December 15, 2000

Kivalliq residents lauded for courage

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Two courageous Nunavut residents were honoured by Canada’s Governor General in Ottawa last week.

Moses Aliyak of Rankin Inlet and the late Hattie Amitnak of Baker Lake each received the Medal of Bravery from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson at a Dec. 8 ceremony.

The two were chosen for the honour after trying to protect their family from an attacking polar bear in the Kivalliq last year.

In the July 1999 incident, the two had been camping with their family on Hudson Bay south of Rankin Inlet. Aliyak and his 12-year-old grandson were trying to retrieve a boat when they were approached by a two-metre-long bear.

Aliyak tried to distract the bear by throwing rocks and shouting at it. As the boy escaped back to the family’s tent, the bear charged and mauled Aliyak, severely lacerating his head and face.

The 60-year-old Amitnak and her 10-year-old grandson then rushed out of the tent to Aliyak’s defense. Aliyak was able to escape, but the bear attacked and wounded the grandson and then mauled Amitnak to death.

Aliyak and the injured boy were airlifted to the hospital and recovered from their injuries.

At last week’s ceremony, Amitnak’s sister, Nancy Hart, was present to accept the award.

Due to poor weather in Rankin Inlet, Aliyak was unable to attend the event. He will be able to receive his award at another ceremony later in the winter.

Aliyak and Amitnak were among 46 Canadians awarded the Medal of Bravery this year.