From campfire to competition: Nunavut woman continues the tradition
Kitikmeot Summer Games spur memories for Kugluktuk resident
Special to Nunatsiaq News
CAMBRIDGE BAY — Four-year-old Cynthia “Tia” Nivingalok and her younger sister once sat around the fire and watched as their mother made loaves of bannock and their father caught, filleted and fried a fish for dinner.
This past weekend, almost three decades later, 32-year-old Nivingalok participated in the bannock-making, fish-filleting, goose-plucking and caribou-stew competitions at the 2014 Kitikmeot Summer Games in Cambridge Bay.
“My parents and my grandparents taught me so much when I was growing up,” she said. “And everything I’ve learned from them, I will continue it by passing it on to my children.”
This is the mother-of-three’s first year competing in the summer games, which unfolded over the August long weekend. She was the youngest contestant in her categories.
“I just want to encourage the youth and people my age,” said the Kugluktuk resident. “Come out, have fun and help keep our traditions alive.”
When Nivingalok was growing up, her grandmother would take her to Richardson Lake during spring and summer to teach her the skills she employed on a baseball field in Cambridge Bay, the venue for this year’s annual competition.
“I am dedicating my winnings this weekend for my granny who passed away in June 2009,” she said. “She taught me how to do most of this stuff.”
Nivingalok, who came first-place in the fish-filleting competition with a time of 40.9 seconds, said she not only wants to inspire her children — aged 14, 12 and 10 — she wants to inspire everyone around her.
Competing in these games gave Nivingalok an opportunity to fly for free to Cambridge Bay and connect with family members she’d never met.
“And it’s all because I decided to play in these summer games,” she said. “It’s been so great.”
Spending time with family and exploring the Kitikmeot region are just two of the perks of being a competitor. For Nivingalok it was also an opportunity to share what she’s passionate about.
“We have our own territory, we have our own people. Let’s try and preserve our culture, just like the rest of the world is trying to do with theirs,” she said.
Nivingalok and her children try to live by those words at home in Kugluktuk.
“My [teenage] son was the one who taught me how to make a fire,” she said. “He learned from his dad’s mom and then taught me.”
Beatrice Bernhardt, Nivingalok’s aunt, also attended the games to support her niece.
“I feel very proud. I really hope she keeps up all the cultural ways,” said Bernhardt. “It’s very important, it gives you a sense of identity and confidence.”