A team of seven firefighters is on its way to represent Nunavut at the National Aboriginal Firefighters competition in Manitoba after tryouts were held in Rankin Inlet last week.

For five grueling days, 17 firefighters from across the territory competed for a spot on the team, which will consist of five starters, one alternate and a coach.

Michael Siusangnark, centre, from Naujaat, alongside Celestine Amaroalik from Igloolik, left, and Bryan Ukuqtunnuaq from Taloyoak during a break in training. Both Siusangnark and Amaroalik will be representing team Nunavut at the National Aboriginal Firefighters competition in Manitoba this week. Cody Punter/NNSL photo

The event in Manitoba will see the firefighters taking part in relay-race style competitions, with five individuals taking part in each one. The races are intended to test the firefighters strength, agility, smarts and above all their ability to work as a team.

In the end, the firefighters picked their team by voting on a secret ballot. The team will include four firefighters from the Kivalliq including team captain Kyle Lowe and Darren Makkigak from Rankin Inlet, Ramon Kaviok from Arviat and Naujaat’s Michael Siusangnark.

Twenty-year-old Siusangnark is the youngest member of the team. For him, this is a family affair as two of his uncles are also firefighters.

Makkigak has been on the force for parts of the last three years and this was his first time trying out for Team Nunavut.

He has represented Nunavut in other sports and he said it will be an honour to get the chance to do so as a firefighter.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “We’ll be doing our best for team Nunavut.”

Several veterans of the competition turned down the opportunity to attend nationals but came to Rankin Inlet to help impart wisdom on their colleauges.

“I want to try and be a role model and provide inspiration,” said Glen Sutherland, who has been a volunteer firefighter from Kugaaruk for 22 years.

He knows what it takes to make the team. He has tried out eight times in total and was selected to be on Team Nunavut on 2016 and 2017.

He said improving his attitude, cutting back on drinking and working hard were the difference makers in the years he made it.

Sutherland will be unable to compete in this year’s games because he was notified that he’d been hired as Kugaaruk’s fire chief while he was training in Rankin.

However, he said has been happy to pass on advice to the new blood.

“I don’t mind seeing younger people going,” he said.

The National Aboriginal Firefighters competition will take place in Dauphin, Manitoba from Aug. 8 to 12.


Fact File: Team Nunavut for Aboriginal Firefighters National

Kyle Lowe – Team Captain – Rankin Inlet

Celestino Amaroalik – Igloolik

Darren Makkigak – Rankin Inlet

Michael Siusangnark – Naujaat

Pitsiula Michael – Kimmirut

Ramon Kaviok – Arivat

Steven Iqalukjuak – Clyde River

Source: Rankin Inlet Fire Department

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