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Gathering on the Bay

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

REPULSE BAY - More than 100 family members came together in Repulse Bay this past month to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Naujat elder Pujjuut Emmanuel.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Those named after Pujjuut Emmanuel of Repulse Bay - Pujjuut Kusugak, Emmanuel Nanordluk, Marcel Mapsalak with baby Pujjuut, Johnny Kusugak and David Tulugak, from left - gather for a photo during a family reunion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pujjuut's death in Naujat this past month. - photo courtesy of Mike Shouldice

Among the generations of relatives to attend the event were members of the Kusugak, Tulugak, Mapsalak, Nanordluk, Kaunak, Tinashlu and Manitok families.

Rankin Inlet Mayor Lorne Kusugak said the original idea for the reunion came up while he and Steve Mapsalak were shooting a game of pool at his home in Rankin about 18 months ago.

"It was shortly after my mom and Steve's father had both passed away," said Kusugak.

"We started talking about planning a reunion for sometime in the future.

"Then, during a hunting trip, I told my brother, Cyril, I was thinking of doing a Pujjuut family reunion from my mother's parents' side.

"It grew wings and took off from there, to the point where everything came together much quicker than I could have ever expected."

Kusugak said the reunion spread throughout the family by word of mouth.

He said after Cyril and Elizabeth (Kusugak) moved to Repulse, they kept encouraging it to happen and the 50th anniversary of Pujjuut's death became the focal point.

"This was not easy to organize because our family has grown to be so big.

"We have family in Rankin, Repulse, Chesterfield Inlet and almost all points in between.

"That's why we had planned to organize it over a longer period of time, but it all came together very well."

Ice conditions prevented the family from visiting White Island and areas where their ancestors grew up and spent much of the season on the land outside of Repulse.

While that was disappointing for some family members, it didn't take away from the special feeling that enveloped everyone during their time together.

Elizabeth said while there could have been twice as many people there were it not for bad weather and some sickness in the family, those who made it to Naujat really enjoyed the event.

"A free square dance was held and I'm sure close to the whole town showed up for that," said Kusugak.

"When the sun finally came out for awhile, everyone got to go down on the shore and watch the narwhal hunters right in front of them."

The gathering was extra special for Pujjuut's four surviving children, Jacqueline Tulugak, Alexina Nanordluk, Charlie Tinashlu and Paul Manitok.

Elizabeth said when the families visited Pujjuut's gravesite, his oldest living son, Charlie, addressed the crowd.

She said nobody can repeat what Charlie said because he spoke about things he had held inside for many, many years.

"He let it all out, like a healing session for him.

"The two sisters (Jacqueline and Alexina) also spoke and talked of things they had never told anyone before.

"It was emotional, yes, but in a very good way."

Elizabeth said no one at the event worried about how much it cost them to attend.

She said all everyone cared about was that they were making the oldest living son's dream come true.

"Charlie had dreamed about this happening for quite some time, so this made him very, very happy.

"He went on the radio to thank everyone for making this happen."