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Nunavut’s first baby gives birth

Mona Pitseolak celebrated giving birth to her daughter Tapisa just as the rest of the territory was celebrating the birth of Nunavut April 1, 1999.

Mona recalls her daughter's birth got a lot of attention then, and still does.

Nunavut's first baby Tapisa Pitseolak, born April 1, 1999, celebrates the birth of her son, Parker Richard Arreak, with the father Trevor Arreak.
photo courtesy Tapisa Pitseolak

"Everybody was looking forward to Nunavut Day," said Mona, adding she had to be medevaced to Iqaluit March 29.

Celebrations took place at the baseball field in Pond Inlet.

"They were celebrating, and congratulating my parents. I really thought I was going to celebrate there myself, but then I ended up celebrating it with my daughter."

Now, Tapisa, almost 19, has given birth to her first child and Mona's first grandchild – Parker Richard Arreak.

"I'm just really happy," said Mona, adding she's happy to share this moment with fellow Nunavummiut.

Tapisa recalls when she knew she was born at the same time as the territory.

"I was eight years old," she said, swaying in her chair with Parker snuggled in her amauti.

She also recalls being in newspapers when she was nine, and the attention sometimes made her feel different.

"I didn't really know what it meant at the time, I was just a little kid," she said, adding now she feels regular because not many Inuit are serious about it.

But during the first session of Nunavut's third legislative assembly, Premier Eva Aariak thanked the people of Pond Inlet for helping with the countdown to Nunavut's 10th anniversary.

"There was a feast of country foods, with a lot of mattaaq, and a lively square dance. We cut 10 cakes, one for every year since Nunavut’s creation," said Aariak.

"We helped all of the 10-year-olds of Pond Inlet celebrate the year of their birth and we recognized Tapisa Pitseolak, Pond Inlet’s Nunavut Baby, who was born on April 1, 1999."

Tapisa recalls being called Nunavut Girl, and Mona recalls her daughter being called Nunavut Princess. Following the tradition, Parker's father remembers the moment he saw his son's head crowning.

"It was kind of scary to see Nunavut Junior coming out," he said, still giddy from witnessing the birth.

Parker is Tapisa's first child, and her labour proceeded smoothly. She says she had 43 minutes of labour beginning the morning of Feb. 18.

"They said it was pretty quick," Tapisa said.

"It took me all night long with her," said Mona, laughing.

And as far as the symbolic meaning of Tapisa's birth, their child's birth, and the meaning of Nunavut, Tapisa says, "I just think there should be a lot more hunters and more traditional stuff than what we have right now, because a lot of things are changing quickly and our traditions are slowly going away."

Arreak looks at his infant son and says, "Devolutionize Nunavut."

He says devolution should have happened a long time ago, with more training for Inuit people. He notes the low Inuit representation in government and how the goal of 85 per cent Inuit has not been met.

"Nunavut is still young. It still needs lots of training," he said.
He places his hand on his tiny son's head, and says, "The potential of these young ones is great. They have all these opportunities compared to people from the past, like in the '60s. We now can understand the (English) language and talk about the issues."

Baby Parker ended the interview with a long hungry howl. He had more pressing needs to deal with – the future is in his parents' hands for now.

Mona, who hopes to get back home from Nova Scotia soon to see her grandson, remembers the special birth, and she also would like to meet the woman who gave birth around the same time in the Western Arctic.

"I wouldn't mind one day meeting the lady who gave birth in Yellowknife (at the) same time I gave birth to Tapisa. It made it more special when they announced right after I gave birth that there was a lady who just gave birth, as well. I didn't get her name," said Mona.

That woman, according to an old News/North clipping celebrating the two births at an historic moment for the territories, was Tracy Woods.

On the day Nunavut legally became a territory, two babies were born – and now Nunavut's Tapisa Pitseolak, born to Pond Inlet mom Mona, has given birth to her own first baby almost 19 years later.
NNSL photo