Nunavut honours its distinguished own

The Very Rev. Michael Gardener, a retired Anglican priest, went to the North as an Anglican missionary in the 1950s. Photo: courtesy of the General Synod Archives
The Very Rev. Michael Gardener, a retired Anglican priest, went to the North as an Anglican missionary in the 1950s. Photo: courtesy of the General Synod Archives
By on August 4, 2011

The first three recipients of the Order of Nunavut are national Inuit leader Jose Kusugak, Inuit author Mark Kalluak and the Very Rev. Michael Gardener, a retired Anglican priest.

Hunter Tootoo, Legislative Assembly speaker and chair of the Order of Nunavut Advisory Council, announced the appointments on Wednesday. An investiture ceremony will take place some time this fall. The new order was established in 2010.

Kusugak, who served as president of the national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) from 2000 to 2006, died in January, and Kalluak, a respected elder and historian, died in May. Both men were in their 60s. Family members will accept these posthumous honours on their behalf.

All three men have already received the Order of Canada.

Kusugak was a defender of Inuit rights, language and culture and served as president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. from 1994 to 2000, playing a pivotal role during the implementation of the historic land claim that created Nunavut in 1999.  He also worked as a CBC journalist and advocated for the standardization of the written Inuit language.

Kalluak, a well-known Inuit storyteller and teacher, was the territorial government’s cultural heritage coordinator when he passed away this May. He was an expert in the Inuktitut language and in Inuit language, literature and culture. His literary works include Unipkaaqtuat Arvianit: Traditional Stories from Arviat, a collection of Inuit stories told in Inuktitut and English. He also translated the New Testament into Inuktituk.

Gardener, who is in his 80s, emigrated from Britain in the 1950s and went straight to the North as an Anglican missionary, serving in the parishes of Pangnirtung and Kimmirut “This honour is overwhelming and as a Christian, I give thanks to the Lord for enabling us to do what we have done,” he says. “My wish was always to do myself out of job,” he recalls. “When I first arrived, there were no ordained Inuit clergy in the North, but now there are more Inuit clergy than non-Inuit.”

Currently retired, Gardener lives in Iqaluit with his family and continues to provide pastoral care to people in crisis.

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