By Jorgia Moore
“Ooks” has become a regular term for NAIT students; our athletic Ooks teams, our Ooks Life events, the Ook on various items in the book store, even our Ooklets here at the NAITSA office.
The ook is a snowy owl, a big bird known as an ookpik in the Inuit language of Inuktitut.
At NAIT, it is an identity and appreciation of being a NAIT student – an “Ook for life”.
But where exactly did the Ook come from?
In 1964, at a special ceremony, federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Mr. G. Rancier presented NAITSA’s president with an ookpik and the “Ook” became NAIT’s official mascot.
This Ookpik was created by Jeannie Snowball, an Inuk elder from Northern Quebec and was made of sealskin. This original Ookpik was a beloved mascot and resided with athletics in the 60s.
It was actually a game for NAIT and SAIT to steal each other’s mascots. The Ookpik did get to SAIT a few times during these years and was even forced to wear a Calgary Stampede hat!
The original Ookpik also inspired this mascot concept for NAIT, which was slightly creepy looking and it was swapped for a more updated version at the 25th anniversary in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, NAIT’s original Ookpik was lost sometime around 2007. For NAIT’s 50th anniversary in 2012, NAIT put out a call for their missing Ook and anyone who brought the ookpik’s return was to be rewarded with a five-course Chef’s Table for six at Ernest’s dining room.
The original Ookpik was never found but instead NAIT got other ookpiks – donations from friends and staff of the institute.
Peggy Richardson, the NAIT Inuk elder at the time created replicas of the original Ookpik for NAIT to replace the lost Ookpik.
Over the past few months, NAITSA has been hard at work trying to create a land acknowledgement that would capture everything we wanted to say.
By researching and collaborating with the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre here at NAIT and Aboriginal communities, we were able to achieve this. When we learned about the Ookpik, we knew it needed to be incorporated into our office and story.
Upon connecting with different departments, we found that one of those replicas that Peggy created happened to be in the hands of NAIT’s Alumni Relations. That replica is what you can now see in the NAITSA office beside our land acknowledgement.
This Ookpik is a symbol of tradition, strength, and community as it unifies decades of students, staff, and alumni and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Next time you are on campus, be sure to head to the NAITSA office to see our land acknowledgement and Ookpik displayed proudly and chat with our staff about it.
NAITSA’s Land Acknowledgement
We honour and acknowledge that NAITSA is on treaty six territory and a traditional homeland for the First Nations and Metis peoples.
NAITSA recognizes the contributions of First Peoples to the vibrant NAIT campus and the overall success of NAIT.
Land acknowledgements are an opportunity to reflect on colonialism and its historical context as well as its ongoing current context.
Now more than ever this recognition of this relationship is critical as we strive to honour and transform our relationships with Aboriginal communities.
A land acknowledgement is more than words; it is a call to action and we at NAITSA invite you to share your own calls to action and inspirations as we continue to move towards truth and reconciliation.
We know we have a responsibility to think beyond ourselves and think beyond today.