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welcome to the


PUBLISHER Inuvialuit Communications Society EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Stewart Burnett


HEAD DESIGNER Vanessa Hunter EDITORIAL TEAM WRITER/PHOTOGRAPHER Stewart Burnett COPY EDITOR Casey Lessard INUVIALUKTUN TRANSLATOR Albert Elias CONTRIBUTORS Allysa Felix, Jessi Pascal, Tyra Cockney-Goose, Weronika Murray, Dennis Allen, Leigha Keogak, Chukita Gruben, Sydone Okheena SPECIAL THANKS TO Connie Gordon, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Aurora College BUSINESS OFFICE Inuvialuit Communications Society 292 MacKenzie Rd PO Box 1704 Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0 MANAGER Dez Loreen OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR Roseanne Rogers BOARD OF DIRECTORS PRESIDENT, INUVIK Lucy Kuptana VICE PRESIDENT, TUKTOYAKTUK Debbie Raddi TREASURER, ULUKHAKTOK Joseph Haluksit AKLAVIK DIRECTOR Colin Gordon PAULATUK DIRECTOR Denise Wolki SACHS HARBOUR DIRECTOR Jean Harry

I grew up reading fantasy novels and used to malign the fact I lived in such a boring world lacking adventure, dragons and great quests. But for all of us, in different ways, it doesn’t take long to discover that dragons are very real.

ON THE COVER Meleena Conley takes to the stage during the drum dance on Inuvialuit Day in Inuvik. On the back is William Day during the blanket toss event. CONTENT Unless otherwise specified, writing and photography in this issue is by Stewart Burnett. LETTERS We want to hear from you! Got a hunting story, fish tale, want to give a shout out to family or anything else? Appear in the next edition of the magazine and write us a letter at Entries must be under 300 words.

Stories like Frodo’s in The Lord of The Rings or Jesus Christ’s in The Bible resonate because of the inherent truth in the experience they are telling. Nothing is more indicative of what it means to be human than Jesus being nailed to the cross and tortured unfairly. Nothing is more real than the immense burden Frodo carries in the One Ring, straight into the fires of Mount Doom. We’ve all been there. What is fair about Lesa Semmler’s mother being shot, or Rex Cockney losing his parents to a fire? Those are dragons if there ever were ones. And they’re as terrifying and powerful as they would have been to the characters in the books. It’s amazing and inspiring that people are able to overcome such tribulations and turn their circumstances around. It’s a torch in the darkness that goes on to light many more. People who conquer their demons improve not just their own situation but the world, in ways that are impossible to fully articulate. Life is responsibility, and there is no greater or more burdensome gift.

SUBSCRIPTIONS E-mail subscription inquiries to or phone +1 (867) 777 2320 FUNDING MADE POSSIBLE BY Inuvialuit Regional Corporation GNWT (Education, Culture and Employment) GET SOCIAL Follow us on Facebook for live event coverage and photography that doesn’t make the magazine!

Anyone brave enough to face their fears – whether they stem from tragedy, rise from inside or loom on the horizon of unexplored territory – carries that responsibility like Frodo did with the ring. It wouldn’t be meaningful if it wasn’t difficult. This edition tells stories of challenges and successes. QUYANAINNI THANK YOU, Stewart Burnett Editor-in-Chief

TUSAAYAKSAT MEANS “STORIES AND VOICES THAT NEED TO BE HEARD.” WE CELEBRATE INUVIALUIT PEOPLE, CULTURE AND HERITAGE. OUR MISSION: To empower, celebrate, communicate, heal and bond. To bring you the best coverage of our news, vibrant culture and perspectives.





















INSPIRE Inspiration. That is what I get when I read through this issue of Tusaayaksat. Seeing the faces of so many proud and happy Inuvialuit finding their own success in life is truly what we need to see in our communities. For a while now, we have profiled the people in our region who are at home, and more recently our publication has reached out to those Inuvialuit who are finding their own way in other places. We spoke with parents and students in Yellowknife and by the looks of this issue, there are also plenty of us in Whitehorse as well! It is so heartwarming to read these profiles of friends and acquaintances who have left home and are nestled into the Yukon. It feels a bit like catching up, or how it used to be before social media. Back when someone moved away and you could actually lose contact with them. In today’s society it’s not even a goodbye anymore, just a “see you online later.” We are so connected and it’s kept people closer than ever. In every story of success there is strength. Someone overcame adversity in their own life and made changes for the better. I see so many positive role models in these pages that it beams me with pride. These successes, this pride is not only limited to those who are excelling away from home – it’s also largely in part to those who are still in the region, being role models for the younger generations.Some are elected leaders who are showing the way by example, and others are more modest, traditional folk who won’t brag about themselves but are holding our traditions up all on their own.

learn how it was done years before the eases of modern technologies came in. This publication is here to encourage us all to be the best we can be, in every way, shape and form. From the ones we call leaders, to the single parents who are fighting every day to build the best future for their children, we applaud you all. We all have roles to play, from those in the office buildings working nine-to-fives, to the labourers and service industry workers who keep our communities working day in and day out. We all have accomplishments to celebrate. Our elderly are certainly the most valuable resource we have to connect us to the old ways. Spending time with them and hearing their perspectives on how times have changed can help us in looking forward. To all those who never gave up, to those who keep waking up day after day and continuing on ahead, I applaud you. Keep being the inspiration we all need to become the best version of ourselves we can be. We encourage readers like you to write in, let us know what you think about our issue and the stories you might have! We are always looking to share more perspectives and our history with the rest of the world.


This is where we need to pick up the slack. So many people in our communities are now learning traditional skills like sewing and hunting. I see classes popping up everywhere for people who want to

Dez Loreen Manager, Inuvialuit Communications Society


SUCCESSFULNESS by Laila Rhianne Noksana, Yellowknife Pearly, Ivory, Milky, are successful. – but what happens when a brown-skinned woman holds great intelligence, her voice not heard… and if she has a cure for cancer, it will never be cured. how can we carry confidence when our very thoughts are stomped upon, before they leave our minds, before they dance off our tongues, why should we speak, when criticism strives in those who believe themselves to be superior. how do we start a fire, with raindrops falling left right centre. who granted them this confidence? – and not us. Blind, a portrait painted over our eyes, images of what society favours.

showing us where we belong, on a scale of power to weak, – white, to anything but. and it’s a shame, we are given a box of crayons, but none are used: Bronze, Chestnut, Cocoa, Olive. they marginalize colours, and place white in the centre. white is ugly on its own, But beautiful amongst a rainbow. They are not superior, They are only successful because of a mindset like a cage, that they placed around our world. We are not just skin. We are ideas. Beliefs. Emotions. Equal.

Letters from down south:

Two years Facebook-free I remember when Facebook first came out and how addicted I became to it. I couldn’t wait to get a few minutes so I could “buguk,” or snoop around, especially on Friday nights after everybody had a few drinks and starting sharing on Facebook what they really thought of one another. Then I realized how much attention you can get by telling people your problems. At first I was just putting on my Facebook how hard it was to quit chewing snuff. Everybody was telling me how good I was and that I was worth it.


Then I started making up stuff just to get more sympathy. I even said one time I had pneumonia just to see how many comments I would get. Boy, everybody was saying get well soon, we miss you, you’re a great guy. But next day I was standing at the feast stuffing Eskimo donuts in my mouth. “I thought you had pneumonia,” my auntie said. “I did,” I said, “but I got better.” “How quick,” she said under her breath. I got so addicted to it that I had to check my Facebook every few minutes. I was even going out in the bush one time and I checked my Facebook as I was driving my skidoo through a portage. I ended up running off the trail and flipping my skidoo. Even though I was upside down, I was still checking my Facebook. But the best was how easy it was to say what you really wanted. Boy, you can get as mad as you want without ever talking to the person you’re mad at. You can swear at them and put them down, and they can tell you what they really thought of you too. I remember one time my partner borrowed my clutch and didn’t give it back after his parts came in. I told the world what a no-good-for-nothing, backstabbing, low-down, snake-eyed, belly-crawling, gizzard-eating dog he was. Then he replied, “I gave it back to you last fall.” When I realized he was right, I just put “Oh” on my Facebook. One time I was at the Muskrat Jamboree and I was waiting in line for the kugavik. I’m not to say names but E.H. was in there and he was laughing like hell. Finally, I banged on the door and said hurry up. Next thing he came out looking at his phone. He was on Facebook the whole time. One time I was so starving to look at Facebook I missed work three days in a row and got fired. Who the hell gets fired from washing dishes? So I had to move out of my apartment and I moved into a tent by the river. I ran out of firewood and burned my bedframe because I was too lazy to cut wood, plus I was on Facebook anyway. Anyway, I finally had go to Poundmakers to quit. I’ve been off Facebook for two years now and I even got my old job back. So if you want to get ahold of me, call 2262.




ibrant, wild, deep and strong, the Inuvialuit of Canada’s Western Arctic are beyond any simple descriptions. Culture, family, land and lifestyle reign supreme in the Inuvialuit world, where bitter cold and darkness give way to perpetual sun as the seasons change. Stories are told through drum dance, families bond on the hunt and friends

support each other in their pursuits and challenges. The Inuvialuit are built to survive in the harshest conditions of the far North. No one gets through easy up here. Welcome to our world. These pages tell our stories. Photos from the Inuvialuit Day celebrations in Inuvik June 5, 2018.












