Jonathan Hiqiniq has lived to see 100 years, and he can’t believe it himself, his youngest daughter says.
“He used to tell us that he thought he’d never come to 100 years old,” says Susie Hiqiniq. “He’s so amazed today that he’s still around.”
Jonathan has close to 80 grandchildren, Susie estimates. He also has great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren.
He and his wife Martha, who passed away two years ago, had 13 children of their own. Seven of them are still alive.
Jonathan was raised on the land and came to Gjoa Haven when there was “just a little store and a couple of houses,” says Bernice Tavalok, Jonathan’s granddaughter.
Susie remembers being a young girl and watching him go off to work as a water, sewage and garbage truck driver for the growing hamlet and then coming home at the end of his shift. Most weekends he would take the family out on the land, she recalls.
Sometimes, as the weekend wound down, he would leave them at the family camp and he would return to town by himself to fulfill his work obligations. Then he’d come back to join his wife and children once again.
He was fond of storytelling, Susie says.
“Once he told us that while you’re growing up, you guys always have to listen to your parents and grandparents, what they say. That’s when you’ll have a long life,” she says.
She also remembers him teaching her how to raise dogs as he had a team to supervise.
“I learned a lot from my dad growing up,” she says.
Bernice recalls Jonathan telling her how to travel in the winter among the snow drifts, how to make a shelter with a snow knife and where to watch for strong currents.
Jonathan also served as an Anglican minister in Gjoa Haven for many years, until his vision deteriorated and he was no longer able to read, says Susie.
Today, he resides in a four-bedroom house surrounded by family members, other relatives coming and going throughout the day.
“He’s been telling us that he wants to watch his grandchildren and his daughters and sons. He says it’s better to be in his home,” Susie says. “He has a lot of support… he’s happy watching his family.”
Bernice says, “He’s a strong man. He’s still trying to do stuff on his own today.”
He still walks on his own and carries on a conversation in Inuktitut, she adds.
There were two celebrations held in Hiqiniq’s honour recently. His family gathered at his home on his July 27th birthday. They indulged in a small feast and played party games. He was given lots of gifts.
“We know he doesn’t go out hunting anymore so we give him cups, water bottles, teapot, socks, sweaters, slippers,” Susie says. “Everybody had a fun time. It was nice to see a lot of people.”
Then on July 29, a function was held at the community hall that included a traditional drum dance. Close to 60 people showed up, says Bernice.
“He really enjoyed that,” Susie says.