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NTI elects new president
Aluki Kotierk ran to make Nunavut a better place

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Saturday, December 17, 2016

Aluki Kotierk will be the new president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), after taking 32.15 per cent of votes as of Dec. 13.

NNSL photo/graphic

On Dec. 13, Aluki Kotierk became Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s new president with 32.15 per cent of the vote. Incumbent Cathy Towtongie received 28.66 per cent. - photo courtesy of NTI

Kotierk's first response Tuesday night on learning of her win was an emotional one: she cried.

"I had planned to be in Iglulik, because that's where I'm originally from," she said.

But a blizzard in Kugluktuk meant that community's poll had to close early on Monday, opening again the next day. Kotierk returned to Iqaluit for her youngest son's Christmas concert. She was home when messages began streaming in.

"My siblings were saying through Facebook chat, 'I think the results are up, I think the results are up.' But I was in disbelief."

It was the Iglulik vote that brought tears. Her results were triple the combined results of the other three candidates.

"When I saw the numbers of Iglulik, I just started crying and crying. And I kept thinking of my late grandmother and how proud she would have been and my aunt. It was very emotional."

Kotierk's final tally put her 3.49 per cent ahead of incumbent president Cathy Towtongie.

Joe Adla Kunuk followed with 24.99 per cent and Levinia Brown placed fourth with 14.2 per cent.

Only 31.9 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

"I have a lot of respect for the other candidates," Kotierk said. "I had no idea how much effort it takes to put yourself out there and to feel vulnerable, and hope that some people agree with some of the things you say."

Premier Peter Taptuna released a statement Dec. 15 congratulating Kotierk.

"I look forward to working closely with president Kotierk on Nunavut's priorities to ensure our territory's continued growth and prosperity, as well as working towards Inuit success and education through the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp., which will assist in our common goal towards Inuit employment," Taptuna said.

Makivik president Jobie Tukkiapik sent his congratulations, as well as thanks to Cathy Towtongie for her years as president since 2010.

"Cathy is a devoted and strong leader for Nunavummiut," said Tukkiapik. "Being the NTI president is a demanding job involving many personal sacrifices on the home front. Cathy has consistently and strongly represented the interests of Inuit during her time as NTI president."

The two presidents work together on the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Circumpolar Council board of directors, as well as working together on bilateral issues between NTI and Makivik in Nunavut and Nunavik.

Though this was her first NTI election, Kotierk was the director of Inuit employment and training with the Inuit organization. She took a leave of absence to run for president. Previously she held positions with a few Government of Nunavut departments, the Office of the Language Commissioner and Pauktuutiit.

Kotierk ran for two reasons: it would be a good way to talk about issues she thought were important and she became a grandmother earlier this year.

"I wanted to do my part to leave Nunavut in a better place. I had my first grandchild in May. What is the vision of Nunavut and how can we achieve the vision of Nunavut? And what can I do? What part can I play?" Kotierk said.

Her focus as president will be the four pillars of her campaign platform: Inuit identity, empowerment, collective healing, and language and culture.

She sees "the symptoms of us not being well as a society" and she want to help address those, be they statistics related to high suicide rates or bursts of violence. She says the root cause must be addressed, not each situation one at a time.

"Inuit need to be reminded, we need to remember, that we can dream big and that we don't have to limit ourselves. That we don't have to limit ourselves, that we can have voices. It's good for us to exercise that voice and not feel intimidated in our own homelands."

Though Kotierk says she's had many mentors and many who have inspired her in her life, the greatest inspiration came on the campaign trail.

"I feel so grateful to many communities that I had never been to. So many people were so welcoming, invited me to eat with them or have tea with them and were willing to share some of their concerns or hopes they have for Nunavut. There were so many moment when I thought, "If it ended right now, at this moment, it would have been totally worth it."

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