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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 15, 2003 - Issue 100


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Elders' stories - Abe Okpik

by Reprinted from an interview with Tusaayaksat. The online edition of Tusaayaksat, the newspaper of the Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie Delta
credits: {credits}

Hello, Abe

Can you tell us a story about when you were growing up?
Yes, I can tell you a story when I was a kid, what I first remember, my parents were staying at Nunaluk for the Winter, just on the other side of Herschel Island, near Alaska. Victor and I, my nephew got to know each other when we kids.

Once I remembered people coming for Christmas. It was at Shingle Point. That's when I first seen Santa Claus. While we were having Church, I been falling asleep, and by a noise, I awoke, and saw a Inuk man with a white face, all white, that's all I saw first, and it was Santa Claus.

When they brought us to the Delta, I didn't remember much. My mother came with me to Sachs Harbour. She went with her daughter, Alex Steffanson, & Little Jim Rogers. Norman Avalik & Herbert Allen was going with the boat, it was the Golden Hind. We spent the winter at Naguluk, at Banks Island, I remember a little bit of it but not all days.

I always seen the people pass by to get supplies from the store Walker Bay. It was the Carpenters, The Raddis, and David Bernhardt. I don't know where they were trapping from, but from there we went back to the Delta, Booth Island with the Boat,

For the Winter?
We never go for the winter, but we were trying to go to Banks Island, but the Ice froze up on them. What I remember, we spent the winter there. The Chicksis, Carpenters, Jim Wolki, the Raddi's, and Kalugak spent the winter out there. I started to see the children that I was to grow up with.

Kalugak is Henry right?
Yes, It was Springtime, a lot of visitors came. The Rubens for one. I think they were staying at Paulatuk already. Simon Kapatuk and them came to see us.

Were they trapping?
I don't remember them trapping that much, they were always away. When spring came everything started to melt. My parents started talking about going to the Delta for the spring. I don't remember going there though. When we started we had two dog teams, one with a mudsled and the other with a toboggan. My Mother and I had four dogs, My Father had five dogs. I remember those people we passed on the way, there was Uluak. They never crossed in the boat in the bluffs near Langdon Bay. We passed Okikpik the first time, but stayed there the second time around. We then traveled by the beach, near the Bluffs. We ran into Baliayak and them. There were the only people that were staying at Horton River, the English name. Long ago it was called Kuuk (River in Inuvialuktun.)

Kuukmik, they used to call Horton River. My dad asked Baliayak which way to go there and he made a map for him to follow, just the three of us traveled. My Mom and I also traveled and once we reached land, we had to make a steep portage to make it to the top, once we got to the top we slid down the other side. I remember those willow trees we went to.

Where is that area?
It was called Harby Bay in English, Once we got there, my Dad already had Ptarmigans. We didn't have much dog food, so my Mom soaked the Ptarmigans in blubber and fed it to the dogs.

We started on our way to the Ocean, with my Dad leading the way. On the way we ran into Louis Kaglik and them.

It was called Midlin Point. Louis was working for the Hudson's Bay there. I saw Joe and Donald Kaglik, we spent a day there and went. On the way we ran into an Inuk lady and her whiteman husband, they had a lot of children of their own. My parents knew them & started talking to them. Jacobson and them was staying at a place at Ipisiruk.

We started traveling again, once we reached the Bay, we traveled in the middle. While we were traveling through the shortcut they made, we saw smoke. People were staying there for the winter, once my parents found out who was staying there, they decided to camp.

In the morning we started again by the edge of the land. There were a lot of Ptarmigans. So they started to hunt for Ptarmigans. We continued traveling, and ran into Jonah Carpenter, Komakpaluk, and them, so we camped a few nights at Nallok. That's the first time for me seeing them people and their children. My Dad asked for a map and we started off again through the trees.

My Mom and I had a mudsled, so we followed an old trail. We stopped to make camp, and I found a lot to know about my Dad, he got a seal while we making camp. I always think of that moment, I always wonder why he got a seal, where there are trees, after that we went through Shinik ,the other side of Husky Lakes.

Komakpaluk told him not to go out when we got to the Ocean. Traveling by the beach, we ran into people jiggling out on the Ocean.

Where, at Husky Lakes?
Around there in the Ocean, it was people from Tuk, Old Adam, Paul Adam & Katigagruk, Kalugak, (Collis Dick) they still go there to jiggle today. That's the first I've seen them people. I was a Kid that time.

After staying there for a while, we started off again. I didn't know where we were going, we were following the old trail. I didn't even know who's trail. Once we reached the trees, It was really high land around there. The next morning, my Dad brought the sled and toboggan up the hill, while my Dad was doing that, my Mom and I picked some berries where the snow had melted. After he brought them up, we started eating.

There was a lot of Ptarmigans around there, after we traveled for a long time, we finally reached the Delta. My Dad had to load the toboggan and mudsled and let them slide down the hill. While my Dad was doing that, my Mom took me to two graves, telling me that was my grandmother and grandfather. (Napoyak and Angasuk) they had markers to where their graves were.

Once we reached the River, there was a boat there, and a tent, but no one there. So we camped there. We found out the camp belonged to Malcolm Mcnabb. He used the camp in the spring and the fall. We started off again, and reached Reindeer Station with some people and white people too. We did not stop there, we passed and made it to Aqulik.

Kaliathluk was there, so was Owen and his father-in-law. I remember then that my Dad started to trap and my Mom snared rabbits. From there we started and reached Alex Steffanson's place, and I recognized the boat, bluenose that he was keeping for us. In the spring, I got sick and don't remember much of that spring. Until late
that summer in Aklavik.

O.K. Where do you live now?
I live at Iqaluit, long ago it was Frobisher Bay. They then changed it to Iqaluit. That is where I am making a living now. I went back there in 1979. But I lived in Spence Bay, at Banks Island. I've been trapping seen I was old enough to take care of myself. I've been in the hospital for four years, I go back and forth now, maybe they'll
put me someplace.

Can you point out where you lived?
My Country is here now, I went over there long ago, This is where I live now. I was working for the government, then after two years, I moved to Yellowknife. From there I went to Spence Bay for another two years. Then I went to Fort Smith, I went to all the Settlements. They all had numbers at that time, and the government wanted me to take the numbers off. I worked on that for two years, there was W.C and Coppermine W.2. and Ugrutuk was W.1. And these were E.1. And around here there was E.2. and E.3. From there we went to E.4. , E.5. , E.6. and E.7. My daughter and son was W.2. There were born at E.2 and E.3. From there we went to E.4. and E.5. And then E.6. And E.7. When they put the numbers on us, we started to get family allowance in the year 1945, Then they took the numbers off in 1969/70 and 1971. I had to take them off. I asked the adults and children what are the names they wanted. They wanted their grandfather and grandmother names.

For two years, I traveled, sometimes there was no planes for about three months. Sometimes I would finally go back, and then have to go again. When Judge Barber wanted me to come for two years. I traveled around. That time we had to make a pipeline. And CBC asked me to work for them for two years. I traveled a lot for them, with one plane only. Sometimes I got tired of flying, today I am tired of traveling. So I went home. Then I was suppose to travel to Yellowknife. When passing Inuvik, I stopped to visit.

Abe, Thank-you
You're Welcome.

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