Tuktoyaktuk elder Nellie Pokiak remembered for her love of fishing, sewing and community

Nellie Pokiak, left, with her son, Warren. Nellie died last week at age 66. (Submitted by Warren Pokiak - image credit)
Nellie Pokiak, left, with her son, Warren. Nellie died last week at age 66. (Submitted by Warren Pokiak - image credit)

People throughout the Northwest Territories are mourning the loss of Tuktoyaktuk elder Nellie Pokiak.

She died last week at the age of 66. Her son Warren Pokiak said she was a very respected member of the Tuktoyaktuk community.

"My mother was an outspoken person. Kind, always nice to everybody. Welcomed anybody into her house in Tuk and let them try different traditional foods," said Warren.

"She will always forever be in my heart."

Nellie was born at the mouth of Anderson River which Warren said is called Stanton and is east of Tuktoyaktuk, between Inuvik and Paulatuk. She raised her family of four in Tuktoyaktuk with her husband, Frank.

"She did so much for the community of Tuktoyaktuk. She loved everyone of us in the family. Even from her grandkids to her great-grandchildren."

Warren said she always had a love of going out on the land, and in particular had a love of fishing. He said one of his favourite photographs was taken of her in 1977 when she caught a four-foot lake trout in Husky Lakes.

"I was eight months old when my mom caught that fish … my mom said I was crying in her back," he said.

Nellie Pokiak was an avid fisher. The photo captures her in 1977 when she caught a four-foot lake trout in Husky Lakes, N.W.T.
Nellie Pokiak was an avid fisher. The photo captures her in 1977 when she caught a four-foot lake trout in Husky Lakes, N.W.T.(Submitted by Warren Pokiak)

"They put a caribou skin on the ice and laid me there and a few seconds later she caught that fish.

"To this day too I love to fish because my mother always told me that I was a good little fisherman … just like my mother."

Nellie was also recognized in the community for her sewing skills, and her passion for work and education. She worked as a school counsellor at the school in Tuktoyaktuk.

"All the students nowadays will always remember my mom's kind words and everything to help them further their education and try to do what's right in life," said Warren.

"One thing about my mother that I'll always have in me to this day is that mother was never a lazy person and I think I got that from my mother because I love to work."

Warren said there is no set date for the funeral yet, but they are in the process of planning it.

Warren Pokiak, left, says he loves to fish and to work hard because of his mother.
Warren Pokiak, left, says he loves to fish and to work hard because of his mother.(Submitted by Warren Pokiak)