It’s a long way from playing ball hockey on the streets of Arviat to being president of a regional development corporation, but that’s been the incredible journey for Gleason Uppahuak, 36, who accepted the position of president of the Kivalliq Development Corp. this past September.
Uppahuak’s outstanding work ethic and belief in education as a key to success began to manifest itself early in the young man’s life, and he found himself working in a local accounting department almost immediately after earning his high school diploma.
Never someone to be content with the status quo, Uppahuak always looked for ways to improve whatever he was involved in, and that included his love for the local hockey scene.
His efforts in helping to develop both the local and regional hockey scenes during a 15-year period did not go unnoticed, culminating in then Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak presenting him with a Commissioner’s Award for Volunteering in his home community on May 22, 2018.
Uppahuak’s belief in both hard work and continued education proved true when he accepted a position managing a social housing program in Whale Cove after graduating from the accounting and payroll program at Winnipeg’s Herzing College in 2019.
Uppahuak said he was still living and working in Whale Cove about a year later, when a friend forwarded him a job ad posted in Kivalliq News for the president’s position with the Kivalliq Development Corp. — a boarding home that cares for Nunavummiut patients on medical travel for health services in Winnipeg by providing accommodations, transportation, translation services (Inuktitut/English), meals and recreational activities.
He said his desire to always be of service to his fellow Inuit led him to apply for the position.
“The facility has always had these managers, supervisors, directors, but the president’s position is brand new,” said Uppahuak.
“I was overjoyed to be offered this position. I’m all about creating Inuit presence, Inuit working here, speaking in our own language — that’s what they’re seeing now and they love it!
“I’m here to make this a better place to work and that will help create a better experience for our clients, as well.
“There are plans in the works that will have us training Inuit for our available positions. There are lots of people who’ve already told me they’re happy to see me here because it’s becoming a more welcoming place to be.”
Uppahuak said Inuit currently make up about 20 per cent of the staff, but he intends to raise that number to 50 per cent during his first two or three years on the job.
He said both he and his wife, Frances, love Winnipeg and that works out well with him accepting a permanent position and moving back to the city this past September.
“All the necessities, essentials our family needs are only a couple of steps away for us here.
“I’m working closely with our shareholders on a number of plans, some covering the next 10 or 20 years, but what I have on my plan for the first three years are my priorities. They’re a kick start to what I want to accomplish here.
“Yes, it has been quite the journey getting here, but I have always believed education is a key to success.
“And hard work does pay off.”