An Iqaluit woman’s determined quest to find Thor, the dad she never knew

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It is my hope that my story helps Inuit who are trying to find their biological parents.

Iqaluit’s Malaya Rheaume, centre, with her father, Thor, and her half-sister, Myla. Malaya spent years looking for the father she never knew. She finally tracked him down in Vancouver, leading to an emotional meeting.
photo courtesy of Malaya Rheaume

I was born in July 1976 in Iqaluit, then Frobisher Bay. My biological mother had been dating a man who, like many white men during that time, was journeying across the Arctic in search of work. After about a year in the Baffin region, in late 1975, he decided it was time to move on and he left Frobisher Bay for parts unknown. He essentially disappeared.

Shortly after his departure, my mother discovered she was pregnant and the next summer I arrived on the scene. It wasn’t long after I was put up for adoption. My grandmother’s sister took me in at a very young age. I asked her what I should call her since she wasn’t my mother. She replied you can call me Anniyou, meaning sister.

My Anniyou was a wonderful, spiritual woman. She could hunt, fish, and performed what many would consider manly chores. We went to church three times a week. She had me read the Bible in Inutituk. This helped me keep my language alive, which I cherish today.

In many ways, Anniyou saved my life since quite often while growing up I had the feeling I was alone and abandoned. She always braided my hair and instilled responsibility and a strong work ethic. Emotional words were rarely spoken, and, after her passing several years ago, I always wished I had told her how much I love her and how grateful I am for her putting me on a good path in life.

Eventually I married and moved to Yellowknife, raising three beautiful children there. After several years my husband and I drifted apart and I ended up moving to Ottawa.

For my whole life I’ve wondered who is my father? My biological mother, who lives in Ottawa, only knew his first name was Thor. I was told he had long brown hair and a beard. I knew he worked at the power corporation. Despite all my efforts I simply couldn’t find my superhero dad.

Finally my new fiance and I decided to get our DNA tested through Ancestry DNA to see what it revealed. After getting results several weeks later, we decided to send out emails to all my white connections, telling a brief story about me and who I was looking for. For a couple of months there was nothing. Then a second cousin from Minneapolis, Minnesota, eventually led us to a new name. We immediately searched for it and my fiance yelled, “We got him!”

Thor was living in Vancouver.

I found his Facebook page, which brought me to tears when I saw he posted an old photo of him from his younger days. My fiance also found him on LinkedIn, where it said he was a retired construction worker.

I sent him an email on Facebook but no response. My fiance connected with him on LinkedIn and said he heard of a Thor who once worked in the North – was it you, by chance?

He responded, “Yes, and here is my phone number. Give me a call it would be great to reminisce.”

I can’t lie, at this point I was jumping up and down screaming, “Call him! Call him!”

We called the number, and he answered. My fiance and Thor made small talk about people in the North and Thor even confirmed some names of people he knew, one of them being my uncle that he lived with for a time. This was definitely him.

Finally my spouse said, “I need to be honest this isn’t the real reason I called. Are you sitting down?” There was a delayed “Yes.”

My fiance said, “I want to first assure you we want nothing from you. You need to know that over 40 years ago when you were dating a woman in Frobisher Bay, you left the North not knowing she was pregnant. You have a daughter who has been looking for you all her life.”

“WHAT?” was the response.

“We found you through your first cousin, Eddie, who we discovered after DNA testing.”

“Yes, I have a cousin Eddie.”

“Your daughter’s name is Malaya. Would you like to speak with her?”

Immediately he said, “Yes.”

I can’t express how I felt hearing my father’s voice for the first time. That cloud over me all my life was lifted. It’s so hard to put into words. We were both very emotional and I asked if we could meet some day. He said, “The sooner the better. I can’t wait to meet you.”

He also said, “You have two half-sisters. Your name is Malaya and one sister is named Myla.”

So weird!

For the next several weeks we texted and chatted every day. Myla also got in touch after Thor told her she is no longer the oldest daughter.

Finally, in March of this year, we flew to Vancouver and there he was waiting for us at the airport. Tears flowed as we hugged for the first time. ‘It’s really Thor, my dad.’

We spent the entire weekend with my new family, and after 30 minutes all the awkwardness was gone. Moments in time I will never forget. Many have asked me to share my story for others to read.

So, I’m sharing this this for all those who are looking for a loved one or parent. There is always hope, don’t give up. Feel free to reach out if we can be of any help in your search.