SPEAKING OUT ABOUT MY MOTHER’S MURDER Lesa Semmler is a national family advisory circle member for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry

My mother was murdered when I was eight years old. She died January 11, 1985, at age 26. My mother was in an abusive relationship when she passed. My dad had been out of the picture since I was three months old. I had been living in Fort Smith with my mother for four months while she went to college. I had just come back for school after spending Christmas home in Inuvik. The night before my mother was murdered, we left the house in the middle of the night because she was being assaulted. We went to a shelter and she decided we had to leave Fort Smith. She wanted to stop by the house to pick up our belongings in the morning. We were walking there when we passed by my school. I saw my friends playing outside. Being in Grade 3, I wanted to go to school and play with my friends. She said she would pick up our stuff and come get me at lunch. When lunchtime came, I went outside and waited. I waited and waited and waited. All of the kids were gone when the principal came out and took me to the office. I remember her making phone calls and somebody coming to get me. They brought me to the hospital, where the social services department was. That’s when they told me that my mother had been murdered.


TRIVIAL PURSUIT I remember crying, and then I remember one of my mother’s friends picking me up. I stayed with her that night. She had two sons. I remember playing board games with them. It’s funny how you remember certain things. I remember playing Trivial Pursuit. They took me to another house, where there were lots of kids playing, and I was able to just play that night. Later in life, she told me that I had asked her if I was allowed to have fun with the other kids even though my mom had just died. She told me to just go have fun.

AWAY AT SCHOOL I don’t know if I was ever depressed about it. I came back home to Inuvik, where all my friends were. I was taken away from anything that reminded me of Fort Smith. The way I coped was to imagine that she was still alive, just somewhere else. She was away at school, so that’s why I didn’t see her. In high school, you’re so busy being a teenager that it keeps your mind off some of these things. Everybody knew my mom was gone, but nobody ever talked about it and I never talked about it. I knew she had been shot. My great-grandmother, Agnes Semmler, never beat around the bush. She said it how it was and I respect her for that. Even though sometimes you feel like maybe you shouldn’t have heard it, you heard the truth and it wasn’t going to be a surprise later in life. We had to go to court and I was supposed to testify but I couldn’t speak once I got up there. At that time, I felt like I failed her. I never had a mom and dad. I had granny and papa. They treated me like I was their own child, but I missed having a young mother like my friends did. I used to call my friends’ moms my surrogate moms. I would talk to them about teenage girl stuff that I wasn’t comfortable bringing up with my 70-year-old great-grandmother who grew up in the bush.

Granny Agnes and Papa Lawrence Semmler

BREAKING THE CYCLE Then I became an adult and had two children of my own, one boy and one girl. I used to work as a nurse in the labour room. The mother of the woman giving birth was always there, but she wasn’t for me. My kids have grandparents on my husband’s side, but they never had my mom. I see how some of my friends have their moms and their kids and the relationship they have, and my kids never got to experience that. My daughter is almost 14. It was an awkward conversation when we talked about one of her friends’ parents in an abusive relationship. I told her that’s never okay. I said people living together might get in arguments – even we argue as mother and daughter – but it should never become violent. I told her a relationship should never be controlling. My son is out of high school now. I explained to him there is no reason to ever hit your partner or that your partner should ever hit you. Excuses of drinking or this or that don’t fly. I also told them that not everyone who does something bad is a bad person. But we need to find the root causes, not just ignore them.

OPENING UP I’m 42 now, and it’s only been in the last three years that I’ve come out and started speaking about it, trying to raise awareness that this is not okay and we’re still seeing it. I’ve seen it growing up, I’ve seen it as an adult and I see it now. How do we fix it if we don’t talk about it? I’m at fault too. I never talked about it and I feel like I’m in a place now where I’m strong enough that I can speak out and maybe somehow help others.

Joy and Lesa Semmler

We have to be able to live together in our families in a safe, happy and healthy way. We can’t just say, ‘Oh it’s the bad person who’s being the abuser and we have to leave them and shun them.’


There’s a reason why somebody is hurting others. There is usually more to the story. We need to bring those things out, because we don’t know how to help people unless we know what’s eating them up inside. We don’t know what’s making them take out their frustrations and anger in alcohol, drugs and violence. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry is supposed to come out with recommendations. Regional recommendations are what I hope for, because our region is different from others. Then we can use those tangible recommendations and go to the government or other organizations and say we need these kinds of programs for our people.

I’M NOT MAD I forgot about the man who murdered my mother for a long time. I put it out of my head. When I think about the fact he’s now free and back living in the Northwest Territories, I do feel angry and think it’s unfair, but there’s nothing I can do that can bring my mother back, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life angry. I have to continue living. I don’t want to be mad. He’s living with his own turmoil. He’s the one who killed her. He’s the one who has to hear me speak about it over and over again and bring him up. That would eat up any human who has feelings.

ENDING THE SILENCE I think when you experience any type of trauma, you feel like everybody’s looking at you. There are so many of us who have experienced some type of violence, even bullying. You don’t want anyone talking about you. For me to go up to somebody and say I witnessed something and we should do this or that, now I could do that. Five, 10 years ago I couldn’t. I didn’t want to intrude on their space, because I wouldn’t have wanted them to feel worse than they already do.

As a culture, we’re brought up to stay out of everybody else’s business. When you live in such a small community, you know everybody, so you know too much. You’re trying to keep those boundaries and you want to keep relationships good. We’re silent about it as a culture. We know it happens and it continues to happen, but we don’t talk about it, because we don’t know how maybe. When I was younger, I felt there was nothing I could do. You don’t want anybody to know about the crazy stuff that goes on in your house. Your friends don’t want you to bring up the crazy stuff in their house, so you all stay silent. If I had gone to somebody and told them, maybe the course could have changed direction. I don’t know. I think that’s why I try to speak out now. These past three years of talking about it have been my way of fighting. I was quiet for so long. Now I’m saying we need to start speaking out and violence is not okay. I learned that you have to reach out and seek help when you’re feeling that you’re hurting, whether it’s emotional, physical or otherwise, no matter who you are. When you’re seeing things that hurt you or feeling things that hurt you, seek help.


REX COCKNEY sports, skiing, hockey, anything. Keep moving. Keep thinking of today. Don’t think of tomorrow, just today. Tomorrow is not here. You can learn from the past and the elders who have been through it already.” It’s equally important to keep up that positive attitude every day, no matter how hard it is.

Love each other


orn and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, Rex Cockney always remembers the phone call he received in November 1964.

