A Baker Lake youth who never gave up on success and happiness through a sometimes challenging childhood in Nunavut’s foster system is passing on his inspiring message to others.
Barney (Kudjaaq) Nanooklook, 20, addressed a crowd of students during the closing ceremonies of Trades Awareness, Skills and Knowledge (TASK) week in Baker Lake earlier this month to ask them to never stop following their dreams.
“I always thought when I was younger that I’d probably never have a good-paying job, but nowadays I realize it’s out there if you really want it,” he said. “Now I have a good job at the mine and I want to learn to do other things there too.”
“The students reaction to my talk was priceless,” he said. “They were happy to see me and have me speak in front of them and all the instructors and teachers.”
Nanooklook said he is extremely happy as an Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) employee at the Meadowbank gold mine and is living proof that good things happen to people who don’t give up.
According to documents provided by Agnico Eagle, Inuit workers made up 35 per cent of the Meadowbank mine’s workforce in 2014 and 60 per cent of those employees came from Baker Lake. The open-pit gold mine is about 110 kilometres north of the community.
Nanooklook said tremendous opportunities exist in Baker right now and students nearing the completion of high school should be doing everything they can to take advantage of them.
He described tough times growing up in foster care.
“I can barely remember a lot about my past up to today, because I am so, so happy right now, but I would say my time in the foster system was good, with some challenges I had to overcome,” he said. “But I had some very good times with my family also… going out on the land with family in my younger days to go hunting and fishing, and learning about the land.”
He spoke to the students about his efforts to complete high school.
“After that I got a job offer from AEM at Meadowbank and I’m still smiling as I’m working in housekeeping at the mine,” he said.
Nanooklook said he always enjoyed learning new things from his teachers and didn’t mind doing lots of homework during his years in school.
Nanooklook said he became interested in Meadowbank when numerous people he asked described it as a very good place to work.
He said some people even described their job duties to him and, after that, he decided to apply with AEM.
“I like my job very much and I like the company too, so I wanted to speak to the students because I want them to make sure they’re on the right track, not getting themselves depressed or thinking negative thoughts, and knowing that there are good opportunities out there,” he said. “I spoke to them about my job – what I do and how it is – and told them they could have a job at the mine, too, if they apply themselves.”