Special constables to get RCMP gravestones
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 4, 2008
Like all RCMP members who have died, Jimmy Nahogaloak, John Tologanak and Andre Evaglok will receive special gravestones to recognize their service.
The search began in 2006 when former special constable Jonny Lyall told Keith Peterson, MLA for Cambridge Bay, about four deceased Inuit special constables who did not have anything on their gravestones to indicate that they had been members of the RCMP.
"When they passed away, they were not recognized as RCMP," Peterson said.
Peterson got in touch with Sue Coogan, executive assistant to the commanding officer in Iqaluit. She began contacting the RCMP archives in Ottawa, looking for the necessary paperwork to prove the four men were officers.
"Any member of the RCMP, there is a gravestone for them," Coogan said. "It has their name and regiment number on it, with their date of birth and death."
In collaboration with the men's family members over the past two years, correct spellings of names and birthdates were determined and the information was retrieved from the archives. Peterson said the spellings of names were one of the biggest barriers to finding the essential paperwork. The names of Inuit were often spelled many different ways.
A single letter of the alphabet was all that was needed to identify the latest special constable, Andre Evaglok, who served from 1960 until 1964. Searches had been conducted using variations of the name until they finally hit the right one.
"We had different names," Peterson said. "We had Andrew Evaglok, Andrew Evaluak, a couple different names."
He said even though it took years to identify the men, their families remembered their service.
Evaglok's daughter, Cecilia Hogaluk said she often travelled with her father on patrolling trips when she was a child.
"I remember travelling with him to the little outpost camps where he would check and see if he could help in the area," Hogaluk said. "Sometimes we travelled, if it was in the winter, by dog team."
Chuck Nahogaloak also remembers his father, Jimmy, going on patrolling trips.
"I remember that he used to travel a lot with the RCMP doing some patrolling, checking the outpost camps and the little communities that they have around this area," he said.
He is delighted that his father and other special constables will be recognized.
"It is long overdue," he said.
Each family plans on holding ceremonies next year in celebration of the headstones.
Kane Tologanak, the son of special constable John Tologanak, said he hopes family members from other Nunavut communities as well as from the south will attend the service.
"It's an honour for our family for sure," he said. "We're trying to get our family together for the rededication ceremony. We want to share it with the whole community and those that can come in as well."
His sister Helen said she plans on inviting Robert Ward, a retired RCMP officer who worked with her father. Ward is also an author and wrote Dog Tales and Mounties Adventures, a book about his work in the Arctic. John Tologanak is mentioned throughout the book.
Helen said Ward's partnership with her father was a great help to her family during the 1950s. The two men even built a house together for the Tologanak family to live in.
"I always appreciate him, just for us to have a warm place to live," she said.
RCMP members in Cambridge Bay are preparing the gravesites to receive the headstones.
The fourth special constable has yet to be identified, but Peterson said no one will give up the search.
"My feeling is if the family believes they were RCMP, then I believe them," he said.