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Obituary: Rankin Inlet elder fondly remembered

By SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS

PETER ERNERK
Special to Nunatsiaq News

RANKIN INLET ­ When I lived in Naujaat-Repulse Bay in the 1950’s, I often heard my mother Irene Katak talking about her relatives. Among them was Lucien Taparti.

She used to wish that she would like to see him once again in those days before she died. She died in 1971.

My mother and father (Athanasie Angutitaq) parted company with their relatives in the Ukkusiksalik (Back River Region) in the mid-1930s, when they started their long journey by qamutiik (dog teams) to the other Ukkusiksalik area, Wager Bay.

I started to associate with Taparti when I was first elected to the Territorial Council in 1975.

As a representative for the Keewatin region, Taparti had a great compassion and love for the people of Nunavut.

He used to tell me that instead of sending young people to jail in Yellowknife or southern institutions, we should be establishing community-made justice sentencing.

In other words, the government should build an outpost camp near the communities and send the young people there, where they could learn more about their own culture and environment.

That statement in itself said a lot about Inuit traditional knowledge of the land being passed on to the younger generation.

As a community leader, and hamlet councillor, Taparti pushed his dream to his compatriots.

In 1963-64 when I was going to school, I used to see Taparti going to work at one of the mines in Yellowknife.

He was there with his family and younger brother named Francis Kapuk. Edward Iyakak, who died several years ago in Rankin Inlet, worked there as well.

Taparti’s contribution to the mining industry is enormous. I can remember when he worked here at the Rankin Inlet nickel mine for several years.

Whenever there was a mining symposium, he was often invited to participate to provide advice to the mining industry here in the Keewatin region and in Nunavut.

Kivalliq Partners and the Geological Survey of Canada will be funding a $1,500 scholarship fund in his name for anyone who wants to take mining engineering or any other training in the mining industry.

Since moving to Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet) I have often associated with Taparti.

About three years ago, when we saw a need to promote and try to preserve Inuit culture, I consulted with him on how to proceed with introducing such an initiative to the community.

I did this because I knew that Taparti, along with his wife Mary Anne, often promoted Inuit culture through various meetings of people.

He and his wife were often invited to perform drum dancing at various public functions. I remember that whether they were regional Chambers of Commerce meetings or Sivuliaqtiit Management Training Programs, both Lucien and Mary Anne brought joy and happiness to the public.

From the cultural point of view, Taparti has left an enormous amount of traditional knowledge.

We, the people in the communities, both young and old, will have to work very hard to fill his shoes. Taparti had big shoes.

Politically, he was one of the most knowledgeable people in Nunavut and Canada.

He was always involved in promoting and backing his candidates when elections were called.

He was well-liked by the people I talked to. My friend John Kaunak, whose daughter is married to Harvey Taparti, said to me a few days ago, Taparti was someone who didn’t make people angry. He was someone who made people laugh.

Indeed, Taparti was someone I was happy to have been friends with.

For his leadership, he will be greatly missed. For his traditional knowledge, he will be remembered as someone who contributed much for the benefit of his follow people.

All of us, Inuit and non-Inuit, have much to be thankful about to Taparti.

Perhaps now, my mother Irene Katak is now able to see Taparti once again.

I would like to join all those people who knew Taparti in sending our condolences and support to all the members of his family.

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