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Kugluktuk mourns loss of Jorgen Bolt, consummate on-the-land knowledge holder

Kugluktukmiut are grieving the loss of a man who possessed tremendous knowledge of the land and held enormous respect for its wildlife.

Jorgen Bolt, centre, leaves behind four children, from left, Nuka, Thomas, Shakira and Tannis. He had been battling cancer and died on May 20.
photo courtesy of the Bolt family

Jorgen Bolt died on May 20 at age 59, following a battle with cancer.

Allen Niptanatiak, whose family often visited Bolt and his father, Charlie, at an outpost camp in their younger days, said he will remember Jorgen for “his passion for being out on the land and caring for wildlife.”

“He’d always tell the younger people whenever he could, ‘Harvest what you need only,’ and not to over-harvest,” Niptanatiak recalled. “He wanted (the animals) to be there for the future.”

Jorgen Bolt with a nice catch along the Tree River, his favourite fishing spot. Bolt was a valued member of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.
photo courtesy of the Bolt family

Stanley Carpenter got to know Jorgen as a fellow hunting and fishing guide in the late 1980s.

“We’ve been like brothers ever since then,” Carpenter said. “We travelled all over Nunavut, even from Nunavut to the NWT a few times… his land skills were awesome. He’d take you anywhere on the tundra that you wanted to go.”

Carpenter remembered when Jorgen led him by snowmobile into the NWT for the first time. He said Jorgen projected confidence and put him at ease.

“He said, ‘I’ll take care of you, Stanley. Follow me. I know the place pretty good,’” he recalled. “A few times we went out muskox guiding with sports hunters and he taught me quite a bit from when he grew up with his father, I guess. I’d just follow along and he’d teach me pretty good.

“He was definitely a gentleman of Kugluktuk,” he said.

Peter Taptuna knew Jorgen for most of his life.

“His parents and my parents were fairly close,” he recalled.

Jorgen contributed greatly to a number of traditional knowledge projects such as the oral history of place names and various wildlife studies, said Taptuna.

“(Jorgen) was always a sincere person when it comes to wildlife,” he said.

It was Taptuna, while Premier, who nominated Jorgen as a member of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. The board accepted him in February 2017 and, in a Facebook post, expressed its admiration of his personality, vibrant smile and positive energy, in addition to his mastery as a hunter, trapper and guide.

“Never missing an opportunity to teach about the nuances of Northern wildlife, he often told gripping tales about his time on the land and his intimate knowledge of migration, life-cycles and sustainability,” the NWMB wrote on social media.

Niptanatiak added that Jorgen, a father of four, “loved sharing and passing on his knowledge.”

Speaking to Nunavut News in January 2018 about his iglu-building instruction to high school students, Jorgen said, “I like when kids’ eyes light up when they learn something new, especially with our tradition.”

He reflected his own trips on the land, starting around age eight or nine, and learning survival skills from his father: navigating by the moon and stars, hunting, and building shelters.

“You have to be able to provide shelter for your family,” he said in 2018. “If you can’t do it, you’re not going to be able to survive in the cold winter… That’s just the way a young man was supposed to be brought up. He was supposed to be able to build an iglu and be able to hunt.”

The late Jorgen Bolt of Kugluktuk hauls caribou antlers during one of his sport-hunting trips at Contwoyto Lake. He was a guide for various outfitters throughout the Kitikmeot for many years.
photo courtesy of the Bolt family