Last month, when Governor General Mary Simon visited Windsor Castle, she may have taught Queen Elizabeth a new word: ajuinata, roughly pronounced aye Yoo EE NAH TAH.
Simon later explained to Adrian arseno of CBC that, in fact, this is not a new word at all, but a very old word.
“Ajuinata means that if you are faced with adversity or difficulties, you will stick to it and don’t give up. You need to make a commitment and continue to make changes,” said Simon, the first Aboriginal to take the post.
After Pope Francis apologized for the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s boarding school system, Simon used the word to praise the perseverance of indigenous representatives.
This is also a word she used when “making random phone calls” to indigenous community leaders and other reformers. She said that this habit was inspired by a recent program of CBC Ottawa morning post.
In December, as part of the CBC project give, the Ottawa Morning Post organized surprise calls from Canadian VIPs (including Simon) to people nominated by the audience who need to chat up.
Simon told host Robin Bresnahan earlier this week: “I always use this word in my own work, so now I use it in Lido hall.”
There are dialectical differences. Simon, who hails from Nunavik, uses ajuinata or ᐊᔾᔪᐃᑕ, while in Iqaluit, for example, many people would say ajuinaqta or ᐊᔪᐃᓇᖅᑕ. Elsewhere across the North, they might use a different word altogether.
She explained that the word was deeply rooted in Inuit culture and it was difficult to think of a complete English word.
“It’s almost difficult to translate because it comes from language and culture,” Simon said. “Before we set up a community, we often moved on land, and sometimes things became very difficult, so we always said ‘ajunata’ – never give up, let’s move on.”
No matter what kind of 2019 coronavirus disease is used, Ajina’s mood is common. Now it can be applied to all kinds of situations, from the war in Ukraine to the continuous cavid-19 pandemic.
Manitok Thompson, executive director of Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, explained that although the word is deeply rooted in the struggle against the harsh environment in the north, it is also easy to use in different contexts.
“This will translate into any culture. This is what the world needs now. They are very powerful words, you have to stick to them, you need to pass them on to young people, because now is a different world,” Thompson said.
“Today, nurses, doctors, patients, people, the elderly, children, youth, mothers and fathers all need to hear this word – these words are very powerful in our culture because we are survivors.”
The concept of ajuinata has profound personal significance for Joanna awa, the current host of the Inuit TV news program igalaaq at CBC North’s dinner time.
“When I have a child with special needs, I say ‘ajunata’ to myself because I can’t give up taking care of her,” said Hua, whose daughter Jenna lives in a nursing home in Ottawa.
During the pandemic, visiting Jenna became more difficult, awa said.
“It’s like a mental exercise. Although you face many challenges, you have no choice but to continue instead of simply raising your arms.”
Awa said that in ikaluyt, where she now lives, people always say “ajuinata” to each other
“Because we have water and fuel problems, our landfill has caught fire recently – our community has been facing these challenges, but we unite and say, ‘we can do it.'”
The two English words may or may not correspond to each other.
“No English word is suitable for us because it has a very deep-rooted meaning for our previous life. Before colonization, we basically lived in the worst environment and we had to survive every day,” she said.
Thompson said she would like to see English speakers adopt ajuinata and suggested adding another phrase to their vocabulary, Nigeria qmijuq.
“This is very common when advising people who are about to give up. They are in difficult times,” she said. “It means, ‘this will pass.'”