Nooks Lindell is a great talent from the great north. Lindell, from Arviat, NU, is an Inuk artist and lead designer for Hinaani Design, an Inuit apparel brand. He also works as a wildlife technician with the government of Nunavut, where they research caribou and muskox.
With Hinaani Design, Lindell says him and three others (his partner, friend, and cousin) started because they all have an interest in their Inuit culture and thought it was a way they could reach out to other Inuit to show off their “Inuit pride.”
“When it first started, we weren’t really sure if it was going to work or not. It was just kind of a fun project to start, and we started realizing there was a demand and people really wanted clothing that can show off their Inukness,” said Lindell.
This was started a few years ago and is something they do on the side as they still have full-time jobs.
“It’s a lot of work, but we love it and we know it has a positive impact, so there’s a lot of reasons to keep it going and to kind of grow it.”
In the beginning of the business, Lindell says it was “kind of like an art project” and wanted to see if it would work, so three of the designers including Lindell went to an entrepreneurship program with Kivalliq Trade Show, which was a two or three day program.
It helped them out, and they came together with two separate business ideas but after a few days decided their ideas were similar and were all friends who liked working together. So they decided on Hinaani, and the rest is history.
For students thinking about leaving their homes for post-secondary, Lindell says he really encourages it, whether someone is fresh out of high school or even a little older.
He says it’s good to get a different perspective on things, and that by leaving your home doesn’t mean you don’t love it or won’t come back to it.
“Just by going somewhere else, being somewhere else, being with different people, you’re going to learn a lot in school, plus just the experience of not being in your hometown, you’re going to learn lots,” said Lindell.
He also says it might even make people appreciate what they have where they’re from, and was the case for him when he was living in Ottawa during his youth.
But even Lindell has had to overcome obstacles to get where he is today.
Lindell says shortly after moving to Ottawa when he was eight his father passed away and he used art as a way to help him during that time, drawing for hours and hours getting into his “own world” where he didn’t have to face reality.
As he got older, Lindell says he moved towards drugs and alcohol to help him escape and created a really unhealthy lifestyle for himself.
With the help of his girlfriend Emma, he quit drinking and started using art as a tool instead of a way to escape.
“When you’re addicted to something, in order to stop, it’s almost like you need to get addicted to something else. And that’s what I did with designing, with drawing, and I also started making jewelry,” said Lindell.
He says at first he wasn’t good at it and almost gave up making his first ulu, but his brother would keep encouraging him and making sure Lindell wasn’t deterred. He finished it but wasn’t completely happy with it, and made another one asking for the help of family.
“While I was kind of busy being a drunk, you don’t really reach out to family. You don’t reach out to your aunts and uncles. You don’t talk to them. And so it was so powerful in a way that it was doing something to keep my hands occupied, my mind occupied, but also it was engaging in my culture again.”
And if there is anything he could tell his younger self or other youth, it would be to find someone to talk to about things — whether it’s someone in your family, a friend, or even a professional.
Lindell says talking to his uncle who has a lot of similar experiences to him was really helpful for both of them. He also says if going through a hard time to get the emotions out and not be ashamed of them.
“Letting them build up inside is dangerous and it could really cause a lot of damage mentally, physically. It takes a lot of strength. It’s very hard, but I found out talking to my uncles and talking to my family, there’s strength in our cultures,” said Lindell.
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program, with funding provided by the RBC Foundation in support of
RBC Future Launch.