Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic June 11, 2012 - 9:00 am

Three Inuit among NAHO’s last batch of aboriginal role models

Jesse Apsaktaun, Dina Koonoo and David Dupuis are among the 2012 role models

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: Jesse Apsaktaun, 28, of Kugaaruk. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: Jesse Apsaktaun, 28, of Kugaaruk. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: Dina Koonoo, 17, of Pond Inlet. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: Dina Koonoo, 17, of Pond Inlet. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: David Dupuis, 21, of Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)
2012 Aboriginal Role Model: David Dupuis, 21, of Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAHO)

Hard worker, motivated, honest: that’s how the National Aboriginal Health Organization describes the 2012 aboriginal role model, Jesse Apsaktaun, 28, of Kugaaruk.

Born and raised in Kugaaruk, Apsaktaun graduated from the Nunavut Teacher Education Program, and, according to a NAHO biography,  “has not let anything hold him back.”

Apsaktaun, who now works as an adult educator at Nunavut Arctic College, also finds time to sit on committees for various cultural activities, such as teaching people how to build kayaks.

And Apsaktaun volunteers as a minor hockey coach, serves as chairman of the youth committee and “takes his role as husband and father to heart,” NAHO says.

A fluent speaker of Inuktitut, Apsaktaun is “a strong advocate for Inuit languages and takes the time to teach those who want to learn,” working closely with elders and youth.

“I like new things in life and the challenges in life educate you and help accomplish your goals,” Apsaktaun said.

Dancer, singer, leader Dina Koonoo, 17, of Pond Inlet joins Apsaktaun as a 2012 role model.

Koonoo, who graduated from Nasivvik High School in 2012, attends Dalhousie University, where she’s working on a Bachelor of Science degree.

“In life we all have to be kind and listen to our elders, our parents and be strong and helpful for our communities. Just find your true self and anything is possible,”  said Koonoo, a strong student who has won numerous academic awards.

Passionate about hip-hop break dancing, throat-singing and drum dancing, she combined Inuit traditions with hip-hop in two youth dance programs she organized in Pond Inlet.

David Dupuis, 21, of Kuujjuaq, described by NAHO as “dedicated, athletic, [and] outgoing,” started playing hockey when he was three years old.

In 2003, Dupuis’s parents relocated the family to Pointe Claire, where David continued to study and play hockey.

Dupuis, now enrolled in the management and business degree program at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, balances the life of a college student and NCAA-level hockey player.

Dupuis, who speaks Inuktitut, French and English, enjoys hunting, fishing and hiking and has always maintained a smoke-free, alcohol-free, drug-free and substance-free lifestyle, NAHO says.

Dupuis’s message: “Live without regrets and accomplish your goals.”

Dupuis, Koonoo and Apsaktaun are among the last young Inuit, Métis and First Nations to be nominated by their peers and then named by NAHO as role models for their achievements, leadership, and innovation.

On June 29, NAHO shuts down after learning in April that Health Canada wouldn’t renew its $5-million budget.

The NAHO website will remain static, NAHO said June 11, but will be available to community members, healthcare practitioners, government, scholars and the public for five years beyond NAHO’s closing date. NAHO’s YouTube and SlideShare accounts will also remain available.

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