CBC’s first Inuktitut-speaking TV host to be honoured in Hall of Fame


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CBC’s first Inuktitut-speaking TV host to be honoured in Hall of Fame's Profile

Rassi Nashalik, the original host of CBC North’s first Inuktitut television news show, is being inducted into the CBC News Hall of Fame.

Nashalik is a proud Inuk from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, and was a trailblazer in Canadian media.

“When I got the phone call, I was speechless … and then I started thinking should I, should I not, accept it,” she said.

“I decided to accept it for my people, not for me.”

A promotional shot of George Tuccaro, Jennifer Hunt-Poitras, Rassi Nashalik and Paul Andrew. Tuccaro and Andrew hosted the first year of Northbeat. Nashalik was the original host of Igalaaq, and Hunt-Poitras worked as a researcher on the daily Inuktitut news program. (CBC)

Nashalik was a trusted voice and a vital source of information across the territories while working as the anchor of Igalaaq, which launched in 1995 and means “window” in Inuktitut. 

“I cared for my job and the news so that my people could understand what’s going on across the North, or in the world,” she said.

“That was my responsibility, to let them know what is going on even though there are times it could get really stressful.”

Traditional roots

Nashalik was born on a small island in Cumberland Sound in Nunavut’s Baffin Island. She lived a traditional lifestyle with her family and 11 siblings until she was 10. In the 1960s, she was sent to residential school, spending three years at school in Pangnirtung and another three years in Churchill, Man. 

Before joining the CBC in Yellowknife, she worked with the territorial government’s Language Bureau. 

One of the biggest challenges at the CBC, Nashalik said, was when she got new producers and she would need to take time to teach them about her language, culture and traditions.

Nashalik mentored many colleagues over her almost two decades with CBC, before retiring in 2014.

“There’s so much that I could be proud of,” she said. “I think I taught a lot of people, and I was a role model to a lot of young people.”

WATCH | Rassi Nashalik looks back at 18 years with Igalaaq:

No, she’s not a rock star, but she may as well be one. Rassi Nashalik retires after nearly two decades with CBC TV’s Inuktitut supper-hour show. 2:12

More Inuit needed

During her time at CBC, Nashalik pushed management to hire more Indigenous northerners. Today, she’s still urging young Inuit people who speak Inuktitut “to keep on going.”

“We need to work on young people. We have really vibrant young people who are willing to learn a lot now about their culture and language, and they could become camera people, they could become reporters, they could even become a host.”

She said Inuit need to work together with the CBC to ensure that news broadcasts in Inuktitut continue, as these have huge value for people across the North.

“This newscast on Igalaaq is so important to people who are lower than management, the population of Nunavut can’t wait for newscasts each day … they’re hungry to hear their language.”

Nashalik, centre, with elders John Kabvitok and Mary-Anne Taparti. She interviewed people across the north, and in all settings, as host of Igalaaq. (Curtis Cameron)

As an Inuk elder, Nashalik is now working to improve the health of the people of the North.

In 2017, she was one of three people who formed the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, which opened a healing camp on the edge of Yellowknife in 2018 and continues to expand its services. Also in 2018, Nashalik was made an elder-in-residence at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health

This fall, Nashalik will join previous CBC News Hall of Fame inductees Knowlton Nash, Joe Schlesinger, Barbara Frum, Trina McQueen, Peter Stursberg, Matthew Halton and Ernest Tucker in a virtual induction ceremony.

WATCH | Igalaaq host Rassi Nashalik retires:

For 19 years Rassi has been host for CBC’s Igalaaq, a TV news show delivered in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic 2:11

  • CBC North has full- and part-time opportunities available for Inuktitut speakers at our CBC Nunavut bureaus in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. If you’re interested in working as a videographer, reporter, host or producer, find more details here or email northcareers@cbc.ca.

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