A walk back in time
Arviat men set out to follow uncle's final wish

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

ARVIAT (Apr 01/98) - Bobby Suluk is honoring the last wishes of an uncle who never finished a trek from Churchill to Arviat made a dozen years ago to experience the old Inuit way of travelling.

Suluk and his brother, David Nibgorsi, both of Arviat, will be making the two-day journey April 11. They will be walk the last 37 kilometres of what David Uwingayark and his brother-in-law, Frank Iyiki, started on Feb. 10, 1986.

"I was very close to David -- he lived with us when I was growing up and he taught me a lot of things," said Suluk. "I respect him a lot."

Suluk said it was his mother, Elizabeth Nibgorsi, who told them of Uwingayark's wishes, made shortly before he died after heart surgery December 1991.

"My mother said that David had requested one of his relatives ... to finish off the part he didn't complete," he said. "I feel we should finish what he left."

Uwingayark, then director of traditions for the Inuit Cultural Institute, and Iyiki were picked up by a hunter near the McConnel River, 37 kilometres west of Arviat, 10 days after they left Churchill. Uwingayark was 41 years old at the time.

"According to the diary he (Uwingayark) wrote, he was having problems with his feet," said Suluk. "Because he had been walking for 15 days, there were cuts beginning to show up under his soles."

Suluk, 42, and Nibgorsi, 24, will travel by snowmachine out to McConnel River and walk back to the community, with memories of their uncle's memory in mind.

"He had wanted to experience how and what our ancestors went through when they travelled by foot," said Suluk. "I would also like to experience what our ancestors did before we had dog teams and snowmachines."

Taking the final wish of their uncle seriously, the brothers are determined to finish the journey. Suluk doesn't think they will have much trouble this time.

"I've quit smoking and I've started to walk more in town," said Suluk. "I think we're prepared physically and mentally."

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