Three prominent elders pass away
Nunavut has lost several of its elders from the Nattilingmiut and Utkuhiksalingmiut descendents.
Luke Nuliajuk died of cancer last week in Uqsurtuuq (Gjoa Haven). He was a most renowned and beloved Inuit drum dancer, a wonderful entertainer and a role model for the youth.
Nuliajuk was a very charismatic man. He was named after “Nuliajuk” the boss of all the animals under the sea. Like many other Nunavutmiut,
I have watched Nuliajuk drum dancing in Naujaat-Repulse Bay, my home town, and in Talurjuaq (Taloyoak), Uqsurtuuq, and Kangiriniq.
In 2000 the Inuit of Aivilik and Nattilik descendents formed the Huqulajiiit (Qilaujjartiit) Society to preserve, protect and promote traditional Inuit drum dancing. Nuliajuk was invited to participate during all of our drum dance festivals. When he would get up to dance everyone would clap their hands with excitement. He was a very powerful drum dancer. His rhythm reached into the hearts of many people, both Inuit and non-Inuit. Whenever he finished dancing, spectators would give him a standing ovation. Nuliajuk always smiled and was very respected.
His sister, Martha Qamukkaaq (the correct spelling of her name but she was known as Kamookak) also died earlier this year from cancer. She was an extremely good Inuit singer; she was a keeper and caretaker of the songs of our Inuit ancestors. Whenever Nuliajuk got up to dance, she would sing for her anik (younger brother). She was over 90 years old when she died. She was nominated by her beloved community members and I was honoured during my term as commissioner, to grant her a Commissioner’s Award at the highest level, for promoting and preserving Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. I went to Uqsurtuuq to present the award.
Elder Judas Aqilgiaq, who was also in his 90s, the husband of my aunt Mary, died recently as well. People such as Nuliajuk, Kamookak and Aqilgiaq, all promoted Inuit culture, with a great deal of joy, dignity, and vision! They demanded that Inuit culture be kept alive and be accurately promoted! In the name of our ancestors and our elders, whom I have mentioned were my mentors. I am determined to follow in their footsteps.
There was a drum dance last week in Gjoa Haven to celebrate Nuliajuk’s life. On behalf of many people, I would like to give them a standing ovation, Til we see you again…