Rankin elder perishes while hunting
Lucien Taparti found in his komatik

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 17/97) -Gospel music filled the Rankin Inlet's radio waves last Wednesday as searchers from Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet began looking for lost elder Lucien Taparti.

Later that day his body was discovered in his komatik, covered in a skin and tarp, about 17 kilometres from Rankin.

Harry Towtongie, a member of the search and rescue team, said when they found Taparti his snowmobile was shut off.

"It's hard to tell what happened to him for sure," Towtongie said Thursday.

He and police suspect the 71-year-old died a natural death or succumbed to a long-time illness. Health records show Taparti had no serious conditions but police have sent the body south for an autopsy.

A retired miner and well-liked elder, Taparti was reported missing Monday, March 10.

Taparti and his wife Mary Anne, along with friend Monica Bruce, had been fishing Saturday. But on the way out Taparti saw fresh caribou tracks in the snow and left the women behind to follow the trail.

When he didn't return, both women left the fishing hole, taking a Coleman stove and a few supplies with them on their two-day, 25-kilometre trek home. They were met Monday by a snowmobiler and taken to Whale Cove.

The next morning at around 6 a.m., 25 snowmobiles were dispatched from Whale Cove and Rankin.

By 5 p.m. weather permitted a helicopter to fly directly to the fishing spot. Searchers found Taparti only a few kilometres from where he left the women early Saturday.

According to Towtongie, incidents like these can be avoided. "They're taking off with nothing," he said. "It's frustrating."

Before people go out on the land they should take necessary safety precautions and that means plenty of naphtha, a sleeping bag, a knife and extra food, he said.

"You can't just take off, especially this time of year."