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Youth mentor awarded medal
Former Mountie and sports event organizer presented with honour

Mark Rieder
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gerry Kisoun, long-time community supporter and one of the latest recipients of the Polar Medal, maintains hope for the region's future.

NNSL photo/graphic

Gerry Kisoun is one of the first recipients of the Polar Medal, which replaces the Governor General's Northern Medal, in recognition of his dedication to advancing youth and promoting goodwill in the North. - Mark Rieder/NNSL photo

"We've been boom, we've been bust. We're still here, we still live in the Western Arctic. We still wake up in the morning and continue to do the best we can for the day," he said.

With the highway to Tuktoyaktuk and fibre optic telecommunications coming down the Mackenzie Valley, there is still a lot of opportunity to come, Kisoun said.

He thinks the time is coming for a comprehensive plan to be developed for what the future of the region will be.

"Some of the best hope I think for the future of the Beaufort Delta is we get some of our leaders together, let's say maybe within the next five years, and maybe do some brainstorming and figure out what we can do," he said.

Born on the Delta, Kisoun has a strong attachment to the land. His life as a man of nature began early.

"I started out working at a very young age in the Delta," he said. "Ever since I was a kid I used to go out with my little dog team. At 12 years old, I'd be mushing my dogs on the Delta, visiting my uncle 50 miles out."

Kisoun worked with a number of different research organizations and had other jobs as a youth. But it was a friendship with his neighbour and RCMP Special Const. Otto Binder that changed his life.

"He handed me an application form (for the RCMP)," he said. "By golly in November 1971 they called me up. So I went to the RCMP."

There was one condition that Kisoun had to meet before he could take his full training.

"I upgraded my education, I needed Grade 11. I had dropped out of school earlier in life, the world was turning too darn fast for me," he said.

As well as serving at Inuvik, he was stationed in Alberta and the Yukon.

Kisoun has spent a lot of his time working with young people. He sees it as an important part of his life.

"I think everybody has to have a role model somewhere. The kids have to have a role model to look up to, to be able to move forward," he said.

The Polar Medal, which replaces the Governor General's Northern Medal, recognizes people who promote a greater understanding of Canada's Northern communities and its people. It also honours those who face the polar climate to make significant contributions to polar exploration and knowledge, and scientific research, states the office of Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

"A well-respected elder, Kisoun has worked tirelessly at strengthening the awareness and understanding of Northern Canada and its peoples. As the community liaison officer in Inuvik, this dedicated community leader and active volunteer sits on a number of boards, including the Inuvialuit Harvesters Assistance Program, and acts as a liaison with local schools for science and heritage fairs," stated Johnston's office at the time of the July 6 medal presentation in Whitehorse.

After many years helping to keep youth sports and recreational events going in the region, such as the Muskrat Jamboree, Kisoun has a good understanding of the volunteer situation in the region.

"(In) small communities you need that core group of volunteers that help out and try to make sure that things happen for the people. It's good to see them out and about and doing something," he said.

He is also aware of the challenges.

"We always say we want more to come out. It's not the easiest thing to do, people get burned out very quickly," he said. "It's really hard sometimes to get back into the groove."

Kisoun, now retired, remains active in the tourism industry.

"Now I just help my nephew running his tour company, sit on a couple of boards and just (keep) busy in the community," he said. "I like to promote our region whenever I'm travelling or when we have visitors to our community,"

He said he thinks it is important for tourists to do more than just drop in and just look at what the stores in town have to offer.

"I want to see that people who are travelling continue to move forward," he said. "If you come to Inuvik, there is more to see than just Inuvik."

He said there are other communities, such as Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, Ulukhaktok and Sachs Harbour that are just as deserving of being visited.

"You can go to any one of those communities. Or maybe jump on a boat, go for a ride to the Beaufort Delta somewhere," he said.

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