Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
September 23, 2000 - Issue 19

Ship's Visit Brings Back Memories

Photo-Relatives of the Panipakoocho family in Iqaluit.-courtesy of St.RochII

IQALUIT, NUNAVUT - The St. Roch II made an emotional stop in Iqaluit on its re-enactment of the historic journey of the first ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.

The ship -- the 20-metre aluminum hulled 'Nadon' -- pulled in to the Bay last Friday evening, and received a warm, and sometimes poignant, welcome from the community.

In 1940 a 104-foot schooner called St. Roch left Vancouver on a secret military mission to demonstrate Canada's sovereignty over the north.

St. Roch became the first ship to traverse the northwest passage from west to east and the first to sail around North America. It was the only ship to have circled the continent in both directions.

The crew was welcomed by the students of Joamie school, who sang songs and danced. Reknowned artist Annie Padloo, one of the Inuit on board the original ship, gave Captain Sergent Ken Burton the portrait of the original St. Roch's captain, Sgt. Henry Larsen.

Burton says the original St. Roch crew, sent north to establish Canadian sovereignty, built close ties with the people there. "They became friends and got to know the Inuit and their culture, and developed a respect for them," he says. "Indeed they would not have been successful if not for the people of the north."

But the memories were harder for one elder at the weekend's ceremonies. Rita Nashook was left behind by her parents for three years because the captain thought there were too many children on board.

Watching the St. Roch. II come into the harbour, memories and emotions flooded back as she thought about her parents. "I was happy at first. Then as the ship arrived I felt emotional and cried thinking back at the time I was left behind," she said. "I was very emotional inside but it soon passed and I think from now on I will be happy."

The St. Roch II was escorted by the coast guard ship "Simon Fraser" while it went through the passage. The two ships left Tuesday morning on their way home to Vancouver through the Panama Canal. They hope to be in Vancouver by December after six months circumnavigating North America, a distance of 22,000 nautical miles.

The crew hopes to raise $3 million while they are on this trip. The money will be used to do restorations to the original St. Roch which is in the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

St. Roch II Voyage of Rediscovery



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