- Brendan Griebel
What makes a company Inuit?
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
At Kaapittiaq, we think a lot about this question. In Nunavut, a company is certifiably Inuit only when it meets several key criteria under the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti, or NNI, program:
a) a limited company with at least 51% of the company’s voting shares beneficially owned by Inuit, or b) a cooperative controlled by Inuit, or c) an Inuk sole proprietorship or partnership
Kaapittiaq is non of these. Kaapittiaq believes that it is important for its company to be owned and operated outside the interests of any single individual. We have accordingly made Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society (PI/KHS) the 100% shareholder to ensure that community interests, rather than financial benefit to individual shareholders, continue to govern the company's course and decision making. The organization is guided by an Inuinnaq Executive Director and board of 12 Inuinnait Elders,
Kaapittiaq is consciously trying to push new boundaries in defining what an Inuit business model is and can further be. As a small start-up business struggling to establish itself, there is an incredible amount of pressure to conform to a western business models as a path of least resistance. These expectations permeate every level of our operation, from the job titles attributed to our employees, to best practices for decision making, to the information we have to provide on applications for funding and financial assistance.
We realize that any modern business is required to uphold western business models in order to be financially viable, and we are striving to outline what can be termed an Ambicultural Governance model or Two-Eyed seeing in order to define a new path for Indigenous business. This model involves a continuous process of understanding problems and opportunities through both traditional and business lenses.
In trying to work our way back to a more Inuit model for our company, we are currently focusing on two key areas:
1) Prioritizing Inuit language
Inuinnaqtun is front and centre at Kaapittiaq. Our company's board has multiple Elders unilingual in the language, requiring all levels of decision making to flow through the language. Our use of Inuinnaqtun in our operations, communications and packaging aligns with PI/KHS initiatives to ensure the language's survival. It is estimated that there are only 600 fluent speakers of the language remaining.Our goal is to raise national awareness of the language, encourage further learning, and create cultural pride among existing speakers. As Inuinnaqtun is a primarily oral language, we have been challenged in our efforts by its rapidly changing orthography. In our first two years alone, Kaapittiaq's labels have been changed twice to accommodate the most current versions of its written form.
2) Governance and operation through traditional Inuit models
In Inuit culture, we look to the experiences of Elders for guidance and direction. Half of our company's board is composed of Inuinnait Elders who have shown life-long commitments to their people and communities. As directors for our company, these individuals serve the role of moral compasses to ensure that our company continues to benefit Inuinnait and Indigenous peoples. We engage in a process of consensus decision making that balances the financial realities of our operations with the cultural priorities we set, involving all members of our team until a single path forward is agreed upon. Visit the Inuit values page of this website to learn more about how we conduct our work.