He had been attending residential school in Inuvik. “One of my greatest memories, not a very good one, was when I was in Grade 4, 11 years old, when I got a call from Tuk that my parents had burned in a fire,” he says slowly. “I’ve been alone pretty well all my life, but I’ve tried to make it work somehow. It’s pretty sad, but you have to keep going. You just can’t give up. Never give up.” Rex turned to skiing and his love of sports as a distraction. He became a champion cross-country skier, participating in dozens of high-profile events in 16 countries throughout his career. “That kept me busy throughout my younger years,” he says. “Not really focusing on what I’ve lost.” He now tells young people to turn bad things into good. “When you lose something permanent, you have to keep going,” says Rex. “There are a lot of people I know who had suicidal thoughts. But you have to keep yourself busy. Do

“That’s life,” says Rex. “I’ve tried to do that despite what I lost. I don’t dwell on it too much, but it comes back to me all the time, especially when you’re alone. Don’t be lonely. There’s always next door to visit, have tea or coffee. My ancestors have been living that way all their lives.” He credits Bob Cockney, his grandfather, as representing the way for Inuvialuit to live. Rex is in the midst of writing a book, just as Bob did. “Skiing let me travel the world,” he says. “I’ve been to Russia, Leningrad. My nephew Jesse Cockney went to two Olympics already and he’s still going. It’s in our blood. It’s in Inuvialuit blood. You come from a very hard family.” He always remembers his favourite tactic in sports: honouring the opponent. “If you honour them, you calm them down. Then we push ahead. It was a mental tactic you’d use in skiing or hockey.” Rex spends much of his time in the elder’s program in Tuktoyaktuk reminiscing with friends or visiting family. “I enjoy being with my grandkids,” he says. “I can’t wait to see them, especially when they start talking. You see yourself in them as they grow up. That’s because you nurture them well. You bring them up well. Make sure they listen. Sometimes you’ve got to be strict, not because you don’t love them – because you love them.” Growing older has been a trying time. “Can’t live forever,” says Rex. “You try to be happy in this world, make people happy, make people laugh.” At the end of it all, the most important thing he’s learned is to be a good person. “Love each other and you will do well,” says Rex. “That’s the big message I send to younger people. Nothing more you can add.”



Connie Gordon, Mary Wolki, Nellie Mangelana-Raymond and Eva Raddi


Listen to the elders

o this day, Nellie Mangelana-Raymond often defers questions to elders, whose wisdom she greatly respects.

Edmonton hospital learning how to walk again. But that didn’t stop her. She became the first postmistress in Tuktoyaktuk in 1968, serving there for three years before spending more than 20 at Northern Store. “Credit to my mom and dad,” says Nellie. “They always encouraged us to have a job.” Her government name was Nellie Raymond, but she fought to have her original Inuvialuit name included.

“I’m not as wise as our elders,” smiles Nellie.

“The RCMP registered people years ago,” says Nellie.

She still holds onto the advice she’s received, which boils down to a few simple, everlasting points: be friendly and behave.

“Most of the Inuvialuit here, they didn’t know how to spell their names. They gave my dad my grandfather’s first name for our family, which was Raymond. I paid the government to give my Mangelana name back on my card, so that way I don’t have to lose my last name.”

“I grew up with the elders teaching us to go to church, be thankful, try to be kind, be friendly,” says Nellie. She suggests young people find employment, but admitted it’s hard in Tuktoyaktuk, where she lives and there are few jobs. “It would be good if young people had a job,” she says. “It would give them a more interesting life.” Early in her own life, Nellie suffered a setback as a child with a broken back. She spent three years in an

Life in Tuktoyaktuk has changed, she says, beyond just the technology. “I grew up in an old-fashioned way,” says Nellie. “Now it’s hardly the Inuvialuit way.” She admits life now is tough for her, but she finds blessing in her five grandchildren. “That’s my happiness,” she says.


Traditional knowledge


harles Qummaqbaaluk Gruben scribbles frantically in his notebook.

“Just like people in Western culture analyze their culture, we also can analyze ours.”

“Dajva nigaaqduun maqailait bongniqduaq inoosipkin’ni,” he says, before explaining every word and its meaning in English.

It’s equally as important for Inuvialuit to be honest with themselves, he adds, as it’s the only way to improve future generations.

That Inuvialuktun phrase translates to “The element of striving is never absent from life.”

“Eskimos, we should face the problems we had of killing some of our younger people and not caring,” says Charles.

Charles has a deep background in linguistics and education. He attended postsecondary school in Quebec, Northern British Columbia and Alaska. Most of his working life was spent translating for the government. Now, he preaches the importance of spreading Inuvialuit traditional knowledge. “People say they know traditional knowledge, but what they forget to do is explain what traditional knowledge is,” he says, flipping through his notebook.

“Long ago, Eskimo men killed each other off because there was a shortage of women. We should face that instead of just hiding, like it’s taboo. We shouldn’t get that way. We should face that and say we could improve it. And now we are doing that. Thanks to Western culture, they made us realize that life is respectful, to be honoured. We are grateful for that. We are happy to be helped to be the way we are now.” If we don’t learn, we will not go anywhere, he says.

He explains that traditional knowledge encompasses the habits Inuvialuit have acquired on their way to maturity and the realizations they come to later in life.

“We’ll be stuck in a situation and we’ll try to ignore the fact that we must have done something wrong, and that’s why we’re in the state we are.”

As Inuvialuit reach middle age or older, they realize the ground they’ve covered and can think back and consider what improvements need to be made in the Inuvialuit life, he says.

For Charles, the element of striving must continue to be part of the Inuvialuit way of life.



Born nomadic


arjorie Ovayuak grew up living the nomadic Inuvialuit lifestyle.

She’s originally from Bailey Island, about 100 miles from her current home of Tuktoyaktuk. “I recall living the nomadic life with my parents,” says Marjorie. “My father was a hunter, trapper, herder. He was pretty well into everything.” She called that lifestyle beautiful. “Even though we had some tough times, we always got through them.”

Marjorie and her family would travel by dog team and take a small boat with them in the summer. “We moved to outpost camp in the summer and then back to our cabin in the winters,” says Marjorie. Every day, she and her siblings had to do their chores. After that, they could go out and play games. Her parents were kind but strict when they needed to be. Marjorie’s school and nomadic life was interrupted because of an ear infection that landed her in the hospital for five years as a child. “My nomadic life was so fulfilled because we had so many things to do, so much fun compared to today,” she says. “I could see the younger generation, just flick of the finger, everything’s there.” She hopes to pass on what her grandparents passed on to her own parents, and them to her, not with books, but through traditional oral teaching.


Living the good life


“I had to retire because of arthritis. Saltwater never dry up in the ocean, really bad for arthritis. My socks never dried and my feet never dried. Swimming in the creeks, going across with reindeer in the summertime, clothes on and everything. That’s how you get arthritis.”

tanley Keevik, 83, grew up in a different time.

He always loved seeing the young reindeer staggering around after being born.

“I was born on Herschel Island, grew up in the Delta,” he remembers.

“Few hours later they’re jumping all over the place,” he smiles.

He never went to school.

Life has changed quite a bit now, thinks Stanley.

“My dad, that’s the way he wanted it,” says Stanley.

“No phones long ago, no gadgets. Barely had radio with a big battery. A lot has changed, especially when you first seen skidoos. It was dog teams all the time in the Delta. Fast, those things, eh?”

“He didn’t want me in school. He needed a hunter in those days. Didn’t need to go to school. Better to be on the land to help family.” He grew up as a muskrat hunter and reindeer herder.

Out on the land, there were “no phones ringing, nothing,” he says.

“I miss reindeer herding,” says Stanley.

“That was the good life.”



Jokingly referred to as “99-per-cent Gwich’in,” Persis was adopted into an Inuvialuit family at a young age. She never got to learn her original language. “I asked my mom, how come you don’t teach us how to talk like when you talk to your sister? ‘Nevermind,’ she told me. ‘You’ll never go back to your people.’ My mom was so strict.” She fondly remembers her old dog, Five Dollar, named after her cousin, who was so proud once to have $5 on hand. “When the dog team was coming, he really could bark,” remembers Persis. “So happy. When he heard polar bear, he’d get scared.”

99 years wise


fter nearly a century on Earth, Persis Gruben can still smile and laugh about her long life in the Beaufort Delta.

“Today?” she replied after being asked to give advice to today’s youth. “I’m not doing nothing today.” Persis was born on the Peel River and lived her life on the land. She always remembers her father taking her away from civilization. “When we were smaller, we wouldn’t stay where the people are,” says Persis. “Even when we grew up. My dad said you might learn something you shouldn’t learn.” Her life revolved around maintaining the camp. Her father would make breakfast in the morning and then go out to get wood. She and her siblings would check the fishnet and get ice. When her father came back, they would saw the wood. “Every day we worked hard, and we had fun,” says Persis.

