancing.”

Estey is hoping to continue her Inuit performances in Ottawa, as well as coming back to speak at Inuksuk to the next generation of choir members.

In the long-term, her “main goal, really, is just to be an advocate for Nunavut. To have a position where I can help spread awareness… of Inuit issues.”

She cites an experience that pointed her more in the direction of politics as opposed to law. She sat in on a hearing for the Indigenous and Northern Affairs meeting last year, at Nunavut MP Lori Idlout’s invitation. 

“She’s really been a big inspiration for me,” Estey said of Idlout. “It made me aware that my voice has purpose and it could be put towards making changes.

“I’ve known for awhile that going down the road of law or politics was the way I wanted to help my community,” she added. “Being a politician or working in policy… would be a way that I could help people… whether it be at a [territorial] level at the GN or as an MLA, or at the federal level… I want to represent Nunavut and be an advocate.”

For Ningeongan, this financial assistance will allow her to have the personal growth she needs to help others facing the same challenges.

“I am driven by a commitment to addressing poverty as a significant barrier to higher education. My future academic pursuits are not just about personal growth, but also about contributing to the broader effort of making education and resources more accessible,” she said.

For both these women, financial aid is part of a process that will allow them to help their own communities. Having already succeeded and going on to pursue her goals at a higher level, Ningeongan knows well the value of education. She maintains that the award will help her to focus on her studies and goals full-time, and that this is a key component to overcoming poverty.

She also intends to use her education to further “create benefits that extend to entire communities… highlighting my commitment to the broader societal impact.”

By Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 26, 2024 at 07:33

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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