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'I felt absolutely humbled,' Peter Tapatai says of Order of Nunavut honours

Well-known Baker Lake businessman Peter (Shamou) Tapatai received the territory's highest honour when he was named to the Order of Nunavut for 2020 this past month.

Tapatai, who has run his own successful Peter’s Expediting business for the past 22 years, remains incredibly well known for his fictional character, Super Shamou, and his contributions to the Inuit Broadcasting Corp.

Inuk businessman Peter Tapatai of Baker Lake is feeling honoured after being named to the Order of Nunavut this past month.
Photo courtesy of Eitan Dehtiar

The Order of Nunavut, which is the highest honour in Nunavut and takes precedence over all others, was established in 2010 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the territory.

Tapatai said it was one of those beautiful Saturdays when the land is calling you to come out when he received the phone call asking him if he would accept being named to the Order of Nunavut.

He said he was deeply honoured and humbled to have such an honour bestowed upon him.

At the moment, and every moment since I received that phone call, I feel very, very tiny,” said Tapatai.

I feel so small when there are so many other people out there who have done so much for Nunavut.

I was very, very honoured to be offered this and I said OK as calmly as I could.

To tell the truth I felt absolutely humbled. It was like getting a call and being told I won the 649 Lotto — only better!”

Tapatai said it still brings tears to his eyes to be reminded that he has just received the highest honour Nunavut has to give.

He said he struggles to find the right words to convey how he feels and still finds himself asking how this happened. And he still marvels at how many still remember him for his fictional character Super Shamou.

That show came about as a pure fluke. We had a three-quarter-inch recorder at the time and what we were doing was all very experimental.

I can't remember who suggested it, but I was wearing a baseball cap and lying on the table with a white sheet. It was all a joke and then someone suddenly put a white thread on the top part of my cap.

And, as they panned the camera, someone yanked the thread and out went the cap and I said, ‘Wow. It looked like I was flying.'

That's how the character started, out of a pure accident. We did 150 episodes of Super Shamou and only three episodes aired for, maybe, 35 minutes in total, yet it's absolutely amazing how many remember it — but, Super Shamou was just a fictional character and the Order of Nunavut is much, much bigger than that.”

Tapatai, 67, said he can't retire because he still has too much to do in helping to mentor youth.

He said he has the utmost respect for the challenges faced by Inuit youth today, with so many things coming at them from every direction.

I want to talk to students and help encourage them in any way we can to get up every morning, go to school, complete their education and go further than that with their learning because Nunavut is so very young and we're going to need them.

Nunavut was always all about our young people and if I can help mentor them in any way, then that's what I want to do. Nunavut is beautiful and it's theirs.

This honour I've just received still hasn't totally sunk in yet because, honestly, it's too big. I'm very honoured that the legislative assembly selected me and it makes me want to work even harder for them.

It's always been my dream for us to be able to have Nunavut. We've only taken one small step so far and we have such very, very big shoes to fill.

I've always wanted to make absolutely sure that we have healthy young Inuit and I hope, in some small way, I have helped in that regard, and that I will continue to be able to do so.”