One time at camp, Five Dollar was chained outside of the tent. He was barking all night as the family was sleeping. They came to find out a polar bear was visiting the campsite, but Five Dollar kept running underneath the bear to avoid getting eaten. “Good thing I tied a long chain,” says Persis. “That polar bear got so mad at my little dog. He was going to jump him. He went under that polar bear and he never catch him.” Persis went on to have a family and continued to live the Inuvialuit lifestyle on the land. She lived a life of hard work involved in traditional activities. “When a man go out and get polar bear or seal, we skin them and flesh them and dry them,” says Persis. “In the winter, we stretch them out on hard snow. Then after it freezes, we hang them outside and let the weather dry them.” She was glad to grow up in an era where money didn’t matter. “One time we were playing at Herschel Island and found quarters,” recalls Persis. “We didn’t know what it was. I put it in my mitts. When we went home, I asked my mom what is this? She look at it, ‘You don’t have to know.’ She grabbed it and put it some place and said, ‘Don’t ever touch them. You don’t have to know about those things.’” Persis was born October 20, 1918. She had 11 children and raised four grandchildren, with siblings Winnie, Sam, Helen, Edward, Timothy and Alberta. She is now living in Tuktoyaktuk and on her way to 100 this fall.


SPEED FREAKS Springtime is playtime in the Delta, when the sun is out all day, skies are clear and it’s not too cold anymore. Before the ice melts, communities across the region hold their annual jamborees, with the big skidoo races being the highlight for many people. There’s nothing like the endless backyard of the Beaufort Delta, a tank full of gas and love of adrenaline. Photos by Weronika Murray at the 2018 Muskrat Jamboree.




I’ve been skidooing as long as I can remember. My earliest memories would be flying all over the hills, doing rainbows, taking jumps, breaking trail with my dad. What I like about it mostly is going on trips, hunting out on the land, learning new country, racing.

I like the thrill of it. Long nights in the shop with all my buddies helping me get ready for races is the best. I have lots of crazy memories. I’ve been racing more than 10 years and had everything from intense battles to the end to 100+ mph wipeouts.

I think we all could say we grew up on snowmobiles. I remember getting my first snowmobile at the age of 14 or 15. My father bought me a Tundra 2 for my birthday. Ever since then, I’ve always been on a snowmobile and loved the freedom it gave me.


When I got older and learned about snowmobile races in the jamborees around the Delta, I became more interested and started racing at the age of 16. I am now 37 years old and I still love it. Twenty-one years of racing and it never gets old. A lot of time, effort and money gets put into your sleds and I’ve learned a lot of patience, especially that races are never over until you cross that finish line.

This is what I love to do in the spring. Then right after the races are done, it’s geese-hunting time.



PAIGE LOREEN Inuvik’s Deadliest Director

Only nine years old but already with a film shown in the Northwest Territories’ premier horror short film festival, Paige Loreen is following in her father’s footsteps with a dream of fame.

Cue an evil clown coming to snatch up her and coactor Natalie Nasogaluak. The film ends with Dez hanging up missing person signs around Inuvik for the two girls.

“When I was a little kid, I wanted to make a scary movie like my dad does,” says Paige.

“I thought it could be a crazy guy at first, but I changed my mind to a clown,” says the young director about her choice for the film’s main threat.

Her father, Dez Loreen, is a filmmaker who runs Neverlow Studios and has shown short films in several Dead North Film Festivals. Paige’s first film, Run Away!, was shown in the 2018 Dead North Film Festival in Yellowknife. It tells the story of a playdate that ended in horror. “It starts with me and my friend wanting to go play outside,” says Paige about her film. “My dad warned us not to go too far, but we did. I reminded my friend to go back home because she was scared, but we wanted to build a fort first.”

“A lot of my friends are scared of clowns, so I thought that was a good idea.” She had the butterflies going when her film was shown in Yellowknife’s festival, where she received much praise from other directors and fans of the genre. “I think I’ll make more scary films,” says Paige. “When I was young, I just wanted to be famous. My dad makes scary movies, so I was thinking if I could make one, I could be famous.”


Northern to most but southern to folk in the Beaufort Delta, Whitehorse is home to many Inuvialuit who have moved to the city for school, work or other opportunities. It’s close enough to fly or drive home, but far and big enough to feel like a new adventure. Adjusting to the city lifestyle isn’t always easy, especially when you’re separated from your family and culture at home. Taking the leap of faith to leave home and start a new life elsewhere comes with a host of challenges, but those who did it almost unanimously agree that the risk is worth the reward. We caught up with some of our friends who are making a life of it down south to find out how they’re doing and what advice they might have for people considering a similar change.



CHELSEY JACOBSON Hey Mom and Dad! I’m from Tuktoyaktuk. I graduated high school in Inuvik and moved to Yellowknife, where I worked as an assistant accountant for Canadian North on and off for four years. After that, I went to Dallas, Texas, for three years to a Bible college. I then decided to go to Yukon College to take business administration and got my certificate with them. I now live in Whitehorse and work as a supervisor fulltime at a group home with teenagers who have intellectual disabilities. I’ve always been working with youth. I’ve been involved in my church ever since I was in Sunday school. When I was 13, I would go to youth group every week, and then when I was old enough I became a youth leader. I’m very involved in my church here. I help with the youth and music. It’s fun working with teenagers. Growing up in Tuktoyaktuk was super fun, just getting into all sorts of shenanigans with my friends. The jamborees were always fun. Driving around on skidoos. Joining talent shows is something I always did growing up.

I started playing the guitar and have been singing ever since I was young. I’ve been helping lead and do worship music at church since I was 15. I kept at it and kept developing it when I went to school in Texas. I’ve been coming to Camp Yukon since I was 13. I’m 27 now. That had some really positive impacts in my life. It shaped me and brought me to where I am today. I’m here in Whitehorse for the long haul. I lived in Dallas, where there are millions of people and it’s a huge city. Going from Tuk to that is so extreme, and Whitehorse is the happy in-between for me. It’s big enough that it’s a city, but it has that town feel. I have lots of friends and some family here. The biggest struggle I had was leaving home, missing my family and being homesick. Life happens. You have these high moments and you have these really low moments. You want to celebrate those moments with your family and you want to be with them when you’re having hard times. Not being with family is the hardest, but don’t be afraid to leave, either for school or a job or college. It’s hard. It’s not easy. But don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams because of that.

INUVIK PHILLIP HARRY I was born in Inuvik and raised between Whitehorse and Inuvik. My mom was a teacher, so we moved back and forth, but I’ve been in Whitehorse since I was 19. I’m working for the Yukon Government in the public works department. This job is a huge blessing for us. We just bought a house three years ago. I can’t see myself leaving any time soon. Whitehorse has everything you need. I love it. There are golf courses. The hockey is good. All kinds of campgrounds. My kids love it. My wife loves it. We spend as much time as we can outside in the summer. I haven’t spent a lot of time hunting or fishing like I did growing up in Inuvik, but I intend to get into it more. We’re looking at getting a boat this summer. My sons are 12 and seven. They’re at a ripe age now where they can start helping me, so if we go out I won’t have to do it all. One of the biggest challenges here was finding work and providing for myself at first. There’s always the challenge

with overcoming alcoholism as well. I struggled a lot with that growing up. I was blessed to have a mother who didn’t partake in any of that. She instilled good values in us growing up. Even though there were struggles, she taught us to battle through and take the positives out of everything in life. Same with my dad, he taught us to be positive about everything. Be happy, joke with people, don’t take life too seriously. Take it as it comes. My advice is to be prepared for a lot of roadblocks and try not to let them get you down. Work hard and show people what you can do. Inuvialuit people are always hard workers. They can overcome anything. Once I got a job and started working hard, I started moving right up the ranks. Challenge yourself to do something bigger and better than what you think you can do, because that’s what’s going to push you over. There are a lot of negatives that could bring you down, but stick with the positives and be happy. That’s life.



