Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Special Rankin birthday celebration

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (July 20/05) - Eighty-five-year-old Arcene Paniyuk blew out the two numbered candles twice - once for an English rendition of Happy Birthday and again for the Inuktitut.

Rankin Inlet's Arcene Paniyuk, 85, celebrated his birthday July 12 at the Anglican Church. - Brent Reaney/NNSL photo

On a July 12 described by one young party-goer as "the hottest day ever in Rankin," Rankin Inlet's second oldest resident was inside the Anglican church, celebrating.

Sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a navy blue golf shirt, the silver-haired elder chats with friends while taking in the room behind large bi-focal lenses. On a table in front of him are three birthday cakes.

Dozens of friends and relatives sit in chairs against the walls speaking and joking in both English and Inuktitut.

Paniyuk's favourite food is the liver of a seal just after the animal has been cut open and the organ is lying on the ice.

In a territory where men live an average of about 67 years, he laughs when asked through an interpreter if eating the liver is his secret to longevity, and warns against eating too much because of its richness.

The family - seven of whom flew in from Coral Harbour - usually only gets together on his birthday.

People continue to arrive until finding a seat becomes nearly impossible.

Hands are shaken. Smiles are exchanged. Plates and bowls are full of mak tak, stew, and potato salad.

Standing near the door to the party, Vince Lang Sr. remembers back to when he was a boy Coral Harbour and watching Paniyuk traditionally make the runners on a qamutik using a mixture of frozen mud.

Paniyuk says he could do the same thing today with the right materials.

Born on Southampton Island, near the mouth of the Kirchoffer River on July 12 in 1920, Paniyuk's family moved to Rankin in August 1983. He fondly remembers a hunting trip near Nanuavik, outside Coral Harbour, with Siusarnaat, Mike Bruce, Peter Bruce, and Pannuiq.

In a time before quotas, Paniyuk remembers the group bringing home about 18 polar bears, one of which was caught using a rope.

He broke his hip more than two years ago and now must use the wheelchair to get around, something he says is not good for his mind.

He tries to remain positive and prays when unhappy.

Paniyuk would like to tell youth in the community to "not to have any hostility toward others and not to envy others."

He feels today's adults are too interested in talking on the telephone or watching TV instead of communicating face-to-face.

He can not remember being hungry, because he was always fed by members of his community.

Many things have changed since his youth, but with the amount of food at this birthday party, nobody has any fear of starving on this day, either.

- translation by Silu Connelly