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Nina Manning from Cape Dorset, left, and Lucy Taipana from Kugluktuk had not talked face to face for more than 20 years until the Nunavut Teacher's Conference in Iqaluit. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

Bridging the distance

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 28/05) - There was no denying the joy in Lucy Taipana's eyes after she was reunited with her old friend from teacher's college, Nina Manning, at the Nunavut Teacher's Conference in Iqaluit held Feb. 21-25.

It had been more than 20 years since the two women had seen each other.

But the years melted away as the two educators talked and shared stories about their lives.

"I was hoping to see her," said Taipana who is now the principal of Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik in Kugluktuk.

Manning is now a Grade 7 teacher at Sam Pudlat school in Cape Dorset.

Back in the 1980s, the two women decided they wanted to attend teacher's college, and made the trek from their home communities to Iqaluit.

It was called the Eastern Arctic Teacher Training Program then, now it's known as the Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP).

It is a big deal in the North to have Inuit in important teaching positions in the schools, and it was even a bigger deal back when they were attending school.

"It was tough," said Manning. "We were raising our kids, too."

Parallel lives

The two women both had two boys. And they both graduated from the often-gruelling teaching program to go on to teaching jobs in the North.

But that was what pulled the two friends apart in the end.

Taipana went back to Kugluktuk in the Kitikmeot, and Manning stayed on Baffin Island in Cape Dorset.

"I always wondered about her," said Taipana.

Manning said she thought about Taipana, too, during all those years, but between raising their families, their teaching jobs, and the geographic reality of Nunavut and the cost of flying around, there was no way the two women could meet up. That is until the recent Nunavut Teacher's Conference in Iqaluit.

Renewed bond

The conference gave many of the 550 educators from Kugluktuk to Grise Fiord to Sanikiluaq a chance to finally meet people they only ever talked to through email or over the phone.

During the conference, Taipana and Manning took the same seal skin kamiik making course together, and really enjoyed it.

"Anything traditional, I enjoy very much," Taipana said.

Taipana and Manning have now promised each other they will stay in touch, and never let the distance overwhelm the friendship they formed 21 years ago over books and dreams of one day becoming teachers.