Wedding bells a familiar ring
Inuvik woman sees five of 16 children marry

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Apr 10/98) - Martina Cardinal saw her fifth child marry last week but she isn't ready to put her dress away yet -- with 16 kids, she figures she's got a few more to attend.

Cardinal, who was born in Aklavik and now lives in Inuvik, was able to sit in the Tsiigehtchic community hall last Thursday and watch her daughter Sheila dance a wedding jig with new husband Phillip Blake, secure in the knowledge that only a third of her children are married and she is determined to see them all walk down the aisle.

"I've told them all, I'm not passing on until I've seen every one of them married," the 61-year-old said with a twinkle in her eye while a fiddle-and-guitar band played up a storm and most of the small community joined in the family celebration.

Cardinal has eight sons, seven daughters and an adopted son between ages 22 and 40, and last week's wedding was the first time in almost two decades that they had all been in the same room together. The family came from across the North and from as far away as British Columbia to attend the wedding.

"To see all my children out there dancing, it's just the greatest feeling that a mother can have," she said. "It's such an exciting moment."

Having a large family has its advantages: the siblings were able to run the Mackenzie Jamboree in Tsiigehtchic almost single-handedly two weekends ago as daughter Elaine, who is the recreation co-ordinator there, enlisted the sisters and they did not need to round up extra volunteers for the event.

"And we just added another one to the ball team today," the proud mom observed while watching her new son-in-law jig at the community hall.

Cardinal worked as a cook at the Inuvik hospital for many years and still helps out as a volunteer cook in Inuvik for Gwich'in and Inuvialuit here. And the skills she learned cooking for hundreds also came in rather handy at home.

"I wouldn't know how to cook for just four people," she said with a smile.

Those cooking skills still come in handy -- with 32 grandchildren and counting, there is more often than not an appreciative audience for the cookies and cakes she can whip up.

"I can still punch bread dough," she said. "I've never bought a loaf of bread in my life."

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