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Family searches for the past

Jennifer Geens
Northern News Services

Hall Beach (July 18/05) - Eva Siakuluk and her grandmother Ruth from Hall Beach are on the trail of their family, missing for 60 years.

The pursuit in finding out what happened to Kanguualuk Uisattiuq, Ruth's father, and the rest of her family led the two to Yellowknife where items belonging to Uisattiuq, now part of the government of Nunavut's collection, were on display at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

Eva Siakuluk: is hoping to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her the disappearance of her ancestors.

A helicopter pilot discovered the items in 1979 at an abandoned tent ring along the west coast of Baffin Island, believed to be Uisattiuq's wintering camp. The items, packed in tobacco tins, included toys, tools, jewelry and religious cards.

Last year, News/North reported on Ruth, now 78, and Eva's quest to find out what happened to their family.

During the winter of 1942-43, Uisattiuq, his wife Palluq and their children Qaunnaq, Ukkangut and Qayuktaq were travelling with another family while hunting near Nettilling Lake, on southwest Baffin Island.

When Palluq fell ill, the family stayed behind while their travelling companions went on. The Uisattiuq family was never seen again.

Their fourth child, Ruth Siakuluk, then 16, had just left her parents' camp to marry. She hasn't seen them since.

Among many familiar items at the museum, Ruth recognized a beaded headband and a doll which had belonged to her, and a necklace belonging to her mother.

"She was amazed to see them," said Eva.

"When she started to see that stuff she was telling us how she used to play with her toys, and who made them and how she got them."

Ruth remembered being given pictures and postcards by missionaries, some of which were in the cache. She also explained where the iron qulliq in the cache came from.

"My grandmother told me that when whalers arrived they used to fill qulliq made out of iron," said Eva. "So my grandmother's father bought one, too."

The investigation continues into the 60-year-old disappearance of the family, but so far no new evidence has turned up.

Last year, a request by MLA Tagak Curley spurred the Nunavut government to begin an investigation into the family's disappearance. Because an airplane had been seen in the vicinity when the family disappeared, some believe the family of five was abducted by Russians.

David Akeeagok, deputy minister for Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, said their research should be complete by winter, and a report will be made to the legislature.

So far the investigation has not turned up any evidence of abduction. It's currently on hold as the researcher recovers from an accident.

- with files from Daniel T'seleie