'Humour flowed out of him as naturally as breathing.'

Canadian Ranger Matiusie Tulugak dies at 52


A devoted Canadian Ranger and a man with an unforgettable smile, Matiusie Tulugak of Puvirnituq, 52, lost his fight against colon cancer at the Inuulitsivik Hospital Jan. 28, leaving a large family and many friends in Nunavik and the South to mourn his loss.

"Matiusie was blessed with character that could be defined as ‘really alive,' his cousin Zebedee Nungak wrote in a memoriam posted on www.bebo.com.

"He was driven to live, and to love life to the fullest. He brightened the lives of everybody he touched, Inuit or Qallunaat, with his uniquely special gift of humour. For Matiusie, expressions of laughter and humour were not reserved for performances at festivals and Christmas or New Year's gatherings. Our family, and the Inuit of Puvirnituq and beyond have been abundantly blessed by smiles and laughter caused by Matiusie's words and antics. Humour flowed out of him as naturally as breathing, and he kept us laughing right to the very end."

Tulugak, a former co-op hotel manager in Puvirnituq, was widely appreciated for his hilarious comic performances at many festivals and events.

At the Quebec pavilion at Expo 67, in Montreal, Tulugak dressed up in traditional clothing – sealskin boots and a huge caribou quilted – and performed an exaggerated square dance to the tune of Joanie Uqaittuk's guitar music.

Tulugak would sidle up to a Plexiglas-covered pedestal on which stood a small, square piece of Puvirnituq sod, with a miniature replica of the billboard that greeted arrivals driving in to town from the Puvirnituq airstrip: "Welcome to Puvirnituq, the only Nunavik community where title to the land has not been ceded under the James Bay Agreement."

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Then, in the sweltering Montreal heat, with tears running down his face, he would dance around the perimeter drawn by the audience, lamenting the loss of his ancestors' dearest possession, remembers one of Tulugak's longtime acquaintances.

Never shy to express his opinion, during the most recent federal election Tulugak told Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe what he thought needed attention in Nunavik when he ran into the leader who was campaigning in downtown Montreal.

Tulugak told Duceppe he was in Montreal for cancer treatment and appealed for him to do something about the housing crisis and high youth suicide rates in Nunavik.

Tulugak served with the Canadian Rangers with the Puvirnituq patrol for more than 20 years, where he was always willing to lend a hand. Tulugak was among the Rangers from across Nunavik who rushed to Kangiqsualujjuaq after the Jan. 1, 1999, avalanche to assist this community.

But his heart lay with the Junior Rangers, which he led for many years.

"My favourite part is to teach the kids to behave and to be good role models, and listen to the advice of their elders," Tulugak said last summer at the Junior Rangers summer camp in St. Jean.

"We will miss him greatly," said Nungak in his memoriam, also broadcast on CBC North. "But we are also deeply inspired by how he lived his life, and with the courage he displayed toward its end. While being reminded of our mortality, we have also been assured of a destiny beyond this present life."

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