ALYSSA CARPENTER I was born in Inuvik but grew up in Sachs Harbour, until we moved back to Inuvik when I was in Grade 2. I graduated from Aurora College’s social work diploma program in Yellowknife and came to Whitehorse in 2016 for my bachelor’s. I am planning on going for my master’s next year at the University of Toronto in a program called Indigenous Trauma and Resiliency. The background, values, sense of community and beliefs I was raised with definitely influenced my educational pursuit. My mother was a recreation coordinator of the community and region for a long time, so I was raised at the heart of all the community events she was organizing. My father worked in housing, so I had lots of experience witnessing some big social issues. Social work just seemed like a great fit. But it wasn’t the program that caught my eye initially. My experience of social workers from time in the North was that they did not have the best reputation. I didn’t realize how many directions the profession can go. Currently, I wear many hats. In addition to school, I am the youth representative for the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. I also work with BYTE: Empowering Youth. And I work as an executive assistant at the Assembly of First Nations Yukon regional office. I recently joined Taking It Global, an organization that empowers youth to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges, as a youth engagement activator for the Yukon. Through my role with Pauktuutit, I also joined a Canada-Australia Indigenous

health and wellness working group and Circumpolar Resilience, Engagement and Action Through Story (CREATeS) project. I am also the lead coordinator in hosting a youth leadership and empowerment conference in Inuvik this October for youth in the region. When I finish my master’s, I hope to bring my work home in some capacity. That’s where my heart is and it’s my priority in everything I do. It’s been incredibly challenging to stay in touch with my Inuvialuit culture while down south. I went through a period where people would make me feel ashamed for being Indigenous because I’m Inuvialuit and I have Dene ancestry. In urban spaces, people would treat me differently from when I was a teenager up to my mid-20s. I have also struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations. I was confused about what it was as a young child and where these feelings were coming from. It took me over 12 years to understand how to properly take care of myself and where to seek help. It still happens but the moments don’t last as long as before. My grandparents always told me to go beyond my comfort zone because that’s where growth occurs. I didn’t understand their advice until my 20s. I am working towards being the individual I needed when I was younger.

FORT MCPHERSON DAMIAN ELIAS-FRANCIS I was born here but I was raised up north in Fort McPherson. My mother is from Fort McPherson and my father is from Tuktoyaktuk. I always make time to go back up north and visit family. I just turned 16 in April and have been working at Canadian Tire for several months. I play lots of hockey and have been to Arctic Winter Games and North American Indigenous Games. Everything you learn on the land really helps in daily life, in ways you don’t even notice. I

have lots of memories from going out on the land. I learned to work hard at a young age. I like working here. It’s fun. Canadian Tire is a sweet store. Love to show what I’m repping. Eventually, I’m going into the trades for sure. I’ve got lots of family members in the trades and I look up to them. I love to do those kind of jobs. Good money too. I don’t know if I’ll be in Whitehorse forever. I’m going to go search around this beautiful Earth of ours and travel.



CAROLINE KISOUN I’m from Inuvik and have been living in Whitehorse for a year now.

I found a school in Edmonton, got accepted and moved there for six months.

We have a lot of family from Old Crow and regularly stopped here on trips growing up, so it’s always been familiar to me.

My family offered to care for my daughter. That was so emotional, deciding to leave my daughter behind.

I remember picking wild raspberries here as a kid. My cousin and I would always go out and play on the clay cliffs. He showed me how to dig out the little clay crystals. We would use a screwdriver to get them out and go downtown to sell them.

I told myself I couldn’t come home with nothing. I had to succeed. I couldn’t leave my daughter and come back with nothing. I made her a promise and said I’m going to school, I’m going to be successful, I’m going to come back and we will be together again.

I was always drawn back here. I went to school here between 2011 and 2013, and it was hard when I had to return home. I made it a goal at the time to move back and make it my permanent home.

You need to create goals and stick to them. Find good support. There’s no way I could have done this on my own. Now I’m here and I love it.

In 2015, I decided that I had to go back to school to find employment here. I realized I didn’t have much of a career and had to figure out something I was good at. I decided to pursue healthcare, which is the field I now work in.

On days like this, I go for a walk and still get butterflies knowing this is my home. It just feels right living here.

SACHS HARBOUR ELVIS WOLKI I’m originally from Sachs Harbour. I always wanted to give our kids a better education and more exposure. That’s why we moved to Whitehorse in 1995. They started and finished school here. The oldest one is 30 and the next is two years younger. We always liked it here. I’ve done various jobs with the government, highways and whatnot. Now I’m a foreman for infrastructure with the Carcross Tagish Band. The Yukon has been good to me. I got some great education through the advanced education system and became a ticketed tradesman. There are good opportunities here, and it’s close to home. I grew up on the trapline. That was the

greatest. There was no better life than being out on the land, growing up on the trapline. I miss those years. The price of fur was good. You were out on the land all the time. You ate good out there. It was a good life, minus the cold and dark. I try to instill it in my kids as well. We’re from the land and we try to go hunting and fishing as much as we can. We keep close ties and try to make a trip home at least once a year to touch base. My advice for young people is never be afraid to accept a challenge. The only way to get ahead in this world nowadays is to get your education and just go do it. Sure it’s never easy. There are some tough times now and again, but the original goal comes with great rewards.



DONNA KISOUN I’m from Inuvik and have been living in Whitehorse since last November.

a role that would give me exposure to some of the big-picture stuff.

I’ve lived all over. I went to university in Lethbridge and worked in Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson in my career as an economic development officer. I was even in Norman Wells hairdressing for a while during the boom.

I’m now working as an executive assistant to Minister Pauline Frost, the Yukon government minister for Health and Social Services, Environment and the Yukon Housing Corporation. I manage her time, ensure she’s got all the current information and take notes during meetings to make sure everyone is held accountable to their promises. I also spend a lot of time listening to people’s concerns and relaying them to the minister.

My mother is from Old Crow, so I’ve always had a strong connection to the Yukon. I like Whitehorse because it’s easy to get home, either by the highway or air. In the past, most of the work I’ve done has been on the grassroots level in community development. I always wanted to come here in

I’m 55 now and I feel like I’m at the prime of my career. I love it. She’s also the MLA for Vuntut Giwch’in, so she’s working for my mother’s people.

INUVIK SHERRALYN ALLEN I’m from Inuvik but have been living in Whitehorse since 2010. I have a diploma in Northern First Nations studies, a certificate in heritage and culture and a certificate in liberal arts. I just need one more class to get my certificate in Northern justice and criminology. I’d like to work with the justice system and First Nations people. When I was going to school, I learned a lot of things I didn’t at home, such as about residential school or that my great-grandmother was buried on Herschel Island.

Finding a place to stay was challenging when I first came here, and recently funding has been difficult. I had to borrow a lot of money from the government, so I have some student loans to pay off now. I don’t mind it though, as long as I’ve got my education. I love it in Whitehorse. It’s beautiful everywhere you go. There are more things to do and places to go than back home. To those thinking of moving south, I say do it. See if you can find somebody you know there to ease the transition.



JESSICA NORRIS I was born in Inuvik, but my parents both had jobs that took us away from the North for a while, so I travelled around Canada and moved back to Yellowknife when I was 11. I graduated from high school in 2009 and worked for the government for four years. I had my daughter in 2012 and realized I wanted to pursue a better career path, so I decided to come to Whitehorse and enrolled in environmental studies. I’ve always been keen on science and was attracted to studying the environment. I took a chance and I’ve loved it ever since.

It’s a joint program through the University of Alberta and Yukon College, so it allows me to get my degree here. I love the North and I want to stay in the North, either in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories. I’m hoping to be done the program next year. Taking the step of going to school after having a full-time, stable job and my daughter was a challenge, but it was the best challenge. I just picked up and moved, and it ended up being the best decision I could have made. For younger people, I say just go for it. Don’t be afraid to step out and take a chance. You never really know where it’s going to lead you.

TUKTOYAKTUK MATT JACOBSON I’m from Tuktoyaktuk and have been living in Whitehorse since 2012. I came here for school but I am mainly an athlete right now. I play and coach Arctic sports. I’ve competed in the Arctic Winter Games and Native Youth Olympics. I started doing Arctic sports in Grade 6 in Tuk. It’s part of my culture. I love every aspect of it – the people, my friends and family. I’m trying to break that one-hand reach record. I want to reach 5’9”, or 5’8” at least.

I’m learning how to bridge and it’s making my reach better. It’s really challenging though. With bridging, instead of a flat hand, you raise yourself up a little bit from the bottom hand. Distance from family was the biggest challenge in moving. It’s hard being so far. Now that we have a road from Tuk to Inuvik it’s easier for me to get home. I can drive from here to Tuk. Keep in touch with family at all times if you can. Know that you’re not alone. You always have family members to contact.




I’m from Inuvik and have lived in Whitehorse for five years.

bit easier to travel from, but there are a lot of similarities as well.

I work in the labour and delivery ward as a registered nurse. I have two children. One is three and the other is six months.

