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Remembering Naki Ekho

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

With the recent passing of Naki Ekho, one is reminded of days long gone when this community was in the very early stage of its development.

The Eskimo village, as it was then known, was an isolated community of a few hundred souls in the area by the creek, which was the only source of water, just near the present public health offices.

There, a conglomeration of huts and shacks and even tents housed the Inuit families.

It was a very quiet place except for the howling of dogs. Each hunter had his own team that was the only form of transportation in those days.

There was very little connection between the Inuit and the American military base. In fact, it was forbidden for unauthorized personnel to go near that village.

Tigli, Naki’s husband, had built their house on their arrival, some time earlier from Pangnirtung. It was constructed just like the others. Wooden crates, boxes, all gathered from the dump. Their house was covered with canvas and tar paper, most of it insulated with moss gathered from the hills.

All the houses were laid out in the Inuit tradition. The space was divided into two sections, the bed and the living area, half each. Tigli’s house had one quality above the others: it was so clean you could eat off the floor. The pine boards were scrubbed white. Tea was always brewing on the stove and the smell of fresh bannock filled the air.

In one corner was the qudlik, seal oil lamp. It burned brightly day and night and gave the house a warm glow. It was attended constantly by the women in the house and provided light and heat for cooking and drying wet clothes. This house was different in that they had acquired a small wood stove that gave additional heat, polished daily with stove polish.

The house also featured the traditional door, very small so that as soon as you let go, it slammed shut. The inside walls, like all the other houses, were covered with pictures of all kinds cut out of magazines, and there was always lots of clocks all ticking away.

There wasn’t a school then. The kids all played with their dolls or a new puppy from the team. The girls and their brother Jimmy were kept spotless by their parents. They all wore clothing made by their mother, dressing in beautifully-made kamiks and parkas, with their faces gleaming with health, their cheeks shining rosy-red like tail lights.

Naki could usually be seen sitting on the sleeping area, legs straight out in front, holding a hand-operated sewing machine on her lap sewing clothes or a new dog harness.

Naki was a reminder of the past, one of that special group of people that lived through incredible changes and lived to see her children embrace a totally strange and remarkable new way of life with great success.

Bryan Pearson
Iqaluit

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