Profile of a Deaf-Mute Inuk

This is a short story about George Annanack who was born deaf-mute and he tells us of his life coping with his handicaps in the North 

Profile of a Deaf-Mute Inuk

by André Girard

George Annanack was born deaf-mute in Kangiqsualujjuaq on March 6, 1956. From 1963 to 1968, George attended primary school in his home community.  In 1972, he decided to pursue his education and travelled to Quebec City where, unfortunately, he experienced some problems since he was the only English-thinking student in the group. So, two years later he went to Montreal where he reached grade eight at the Mackay Centre for the deaf-mute.  One of the reasons why he decided to leave the North was people’s attitude towards him. This was his biggest handicap and was extremely difficult for him to accept: “Everybody used to avoid me, thinking I wasn’t a normal person.  It was somewhat lonely for me up North.”

After attending school in Belleville, Ontario, until 1976, George went to Toronto.  One and a half years later, in 1978, he obtained a diploma in arc-welding.  He got his first job in September of 1981 as a dishwasher at a cafeteria of Place Ville-Marie in Montreal.

In November of 1982, he became “support clerk” for the department of Indian and Northern Affairs in Hull.  A job that he kept until early this summer, when an opening was made available at the Makivik office in Montreal.  With the help of his sisters, Kitty and Pasha, George finally managed to find an apartment in Dorval where he now lives on his own. His job at Makivik consists of handling most of the photocopy work (quite a task!) as well as being in charge of a twice daily internal mailing service within the office.

George finds it important to work for two main reasons: first the money (who doesn’t?) and most of all for the experience he gets out of it.  One of his immediate projects: to get a driving permit and buy a car to travel around.  With the help of a number of people from Makivik and elsewhere, George finally obtained some financial assistance to hire a translator who will attend the driving lessons with him and make it possible for him to get his permit.

What does he miss the most? First, the North, and secondly being able to hear his fellow Inuit friends when they joke around and laugh their heads off.

What are his biggest hopes?  That once and for all, people understand that being deaf-mute is nothing but a physical handicap that doesn’t affect a person’s sense of pride or mental capacity to achieve great things in life.  “We’re just normal folks like anyone else.”  His second big hope for the moment is that the Makivik staff gets down to the “sign language” courses he’s been providing them with, so that both his work and his soul can benefit.

(Taqralik, September 1985, page 151)