You never know what life’s going to throw at you, but I’m planning to stay here for a while.

Whitehorse has gone well. It’s nice because you’re not too far from home. There are a lot more people. There’s more city life to experience and fresher produce. It’s a little

My advice to people leaving to pursue education is to do it because it is so worth it. Work hard to achieve your dreams and goals, and if you make a mistake along the way, learn from it and get right back at it.

TUKTOYAKTUK HERMAN KAGLIK I was born in the Mackenzie Delta at my granddad’s camp. I grew up in Tuktoyaktuk hunting and fishing.

deck and you stop in and have a coffee. Getting used to that difference is still difficult.

I miss being able to just get up and go out on the land. Here in Whitehorse, you’ve got to drive two or three hours out for that.

I’ve been here six years now. Most of that loneliness for home is gone. My daughter comes down to visit and she brings a dozen or so of the old papers from home. You sit there and spend hours looking at them, reading about things that happened 10 months ago.

But all the modern amenities are here. I think we’ve got six grocery stores now. If you want a coffee, there’s Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. Everything they have down south, we have here. The pay is less here, but everything is more affordable. You can drive south any time. You’re not limited by ferries. You see a lot of people coming through from home, which is good. I miss going out on the land, visiting friends’ cabins and going fishing. Down here when you see people you know, very little is said. You don’t stop and visit. Everything is by appointment. “I’ll come visit you tomorrow at 10.” Up there, you’re going for a drive and you see someone out in their yard or on their

Things happen at home and you’re so far away. Whether it’s a tragedy or your family’s having a hard time, you can’t just jump in your truck and be there in 10 minutes. You knew everybody back home. If there was a light on in the house, you stopped by. You grew into adulthood with every one of them. I miss that part. I tell the younger people to get a trade and then you can do whatever you want. You can sleep all day or go out on the land, but get a trade so you have something to fall back on.



ERIN AGNES GOOSE I’m originally from Ulukhaktok, which used to be called Holman when I lived there. I moved to Yellowknife with my mom when I was eight. I was back and forth between there and Ulukhaktok with my grandmother until I was 16. I also lived in Fort Good Hope, which is where I graduated from high school. I lived in Inuvik and Fort Smith, which is where I went to college. Five years ago I graduated from Aurora College’s environment and natural resources program. I worked for the government in Yellowknife for a few years and then came to Whitehorse to get my degree in environmental science, which I’m in the third year of now. When I was younger, I was always out on the land with my grandmother. She’s the one who basically raised me until I was 15. She has passed on now. She was the main reason I wanted to take this program, because I knew that if I took it then I would spend more time on the land and not in the

office. I also wanted to go back home and I thought this might be a way to get a good job up there doing something I like to do, and make good money. It’s good to see familiar faces here but I think I’d rather live in Yellowknife. Along the way, I’ve had some challenges adjusting to this life, like finding a babysitter for my kids – I have a one-year-old and an eight-year-old – budgeting and finding my way around town. I just want to make a better life for my family. That’s why I want to succeed. I want a better life for myself and I want to be able to go back to my home community. It’s really expensive to go there and I want to bring my kids there. I need to make money for that. I’m also passionate about the environment. Don’t be scared to explore and get out of the community and find your passion. You’re only going to leave for a couple years and then you can go back to your community and work for your people.


I am from Aklavik and have been living in Whitehorse for 10 months. My partner is from Ontario, so moving here makes it more accessible for him to visit home. Plus, there are more opportunities for my son, Wesley. Everything is going quite well for us.

Some challenges I’ve faced along the way were adjusting to the city and a new place, and meeting new people. To be honest, I don’t know what’s next for me. 



LAURA OCEAN MCLEOD I’m from Aklavik and have been living in Whitehorse for two years.

eight hours a day. The business program has been wonderful too.

I graduated from the culinary arts program at Yukon College and am working on my business diploma. I hope to merge these skills and open a café in the future. I want to serve traditional foods and share the culture I grew up with, making dishes that are a blend between traditional and gourmet.

My hardest challenge was moving away from home. I left home at a fairly young age and went from a family-based community where you knew everyone to a place you don’t know anyone. That was tough, but I’ve made a lot of friends here.

Aklavik or Whitehorse would be great to open my own café. We’d serve caribou for sure, and I very much enjoy muskrat. The culinary arts program at Yukon College was outstanding. You make a lot of very close friends because you’re with your classmates

I love Whitehorse. It’s not too big and not too small. I love going out and hiking on the trails. The Yukon is beautiful. I recommend younger people strive to do their best and go to college. It’s an amazing and worthwhile experience, even if it’s just for a year.

TUKTOYAKTUK STARLENE ELIAS I was born in Inuvik and raised in Tuktoyaktuk. I travelled around Canada in my youth but I’ve been settled here for the last 15 years. It’s where I graduated high school, went to college, met my partner and had my kids. It’s home now. Moving to Whitehorse was a drastic change. It was hard to get used to the way of life here. There are all sorts of cultures, and I was one of the few Inuvialuit here at the time. That was a battle I had growing up. I look at it like I’m in the middle. It’s a day’s drive to go home and a day’s drive to go to a big city. I’m happy with that. I’ve been passing sewing and beading down to my daughter. My mom goes home every year for whaling and fish camp. She’s eventually going to start taking my boys if I can let them go. I have a bit of a separation thing with them. I lost my Inuvialuktun language and am disappointed about that, but my daughter and I have been slowly trying to pick it up with books we got from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.

My daughter’s deep into cadets, and it’s a lot easier to be part of that in Whitehorse because she doesn’t have to do a lot of travelling. I can threaten to take her cellphone away but if I threaten not to take her to cadets, that’s the meltdown. Going to school with three children was difficult. I had them all young. I look at it like I did everything backwards. I met my partner in high school and we had children. Then I went back to finish high school, and then I went to college after having another child. Keeping my life in sync with all that has been my biggest challenge. It’s helped to have my partner and family, who’ve been supportive through it all. I currently work as an administrative assistant. By the time I got my first full-time, non-cashier job, I was 30. I regret constantly putting it off. You can keep putting it off and keep struggling, or you can buckle down and just do it. You can’t let life hold you back. As my cousin Hester would say, just do it. I tell my daughter, you’ve seen me struggle. Don’t make my mistakes. She actually asked if she was a mistake. I said no, you were just a surprise.



TREES WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SYDONE OKHEENA I had never been camping where there are trees before, but this spring I got the chance to attend a muskrat-trapping program with Project Jewel, which took place in the bush outside of Inuvik. Camping in the Delta is a little different. There are no muskrats in my home of Ulukhaktok. I struggled in the beginning because I was in a new environment. I was homesick for my parents, but I knew that I would eventually adapt. By the end of the trip, I was able to set my own trap in the muskrat push-ups. I enjoyed the skidoo rides, although I was a little irritated with the willows slapping my face. While we were checking traps one day, I found out one of the lakes had no name, so I asked if I could name it after my Inuinnaqtun name. We named it Negiunak’s Lake. A few days later, when we were checking traps again, two guys were bored so they started building me an igloo, which was so awesome. Sarah and Hank Rogers opened their camp for us and I’m thankful for everything they’ve done. I’m very thankful for Terri Joe and Donna Rogers, who cooked delicious food and fed us every day. Sarah and Hank instantly became family. I call them Nanuk and Daduk now and Terri is my auntie. Family isn’t always from blood. To me, family is people who love you. They always made me laugh, especially at night when the lights were off and we were going to sleep. We would talk about our day and laugh at anything. It was scary at first, but I’m thankful for my time in the Delta and hope to go again next year.

TUK IDOL 2018 Beluga Jamboree Talent Show

Singing and dancing always manage to bring people together in the North, where annual talent shows are a staple at the community jamborees. In front of a packed Kitti Hall for Tuktoyaktuk’s 2018 Beluga Jamboree talent show, participants got two chances to wow the audience with their musical and vocal skills. Whether it was a song in Cree, classic country or an original piece, the crowd lapped it up and cheered on friends and family. After the contestants performed, the Beluga Boys backup band played a special tribute song for the late Adam Emaghok, for whom audience members held up their lighters. At the end of it all, chairs were pushed to the side and the whole room gathered for a celebratory dance, finally unleashing the energy they politely held in their seats during the performances. The jubilation ran deep into the wee hours of the morning.


Brian David Kikoak Noksana Sr.

