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Friends for life

Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 15/04) - Ellen Oogak and Marie Nimiqtaqtuq, Celida Gee and Annie Eleheetook, and Mike Narygak and Percy Iquallaq know friendship is more precious and vital in a remote community.

These stories show that they know getting along and knowing how to be a best friend is not just a nice thing, it's a matter of survival.

You know that type of uncontrollable laughter that starts over something really small, then grows until both people are just about rolling around on the floor clutching their stomachs?

That is the kind of laughter that Ellen Oogak and Marie Nimiqtaqtuq share whenever they start talking about why they became friends.

"I liked her right away," said Oogak, 14. "She was funny. She makes me laugh."

Oogak handed the phone to Nimiqtaqtuq who said that Ellen is a good friend because they get along. Sure there are times when they could get jealous of one another. But they don't.

"She makes me happy every day," said Nimiqtaqtuq.

The two met while playing a game of tag two years ago. They now consider each other best friends, and would rather not think about a world without one another.

As long as there's volleyball

Gjoa Haven is a town in the Kitikmeot of 1,000 people.

Ninety-six per cent of the population is Inuit.

When young people aren't in school they have to be creative about how they spend their time.

There is no movie theatre. No bowling alley.

But there is volleyball.

Oogak and Nimiqtaqtuq think they will always stay together because of the game.

The teamwork -- without any harsh physical contact -- is appealing. Celida Gee, 16, and Annie Eleheetook, 17, understand this. Volleyball plays an important role in their lives, too.

Gee and Eleheetook have been best friends for two years. Gee says she likes Eleheetook because "she keeps secrets, and is there when I need her."

If it weren't for volleyball, they may never have met. Eleheetook was heading to the gym one day for a game and saw Gee hanging out by herself.

Eleheetook asked Gee if she would like to come along. Although she wasn't a volleyball player, Gee accepted the invitation.

They have been best friends ever since.

"We had something in common after that," Eleheetook said.

Since then, volleyball have taken them to games in Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Taloyoak, Kugaaruk, Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake.

"I think we're always going to be friends," said Eleheetook.

"I know that when we have problems, a best friend helps keep things straight."

It's good to have friends

Percy Iquallaq, 13, and Mike Narygak, 12, are best friends, too. They added Peter Ullulaq into their friendship a couple of weeks ago.

"It's good to have a friend," said Narygak. "It's fun."

Iquallaq and Narygak have been best friends for a year. They wouldn't trade their friendship for the world.

They met at "Aunt Ruby's" house, they both recall.

Both are related to Auntie Ruby, although neither is exactly sure how.

Again, they share common interests: X-Box, especially the NHL game and another called SWAT.

They play against each other constantly. But because they are best friends, they don't get angry over who wins.

"Mike is kinda fun," said Iquallaq. "But he bothers me a lot, too, like when he starts throwing snowballs at me."

Don't think these kids are computer/X-Box nerds to the point of never going outside. Sure it's -40 in the Gjoa Haven winter season, but they still play outside a lot.

Both boys go hunting with their fathers, and they say they hang out with each other every day.

"Mike is funny," said Iquallaq. "He falls down a lot."

Narygak grabbed the phone to say that he thinks Iquallaq is funny when he falls down outside in the snow.

It seems they both get a kick out of their own brand of slapstick.

They have found a way to make the most annoying part of winter -- falling on your butt in the cold -- another point of bonding.