Elders share strength
Lives devoted to family, community

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 10/99) - The elders recognized by NWT Commissioner Dan Marion last week may live in different communities, but share a common love for their people.

Edward Ruben, 82, played a major role in Paulatuk's survival.

After its inhabitants moved to Cape Parry in the 1950s to help construct and maintain the Dewline site there, the hamlet was all but deserted. But Ruben led the movement of families back to Paulatuk a decade later and from that time on became a fixture in community politics.

But Ruben built not only a political legacy, but a living one as well through his immediate family and more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than he could count last Thursday.

"If I walk down the street, heads start popping out of door and shouting 'Hi, adadik (grandfather)' to me," he said with a laugh.

His oldest son, James, a hamlet councillor himself, paid tribute to Edward.

"To find a similar person to my dad, you would have to dig about six feet underground," he said. "I mean he has the character of another time. He's not a quitter, he makes everyone feel at home and there were two types of living he gave us, traditional and modern."

Commissioner Marion described Holman's Robert Kuptana as a "young elder" and at age 56 he was among the youngest of the recipients last week.

But like Ruben, Kuptana played his role on the Committee for Original People's Entitlement -- work that had far-reaching results.

"We entrenched our aboriginal rights in the land- claim agreement," said Kuptana, "and the same year the federal government started developing a native claim policy."

But as Transport Minister Vince Steen pointed out at the awards ceremony, the government understands Kuptana's work is far from over.

The commissioner also pointed to Andy Carpenter's contributions to the Inuvialuit Final Agreement as well as his work as founding chairman of the Inuvialuit Game Council and his influence in establishing Ivvavik and Aulavik national parks.

Tuktoyaktuk saw a double award ceremony Friday afternoon -- with both Lucy Cockney and Norman Felix receiving certificates -- and it was here that the emphasis was on community involvement.

Cockney taught at Inuvik's Grollier Hall for 14 years and at Tuk's Mangilaluk school for the past 18. She has served as hamlet councillor and as a board member on the justice, recreation and finance committees and on the district education authority. She's also been active in the Catholic Church.

A retired Public Works employee, Felix and his wife, Mona, had eight children together. A traveller, hunter, drummer and singer, Felix exemplifies the well-rounded Northern character that the commissioner said he wanted to hold up as an example to the younger generations.