Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak came to Iglulik on May 7 to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations, including the fire department and search and rescue group.
The dedicated volunteer firefighters and search and search and rescue specialists were not present for the full ceremony, however, because they were called away on urgent matters.
Two missing individuals were successfully located and a fire at the landfill was blowing choking smoke into the community when the wind changed direction.
“We had to put it out so the town wouldn’t smell like the dump,” said firefighter Julius Kappianaq, adding that it took from 5:30 p.m. until midnight to extinguish the burning rubble.
Even though they couldn’t be on hand to accept their awards, the nine members of the fire crew felt honoured, said Kappianaq, who has almost three years experience with the volunteer brigade.
“I was very happy to get the Commissioner’s awards and my firefighters were very proud of themselves after getting the Commissioner’s awards,” he said. “My motivation is to keep everyone safe and for everyone to have a place to stay, to eat and sleep.”
Among the individual award winners was Noah Amaaq, who was hailed for bravery. He risked his own life to help save a mother with a three-month-old child, a seven-year-old boy and a hunter after their qamutik broke through the ice last June, according to the Commissioner’s office.
Also saluted for heroism was Solomon Mikki, who rescued two hunters who were submerged after their boat overturned.
Another lifesaver is Cynthia Alaralak, who earned a Commissioner’s humanitarian award for coming to the aid of a woman.
The Nunavut Arts award went to the prolific Susan Avinngaq, a champion of Inuit culture. That distinction comes with a $5,000 cheque.
Aime Panimera was presented with the Sovereigns medal for volunteers, which came from the Governor General’s office. Panimera has been a local radio host every Saturday morning for more than 10 years.
The community’s Ranger patrol and the Tuukkaq Society, a committee of elders who provide language and cultural guidance, were among the other award recipients.
The Hamlet of Igloolik issued some awards of its own at the ceremony, lauding the efforts of local dog mushers who competed in the recent Nunavut Quest race and hockey players who prevailed at the Qamutik Cup tournament in Arctic Bay.
Close to 75 people attended the ceremony held at the community hall, which was followed by a feast. Deputy mayor Joanna Quassa, who took part in the festivities, said the crowd might have been larger if it wasn’t for a flu outbreak afflicting many residents.