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NNSL Photo/Graphic

Martha Qittusuk, right, with daughter Jenny, 11, live in Sanikiluaq. Martha had not been to Iqaluit since she left school in 1988. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo -

Emotional reunion

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (July 12/04) - The loud shirts and bell bottoms of the 1970s have been replaced by brand-name fleeces, hooded sweatshirts and cargo pants.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Makituk Pingwartuk of Cape Dorset, a supervisor at GREC in 1982, cooked for all the reunion guests at Sylvia Grinnell Park on July 6. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

But the spirit of the hardy Northern students who graced the corridors of Gordon Robertson Educational Centre in Iqaluit between 1970 and 1991 was still evident when 150 former students met for a reunion July 5-9.

"I was good at math and business," said Martha Qittusuk. The soft-spoken single mother of three travelled all the way from Sanikiluaq to attend. "But I never did graduate."

Qittusuk has fond memories of the school, and the old residence where she lived between 1987 and 1988. It "still smells the same," she said.

It was Qittusuk's first time back in Iqaluit since 1988. She brought her oldest daughter, Jenny, 11, along for the reunion.

"It has changed so much," she said. "There are so many houses now."

In all, 32 people attended the reunion from Sanikiluaq. They raised $40,000 to be able to take part.

"We have been planning it for nearly two years," said Lucy Tookalook, also from Sanikiluaq. "Ever since we heard Mary Akpalialuk-Alainga on the radio talking about it."

Mary, along with Okalik Eegeesiak and George Metuq, were the driving forces behind the event during the last two years, holding bingos, flea markets and dances to raise money.

Emotional event

During a Tuesday evening picnic at Sylvia Grinnell Park, Eegeesiak said she felt "tired" but very happy to see all the former students and staff. They came from as far away as Maryland, Northern Quebec, the High Arctic and, of course, that famous crowd from Sanikiluaq.

Events included a welcoming reception, tours of the old school and the city, a surprise auction in the old residence gym, the picnic, outdoor games including Inuit baseball, a class picture day, arts and crafts, and a dinner and a dance.

Tookalook said it was great to see people they hadn't seen in years. Especially former supervisor Makituk Pingwartuk, from Pond Inlet.

"When I saw her I just started crying."

There was a remembrance ceremony at Inuksuk high school for former students and staff who have died.

"There were a lot of people who passed away that I didn't know about," said Tookalook.