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Panellists and counsel give their testimony on Day One of the hearings for the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Iqaluit. Monday’s hearings focused on the Inuit perspective of colonial violence, examining historical factors and cultural revitalization programs. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC) Inuit life, culture and healing — both past and present — dominated the discussion on the first day of hearings in Iqaluit for the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as a trio of panellists outlined the impacts of colonialism and efforts to regain lost culture.

Monday’s testimony was the first of four days of institutional hearings in Nunavut’s capital, and the only one virtually exclusively focused on the Inuit experience. The hearing is looking at socio-economic, health and wellness impacts.

Panellists Elisapi Davidee Aningmiuq , Hagar Idlout-Sudlovenick, and Inukshuk Aksalnik gave powerful and at times emotional testimony as they outlined their work and experience for the commissioners in attendance. Commissioners Marion Buller, Brian Eyolfson and Qajaq Robinson watch elder Louisa Hauli light the qulliq during the opening ceremony at hearings in Iqaluit. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC) After the proceedings opened with the lighting of a qulliq — a traditional Inuit oil lamp that will burn for the duration of the four-day hearing — the three panellists took turns testifying, followed in the afternoon by cross-examination by several parties of interest from across the country.

Much of the testimony focused on the still-fresh impacts of colonization on Inuit. Davidee Aningmiuq​, who works for a cultural revitalization group in Iqaluit, spoke about a Catholic priest who she overheard speaking about her and her classmates and their lack of traditional knowledge.

"Yes, they are Inuit, but they don’t know how to make kamik [traditional footwear]," she recalled through tears, as she explained how that line impacted her and ultimately drove her to the work she does today.

"I didn’t want anyone else to feel that feeling," she said. "I’m proud to say that with our programs, we have hundreds and hundreds of ladies that know how to make kamik." Elisapi Davidee Aningmiuq, on right, flanked by counsel. She was the first to testify on Monday. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC) ‘This is where our lives started changing’

Next to testify were Idlout-Sudlovenick and Aksalnik, both of whom work with the Qikiqtani Truth Commission , the only Inuit fact-finding truth commission ever undertaken in Canada. Their testimony turned to historical factors that have led to the loss of traditional lifestyle and culture, including the slaughter of sled dogs by RCMP and the forced relocation of Inuit by companies, government and police.

In a particularly powerful piece of testimony, Idlout-Sudlovenick spoke about the broken promises made to Inuit as they were forced to settle in communities.

"Some had said when they were asked to move to the community, they were told they would have a job, they would be provided with housing… some were told that if you move to the community, you will have a house with everything in it. You can leave your things out at the camp," she said. "They believed what they were told.

"But when they moved to the community, there were no houses. Some of them had to stay in a tent all year. They could not go out on the land because of the dog slaughter… They were craving for country food, and they got hungry. These are the things that affected the Inuit… And this is where our lives started changing."

During cross-examination, Davidee Aningmiuq​ explained through tears that some Inuit would go to the local dump to find food after being relocated.

"They didn’t know the local hunting grounds," she […]

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