Joseph Niptanatiak of Kugluktuk is 83 years of age, born at Kingaok near Cambridge Bay and Bay Chimo.

Joseph Niptanatiak, or Niptak as he is commonly known, has worked various jobs in his community, but says his passion lay in passing traditional knowledge on to youth. Rita Pigalak/NNSL photo

Niptak, as he is known, settled in Coppermine as a pre-teen and had never attended school. He looks back at his life and has seen the many changes that has happened with our people, our land and our way of life as Inuit.

“We lived in tents and igloos, we travelled by dog teams, kayaks and on foot, snowmobiles were OK to drive, but they cost money … I still preferred to use my dogs. There were no planes, trucks or snowmobiles, but now there are too many and its noisy,” said Niptak. “We waited months for mail delivery and now people can just go to the post office to check for mail or to send out mail.”

Niptak has worked in various jobs but his passion was teaching the young people the art of making traditional tools, carving and singing the traditional drum dance songs at Brighter Futures.

“We got together as well in peoples homes to drum and dance but that rarely happens anymore,” said Niptak.
He also sat on various committees and boards in the community, such as the Housing Board, District Education Authority and the Youth Justice Committee.

“Our land and our people are changing. Our young people are too much into cell phones and are not going out enough to see the changes that are happening to our land.

“The young people have become lazy, they don’t listen to parents like we did and rely on social assistance rather than finding jobs and rely on parents and grandparents for money,” said Niptak.

“The drugs and alcohol have taken over our children that is why our people are losing the Inuit values and families have become strangers to one another.”

As he sits in his chair looking out the window, Niptak says, “There is nothing I can do but to sit and look out my window thinking about how it was and how happy we were.”

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Rita Pigalak - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Rita Pigalak grew up in Kugluktuk and spent most of her adult life there. Inuinnaqtun is her mother tongue. She now lives in Yellowknife but remains intimately connected with her home community and the...

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