When Nathan Annanaut grew up in Baker Lake in the ‘80s, he found little to do, often looking wistfully to other communities and the events and programs they offered.
“It was just a really quiet time of my life,” said Annanaut, now recreation coordinator for the Hamlet of Baker Lake.
At this year’s Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s sport and rec awards, he was named the 2023 Recreation Leader of the Year. And in his role now, Annanaut is creating those opportunities he wished he had.
“I was shocked,” he said about receiving the award, mentioning he’s been on the job for only a year and a half. “It’s been a crazy first year.”
His philosophy is that everyone should be able to participate in sport and rec – not just the elite competitors or one age group over another.
“I don’t want to exclude anyone,” said Annanaut. “I don’t want to bully anyone. I just want everyone to have fun, be healthy. Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit – that’s what recreation is all about.”
Annanaut has spearheaded several initiatives in the community, such as bringing in Outside Looking In, which taught youth dancing and even sent several to perform in Ontario. Coming up, he plans to bring youth with him to Winnipeg for camp counsellor training and says he’s working with the Blue Jays on an Elders’ program and another initiative encouraging girls to play baseball.
“Doing nothing, you’re just stagnant sitting at home,” reflected Annanaut. “All you do is get angry and bad thoughts and then you’re just angry at other people, giving them bad thoughts.”
But getting out into a recreational environment, doing physical activity and socializing changes all of that, he said.
“It’s good for the mind, it’s good for the body and it’s really good for the spirit,” said Annanaut. “I believe recreation can solve a lot of problems, if not everything.”
That’s the knock-on effect of positive socialization, he says: being healthy and happy rubs off on other people and brings everyone up.
Since he started, it’s been busy times in Baker Lake. Kivalliq News asked how he keeps up the passion.
“You gotta love the people and the town,” he said. “You gotta love the spirit of sports or recreation.”
And along with Annanaut’s award, the community of Baker Lake also earned the 2023 Calm Air Community Sport Award.
“That’s the great thing about Baker Lake,” said Annanaut, pointing to all the organizations and people who keep the community active and full of opportunities.
The Baker Lake Youth Athletic Association (BLYAA) plays a big role in organizing sporting events, he said.
“I don’t even need to improve upon it, since they’re doing a fantastic job as it is, volunteering and doing everything for free,” said Annanaut. “That’s what’s so great about the BLYAA and all these other organizations, like the parents running the minor hockey association. It takes volunteers, people just doing things for the community out of the kindness of their heart. That’s what makes Baker Lake so special. I believe Baker Lake won that community award because of the people. It takes volunteers, it takes parents encouraging the kids, everyone, teachers, leaders.”
He expresses his pride in the community.
“I see Baker Lake as taking a leadership role, spearheading everything and other communities follow,” he said. “I know Baker Lake can set a great example for a lot of the communities in the North, the spirit of Baker Lake anyway. I know we have our problems and our issues, but there’s a lot of good also.”
At the end of the day, Annanaut added, money is what makes so many things come together, and he thanked all the organizations who fund and contribute to the success of sport and rec initiatives, such as RPAN, Calm Air, Ookpik Aviation, AEM, Forum Energy Metals, Northern Store, Sanavik Co-op, Peters Expediting Ltd. and Baker Lake Contracting & Supplies.
Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News