Nunavut Day is special for Cambridge Bay’s Jamie Taipana.
The holiday, which falls on July 9 each year, commemorates the passing of the Nunavut Act and the official beginnings of the territory as we know it today.
Taipana’s father Simon was one of many Inuit involved in the negotiations that led to that critical moment in history.
“My father was part of a team – a group of people who must be recognized,” he said from the Cambridge Bay hamlet office, where he serves as the assistant chief administrative officer. “It wasn’t just one person who brought Nunavut to fruition.”
Taipana remembers going long stretches without seeing his father, who spent much of his time in Ottawa and communities in the Northwest Territories, doing his part to make Nunavut a reality.
He says it was difficult when his father was travelling – for his whole family – but it helped him appreciate the great sacrifices that led to Nunavut’s inception.
“It was so hard watching my dad be away, but it had to be done,” he said. “We have to recognize the families that were left behind.
“Without their sacrifice, Nunavut wouldn’t be here.”
This year, Taipana plans to teach his eight-year-old daughter about the history of the territory, and ruminate on the things he loves about their home.
“I’ll celebrate by remembering everything that our fathers and uncles and family fought for, and talking to our daughter,” he said. “I just like to remind her of what Nunavut is, and what her grandfather fought for, and to appreciate what they did.
“Nunavut has so much opportunity,” he added. “It’s crucial that we all work together like our uncles, aunts, fathers and mothers did before us.
“I know they’re watching over us and they’re proud of what we’re doing.”
Wearing the colours
Andrea Niptanatiak, a child and youth outreach worker from Kugluktuk, also feels special appreciation for Nunavut Day.
She will be on a work trip in Yellowknife for this year’s celebration, but will be thinking warmly of home on July 9.
“Nunavut Day will be on my mind, of course,” she said. “It’s a day we normally get together and have a barbecue and enjoy each other’s company, but I won’t be there.
“I’ll be missing my family and friends, but I’ll be wearing Nunavut Day colours.”
For Niptanatiak, family and togetherness aren’t just what make Nunavut Day special – it’s what makes the entire territory special.
“What I like about Nunavut is the people – the comfort of people and the comfort of being home,” she said. “Everybody knows each other, and we look out for one another.”
“If we’re just going to the store, we know everybody there, and everybody is happy and smiling and always willing to give a helping hand.”
While Niptanatiak feels there is plenty to love about Nunavut, she admits there are areas where the territory must be improved, pointing specifically to the ongoing housing crisis.
“The one thing that is at the top of the list for me is housing availability,” she said. “I know it’s a lot of work, but it’s something that’s needed for each community. It’s 2023 now, and there are a lot of people that still have eight to 10 people in a two- or three-bedroom home.”
Taipana agrees the housing crisis must be resolved, and also sees addictions as a serious concern in Nunavut.
“We need addiction support for everyone that’s struggles with it,” he said. “That’s a huge one. If we can get support from local governments, the Government of Nunavut, right to the top with the federal government, if we can start working on that, that’s a good first step.
“It’s a hard thing being up here in Nunavut, but if we work together, there’s so much more we can do.”
Nunavut Day will be celebrated in communities across the territory.
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI), the organization that represents Nunavut’s Inuit, will be taking the lead on the festivities.
This year, NTI is organizing celebrations in all of the communities where it has offices: Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit – and it’s funding festivities in the communities where it does not have a physical presence.
The biggest celebration will occur in Iqaluit, where NTI will treat attendees to live music, delicious food and plenty of fun and games.
The land claims organization will also be facilitating in-person and online contests for Nunavut Day, with $97,000 worth of prizes, according to Ivaluarjuk Merritt, NTI’s assistant director of communications.
The contests will be open to all Inuit in Nunavut, and include a kids colouring contest, a creative arts challenge, a home-cook challenge and a decorating contest that allows participants to decorate any physical space of their choosing. The specifics of the contests can be found on NTI’s Facebook page.
The organization will also facilitate draws across the territory, with snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and hunting equipment up for grabs. The winners of those draws will be announced on Nunavut Day.