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Nunavut, Nunavik elders share good times in Iqaluit

A Celebration of Life…

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Salluit elder Kinaaluk Isaac remembers Iqaluit as the birthplace of her children.

This week she returned to Iqaluit to make new friends, exchange stories and games, and take part in an elders’ gathering that some call a “celebration of life.”

Through an interpreter, Isaac said she’s happy to once again see the people she met in Iqaluit when she gave birth to her now-grown children.

Isaac is just one of about 170 elders who have journeyed from across Nunavut and Nunavik to Iqaluit for this year’s elders’ gathering.

For some newcomers, like Isaac, the gathering was a first chance to make some new friends. But for other long-time participants, the four-day gathering is an annual holiday and a chance to forget some of the physical ailments and bouts of loneliness that old age can bring.

Kangirsujjuaq elder Annie Alaku said her heart aches when troubles fall upon her family members. The trip to Iqaluit, to play games and talk with peers, lifts the pressures, she says.

“There’s less stress here, and it’s better for our minds and our lives,” said Elisapee Quananack from Puvirnituq.

In fact, Quananack’s appetite has improved since she joined in the rounds of dancing and soccer and outings.

“When I’m usually at home I don’t want to eat much. “Now I’m hungry. Eating together with the group — it’s better for the body,” she said through an interpreter.

The elders’ gatherings are billed as an opportunity for elders to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. But for many, the chance to spend time with people of their own age is the main attraction.

“Most of the time we’re not doing anything, but when we get together everybody is happy,” Salluit elder Pauloosie Padlayat said through an interpreter.

Each morning the elders greet one another at the Elders Centre, with hugs and handshakes. The second day of the gathering got underway with the singing of Happy Birthday for Eva Annanack, who celebrated her seventy-third birthday.

The days began over coffee and tea, before elders left for events that ranged from a fashion show, to a Nunavut-versus-Nunavik soccer match and baseball game, and a planned fishing trip.

The physical strength and agility of many elders, some of whom aare in there 60s and 70s, imnpressed some of the younger volunteers and spectators.

“This is celebrating life. This is what these elders are doing. Inuit are strong survivors,” said volunteer Elisapi Davidee, as she watched the soccer match get under way. Davidee added that everyone can learn from the elders’ sense of camaraderie and fun.

“You’re always learning from elders — from their attitude,” Davidee said. “I see a lot of knowledge and strength and oneness — nobody’s a stranger.”

Brighter Futures’ money and fundraising done by the Iqaluit elders’ centre paid for the gathering. Participants raised their own travelling costs and were housed at local billets and in the elders’ boarding facilities.

Next year’s host community was to have been announced Friday.

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