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Baker Lake Ranger meets Obama
Lu-Ann Saumik shook the president's hand and met with other dignitaries during a recent trip to Ottawa as a representative for the Junior Rangers

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Junior Canadian Ranger from Whale Cove got to shake hands with American President Barack Obama during a recent trip to Ottawa.

Eighteen-year-old Lu-Ann Saumik was selected to represent Nunavut as part of a youth delegation sent to the North Americas Leaders' Summit, where Obama gave his historic speech to parliament.

As he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made their way into the streets afterwards, Saumik was lined up with other members of the delegation.

"He was talking to Justin Trudeau and he came down the stairs," said Saumik.

"They were coming down and waving their hands and they were shaking our hands," she said.

Although she wasn't able to shake Trudeau's hand she reached out for Obama at just the right time. Speaking from her home in Whale Cove the following week Saumik was still trying to digest the reality of what had happened.

"I was way too happy that day so everything is kind of blurry," she said.

"It feels unbelievable."

In addition to shaking Obama's hand, she also got the chance to meet with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Assembly of First Nations chief Perry Bellegarde and Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, whom she had a brief conversation with.

"It was good to meet the president of ITK because in social studies we talk about him and what's happening in Nunavut" she said.

The thought of shaking of hands with the President of the United States was the furthest thing from when Saumik mind last fall when she signed up for the Junior Rangers. She said she had been motivated to join because there isn't much to do in her community.

"I don't like doing nothing. I'm a young leader I guess," she said.

In June she took off to take part in a Junior Ranger retreat with 13 of her peers from Whale Cove the end of June. Everything was going along smoothly until a couple days before the camp ended, when her platoon commander asked Saumik and a fellow ranger from Iqaluit to come see him.

"We thought we were going to get into deep trouble for some reason," she said.

But instead of scolding them, he said one of the two girls would be going to Ottawa as part of a delegation.

"From there we were so happy. We couldn't stop smiling and we started jumping and screaming." she said.

"But we didn't want to compete for the position because we're friends in the same platoon."

But then she saw the decision was made for her.

"If she went it would be OK with me but I got picked to go," she said.

After getting permission from her parents and signing some forms she was set to go. She was then partnered up with Silauqi Ashevak a ranger from Cape Dorset who would be her guardian for the trip. Although she was nervous about making the trip to Ottawa she said Ashevak helped her.

"We didn't know each other until the trip happened and then we got so close," she said.

"I even told her that it already feels like family between me and her."

On top of rubbing elbows with politicians, Saumik got to visit museums, go on a boat tour on the Ottawa River and go to shopping malls.

Other than meeting Obama, she said the highlight of the trip was getting to watch the Canada Day parade.

"It was good to see the parade because they did it perfectly. I want us to be like that but it takes practice," she said.

She also got to meet lots of other youth her age, and she bonded with them immediately.

While shaking the hands of America's first black president is something she won't soon forget, it is the friends she has made, both during her trip to Ottawa and in Whitehorse that she values most.

"I know they know that we're going to keep in touch and that we're going to be friends forever"

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