Chelsey Jacobson Darryl Cockney-Goose

colton GordonRuben

Debbie Gordon-Ruben

Tianna Gordon-Ruben Alex Gordon


Doris Rogers

Terri-Lee Kuptana

Lucy Wolki

Beluga Boys

Irene Jennifer Wolki Thrasher

Henson Nasogaluak

Rebecca Kangegana


12 Days First On The Mate’s Land Log Jim Elias and Chukita Gruben hit the land as a dad-daughter hunting and camping team this spring to live the Inuvialuit life as it was meant to be. It brought the pair into the endless, untamed backyard of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, where ingenuity, perseverance and hard work reign supreme. In the following pages is an account straight from Chukita’s personal journal about the experience, as well as her photos from the trip.

March 31, Day 1: Tuk to Tonimo

April 2, Day 3: Tonimo to Anderson River

Five-hour drive, seen a herd of wild caribou and a flock of chill ptarmigan. Once we reached the cabin, we went to get my dad’s sled and the quart of wood that was nearby. Beautiful country.

Before leaving home in Tonimo, we put the caribou meat away and cut a hindquarter for our trail while in the country with trees. About 120 miles (eight hours) to reach the house at Anderson River. It’s good to be back home, from my other home in Tonimo; along the way we passed Liverpool Bay, Turnabout Point, then went through the portage, reaching the Rufus House and then Schooner-landing Bluffs.

April 1, Day 2: Caribou Hunt Saw caribou right away, east towards Liverpool Bay, but they were too wild so my dad and I let them go. Took another five-hour drive and saw more wild caribou, which we decided to lead and chase, because there were no tame ones on Tuk’s side, compared to Anderson River’s caribou. In total it was a nine-hour day. We went by Campbell Island, got to see the Campbell Island water pingo again, then through the fingers to Dynamite Point. From there, we headed to Fisheries and made our way back to Tonimo, the big roundabout. Along the way, we climbed hills to look for signs of caribou. Saw a lot of tracks heading east but we wanted to hunt in the mainland. It was after the big roundabout and just on our way back to the cabin where we got those wild caribou. During the chase, my tarp and foamy flew off my sled, so I had to go back and lash it up while my dad carried on. I missed the hunt, but my dad got four caribou. We skinned them, then searched for the lone caribou that strayed from the herd. My dad thought he might have wounded it, but turns out all was good, no blood and seen the caribou. She was okay, so we let her go. Was a good, long night.

When we reached Anderson River, the first stop was Jacobson’s Cabin, then Gordon’s Gas, portaging up Husky Ben, had tea there and picked spruce gum, then took another portage through Windy Ben, reaching Adolf Ben (where my future home will be), followed by Big Cabin, West River, Square Ben, Edgar’s cabins and finally making it to the house. A lot of thinking while travelling on the skidoo for hours.

April 3, Day 4: Breaking Trail Before breaking trail, I cut most of a caribou hindquarter, then got ready to check out the trail to my dad’s trapline. My dad had his Tundra and I took his Backcountry skidoo with sled. Very hard going, but it was fun. The best I can describe is it was like surfing the snow. From the house we went to his boat and made a “race track” so the trail can be packed to bring his boat up when he comes back for his next trip. After that, we went uphill, broke trail, very deep snow and at times narrow between the trees. We went up to Buggy Lake, where there are lots of freshwater shrimp. Warning: they eat anything dead and the whole creek bed is thick with shrimp in the


fall, so if you were to dispose of a carcass, you can throw it in Buggy Creek and the flesh remains will be gone in hours. After that, we made our way back towards the Elias home, but made a stop at Link Creek to get wood. Seen Brian, Kurt and Nana Millie’s initials carved on a few trees, and since trees heal themselves with spruce gum, their initials were coated with the medicine. My dad says this is where Uncle Brian used to trap (rest in peace), and he told me a brief story about him and his siblings growing up in the bush, how much work it is to live out on the land, but also how rewarding because all that work enabled them to enjoy the bush life. I wish I had been born at that time, because even though it’s a tough life, it’s the best. I believe hard work is better than an easy life. After axing down six dead trees (and picking some spruce gum as well), we loaded up the sled and headed back to the cabin, where I did house chores (getting snow, melting it on the stove and washing the floors), cooked caribou for supper and finished cutting the rest of that hindquarter. It was a nice day, more thinking done and a good workout.

April 4, Day 5: Full Day of Breaking Trail Yesterday was a teaser making a “highway” to my dad’s trapline. Today is the real deal. It was pretty easy going up until Buggy Lake, where we ended up breaking the trail yesterday, then on from there it was a different story. About five feet of snow using your full body to move the skidoo all the way, never mind towing sleds too.

It was fun and much easier for me, but as for my dad, he did all the hard work. After trying to break trail through land, trees and deep snow with both skidoo and sled, it just didn’t work and we kept getting stuck, due to the soft snow meeting the hard snow drift. My dad decided that he would take his Backcountry without sled and break trail each time through land, which doubled the total mileage and would have taken us to his base camp if it were easy going, but that wasn’t the case. Forty miles from Anderson River cabin, we set up the pop tent. I cooked up some caribou meat and we ate and had tea. Tomorrow we have another 25 miles to go to reach my dad’s base camp, which in total from the house to there is 65 miles and would have taken us five hours, but instead took seven and a half to reach 40 miles. Yup, another day of travels tomorrow. I wonder how long and how far we will go this time?

April 5, Day 6: Arrived at Wind Hills After packing up camp, where we overnighted on the lake, we arrived at my dad’s base camp at Wind Hills. This is where he spent his time trapping from November to January, but left to the bush in October by boat to set up his base camp. I enjoy hearing his stories and better yet getting to see and experience a taste of his livelihood. Our drive from the lake to Wind Hills was much easier going than yesterday, but it was still a workout driving skidoo and pulling sled. Once we reached my dad’s base camp, we noticed wolves or a wolverine had lived in the area and taken some of my dad’s furs, which is not good.

After inspecting the campsite, we then spent three or four hours shovelling out his buried tent home, which thankfully only the main tent pole was bent, so once we dug out his tent and supplies inside, we then cut down a tree to replace the main pole and spent another hour setting up base. After camp got set up, we unloaded our luggage, dried up our gear and I cooked caribou meat again before we called it a night.

April 6, Day 7: Cowboy Boot Lake Bacon and momma’s buns for breakfast before hitting the trail along one out of my dad’s three “day-lines,” which is his trapline. This one led to Cowboy Boot Lake, where we eventually reached to fill up on gas, plus pick up four new boxes of leg-hole traps and 16 old traps, all to have prepared for next year’s trapping season. I learn so much from my dad and really enjoy our conversations. I also observe a lot of his techniques and ask questions. He really is the definition of a father. He gives me strength both mentally and physically, and trips like these with him are always memorable. Anyways, yet again, on the way to our checkpoint, my dad broke trail with the Tundra, while I had his Backcountry skidoo with the green sled. I enjoy riding in this terrain. The hard snowdrifts are like waves complementing the powdered snow. It’s like surfing, as you use your whole body to ride the skidoo. A lot of fun and a deadly workout. That Backcountry with its wide skis sure makes it a lot easier and enjoyable. No one got stuck today as well, thank God.

April 7, Day 8: Last Mission in the Boonies Same morning ritual as the other day: bacon and buns, along with Bev’s book “They Called me Number One.” Such an addicting book, so informative about the facts that took place at residential school, which is growing my passion towards my native people yet again. I am so proud to come from a line of strong Indigenous people and this journey in the bush that I’m on with my dad is grounding my self-identity and giving me the strength to process my life’s endeavours once I go back home to civilization. After breakfast and loading up the green sled, we took off along my dad’s second day-line to spring the un-sprung traps. Breaking trail, we got stuck a few times and I’m glad it was the last day of breaking trail because I am pretty beat from all the body work, especially on the arms and legs. I was quite lazy and eager to get back to reading the book. We travelled about 34 miles round trip and took about four hours to complete the last trapline. From there, my dad cut down a few logs and I chopped them. The days are going by quick, but I try to grab Bev’s book every chance I get.

April 8, Day 9: Back to Anderson River From my dad’s base camp at the trapline, we made it back to the cabin in Anderson River. It was such a beautiful drive. The sun was shining and there was no need to break trail this time, so we didn’t get our outdoor gear wet.


