Ookookoo Quaraq has never tired of search and rescue training exercises and teaching younger Rangers how to build iglus so they can survive on the land.
He’s been doing it for 54 years.
There were few Nunavut Rangers in 1964 when Quaraq enlisted to help address the need, he says. He was around 20 years old at the time.
Since then, he’s been on multiple patrols to the North Pole.
“He’s very proud of going there three times,” interpreter Christine Ootova says. “He went (one time) on a sunny day and he said it was quite an experience for him.”
The number of exercises has increased, the amount of equipment has grown and the technological advances have been numerous over those 54 years, Quaraq acknowledges.
“He prefers it today,” Ootova says after asking him if patrols are better than in the past. “Sometimes it’s really hard but he still is a Ranger and he enjoys what he does.”
Something else that has changed over the decades is the weather, sometimes making travel by snowmobile and all-terrain vehicles more perilous.
“Climate change has really affected the North. The ice is starting to freeze later than it used to before and it takes longer for the ice to freeze (in the fall) now because of climate change,” says Quaraq. “Now it’s unpredictable. One day it would be clear blue sky and then all of a sudden it will be windy… We used to have endless, beautiful blue sky in Pond Inlet, now it’s cloudier than it used to be.”
Despite the danger, he’s never come close to losing his life on the land, he says. The worst he’s suffered was an injured back when he fell off his snowmobile.
In addition to a Commissioner’s long-service award, Quaraq has earned the Canadian Decoration (4th Clasp), Special Service Medal with Ranger Bar, Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration, according to 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.
How much longer will he serve?
“There were a couple of times that he wanted to retire but he knows so much about the land and survival skills and they need an elder to guide them,” says Ootova. “He wants to continue being a Ranger but he’s not sure how long.”