There were animal tracks everywhere: otter, wolverine, marten, foxes, muskox, moose and rabbit. It took us five hours to reach our checkpoint taking our time. Time flies out here. After we reached camp, we dried our boots and mattresses, and then I cooked pork chops and continued Bev’s book. Almost done!

April 9, Day 10: Cabin in the Woods The day was spent around the cabin to skin the 21 marten and two foxes we trapped. I was mainly watching and learning, but I did a marten without help and did an impressive enough job that my dad feels confident that I can start working with his fur now. That made me proud. I finished Bev’s book today and I am ever so grateful I met her and her husband, Bill Wilson, such strong leaders and great advocates. Before and after skinning the fur and my addiction to reading the book, my dad and I’s day was well spent doing work around the cabin: chopping wood, getting water, washing up, doing dishes, cooking pork chops and him working outside on the sleds, getting them ready for our venture tomorrow. It was an absolutely beautiful day today. Spring has definitely arrived. I am so content with this life of mine. This trip was well needed. A lot of decluttering in my mind since I left civilization.

April 10, Day 11: Adolf Ben or Cheeta’s Ben? Spring has sprung and my dad and I are a good team out there in “Anderson River, Nature’s Best.” This was the day I browsed the ol’ 1997 Guest Book created by Eleanor Elias, which filled my heart with pride to call the Elias Tribe my family, because I read many great comments about them and the one-of-a-kind experiences they gave to the guests who came that way. Did you know my daduk Jorgan raised his kids up here and to this day, my dad and daduk live up there full-time hunting and trapping? I am so grateful for my dad and all his knowledge he’s passing down to me. He’s so open minded, funny, hard working, cool and a great teacher. He makes me fearless, he pushes me and it’s very true you get your strength from your father. As we were heading back home, on the first stop we saw a herd of muskox eating on top of the hill. My dad asked if I would like to shoot one. I said yes. It was a success. He let me go and the hunt was on. As the animals started to ditch the eating scene, I shot up the hill, got one and then another one. We then had to climb the steep hill to get the two muskox.

We journeyed off again, but not long after, my dad stops and we both put our guns on our backs because we needed them handy for the fresh wolf tracks on our trail (wolves and animals often walk along skidoo trails). As we went along with our sleds on the lookout, we see the wolves, then quickly unlatched our sleds and zoomed to catch up to them. As we got closer, the wolves split so my dad went after the black one and I went after the grey. We both got them, but during my dad’s chase, he saw another black wolf and went after that one as well… only to see what looked like a wolverine and he decided to go after that one instead. Turns out it was a grizzly bear, so my dad shot him before it ran up the hill and I finished it off, as it was wounded. My dad was proud that I didn’t let the wolf escape and it was a deadly way to end our 12-day expedition all over the country. To top it off, as we were heading back to get our sleds, we bumped into that same second black wolf my dad let go for the grizzly bear and yes, we got that wolf too. That totalled our day’s worth on a hunt (plus skinning time) to two muskox, three wolves and one grizzly bear. Best of all, before it all happened, I kept having the assurance that my dad and I were going to bump into a grey wolf, black wolf and grizzly. The images of the animals kept popping up in my head,

especially the grey wolf, so that made me hope to see a black wolf and even a grizzly as well because the bears just got out of hibernation. Another reason it was a splendid day was because there were so many wolves in the area. After hearing some howling, which lasted in total for at least half an hour (only heard three wolves howl at once), I grabbed the binoculars and scoped out a real version of the National Geographic TV Channel. Got to watch a wolf up the hill in action by its den, howling and walking on top of Adolf Ben, where I intend to build my cabin one day.

April 11, Day 12: Arrived back to Tuk After 12 hours of driving skidoo, I’m finally back home. Was a deadly 12 days, a lot of body work breaking trail and putting away my dad’s trapping gear for the year. I love the life he lives, and he never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday I got my first muskox and wolf; as a team within the two hours at Adolf Ben (my future cabin will be built there, vowed that seven years ago) we caught two muskox, three wolves and a grizzly bear. So needed this trip, a lot of mind decluttering and grounding myself back to my life and goals. Goodnight, buds.





Though the calendar turns new years after Christmas, summers mark the cap on a year for many of us, especially those in school. Whether it’s high school, college or any other achievement, those who have persevered to reach a new plateau in life deserve congratulations. Let the caps fly, the summer fun come and the next journey start soon.



There are so many things about graduation that I could talk about – the preparation, the dress shopping, the anticipation that follows the days and hours before the ceremony. They are all amazing parts of graduation and don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to think that I don’t find them important, because they are. The ceremony is such a valuable part, but it’s not exactly what I considered to be the focal point of graduation. I think graduation is so much more than the tassel being put on the other side and the piece of paper. It represents a new chapter in your life. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but you are shifted from being told what to do, to gaining some independence.You are the one who gets to decide whether or not you want to move forward with your education or go straight into the workforce. You get to explore the world, when only a few months ago you had to ask permission to leave the classroom. The feeling comes with thrills because you finally get to make your own decisions and figure things out on your own, but it’s also scary because you get to make your own decisions and you have to figure things out on your own. Being given more independence is bittersweet because you so want to grasp onto what little childhood you have left, but it also finally means that you have more freedom. There are so many decisions that you have to make on your own and nobody can make them for you. Graduation is a major accomplishment that means you are ready to start making those decisions. Maybe it is scary, but if you don’t start taking steps, you can’t get any closer to where you want to be.






Graduating means that I am making my family proud, especially my mother and ancestors. During my time in school, I discovered that I have many passions. I’m an activist for various things. I love to paint, bead and I deeply care about the animals, the Earth and my culture, which will propel me for my future studies. I’ve been to places I never thought I would go, have met people I didn’t think I would meet. Doing things for the sake of doing them is important. Don’t do an activity for the sole purpose of putting it on a resume. Don’t do an activity because you think it will impress colleges. Do it because you want to do it, because you are passionate about it, because it will enrich you. The classes, teachers and activities I had taught me invaluable lessons about life and myself as a person. As for what’s next, I’m not entirely sure. I could be going to Aurora College for a couple years, an internship in another country or upgrading in Inuvik and then university in January. I do know that I will go to university for biology and become a scientist to study and save whatever animals that are left on this planet. I have big dreams and I hope I will accomplish them all. I’m excited to continue to grow as a person and learn more about myself. Work hard and follow your heart and be you, for you. Quyanainni.





My name is Jessi Pascal, a recent graduate of Aurora College. I graduated high school in Aklavik in 2014 and then applied for the environment and natural resources technology program in Fort Smith, Thebacha Campus for the next school year.


I got accepted right away, meaning that I didn’t have to upgrade my math, biology and English. As a 17-year-old, I felt like this was a great accomplishment. The program is two years of hard studying, field work and being away from home. Fitting in was challenging at first. I am from a small community in the North and my classmates were from Fort Smith or farther south. I felt left out. Alone. But it was just a phase that took time. I also missed my family and friends dearly and doing the everyday things I normally do when I’m back at home. My journey began in August 2014 in Fort Smith. There was a mandatory field camp before hitting the books. I had to travel to Fort Smith in the first week of August. I hadn’t lived south before so I didn’t know what to expect. The first year of college was great. I had family and made lifelong friends. When I went back for my second year, I felt like I wasn’t ready to take on the real world. I missed my family and friends back home very, very much. If you know me, family and friends are the people that keep me on my feet and they encourage me to continue to strive. I love them so. I then re-applied to finish the program in the fall of 2017. I lived in Fort Smith from August to December. I had the opportunity to transfer to the Aurora Campus in Inuvik from January to June. I took it. I wanted to be close to home. Graduating the program opens many more opportunities for me. This graduation year is also important because I graduated Aurora College with my sister. I am extremely proud of her attending classes every day, even with her own little family to take care of. Graduating Aurora College is just a milestone. My short-term goal in the next five years is to work for a while and then attend the University of Victoria to increase my knowledge. I have many interests, including media and politics. I will continue to learn, grow and shoot for the stars.


Congratulations to everyone who has graduated school or hit another milestone in life. Use the same motivation that got you here to take you to the next level.   All of you have individual talents and skills that can contribute to the world.   But remember that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.   No time or reason to rest now.   Good luck!


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Tusaayaksat Magazine – Summer 2018  

Tusaayaksat Magazine – Summer 2018