The Iqaluit Rangers were told to go to Nattilik Lake first week of April. Mathew Akavak, Jeetaloo Kakee and Noah Alookie were among them.

They got gas and food, four Rangers from Iqaluit and four Rangers from Cape Dorset, according to Alookie. They were flown to Iqaluit, along with Major Sgt. Adam and Sgt. Ryan. The first stop was at Sylvia Grinnell Lake. In the morning, on the way to Amajuaq Lake, they made a stop at the NCC cabin, with three people going to Pond Inlet and then on to Nattilik Lake. They dropped off gas at the cabin that they would use to get back to Iqaluit.

It was getting dark, and at the end of Amajuaq Lake the ice was rough. Alookie said he and Kakee led the Rangers.

It was going smooth for 40 or 50 kilometres. Kakee was leading the small group. Suddenly, Kakee fell and Alookie said the Rangers told him the qamutik could come off and he should turn back.

Akavak handed Alookie the qamutik pin and they went after Kakee.

“Then I saw a Ranger standing with no Ski-Doo. She told me Ranger Jeetaloo fell in the water. She crawled on the ice to a safe area,” Alookie recalled. “I took my ice chisel, it was so thin. I called to Ranger Jeetaloo if he was OK for two minutes — no answer. He was down in the water.”

Alookie feared that his colleague had drowned.

“I started to cry and tears ran down from my eyes. Then our sergeant, Kevin Kullualik, came with an ice chisel. Ranger Jeetaloo came up, talked to us, (but warned us) ‘Don’t come further — both of you might fall through the ice.’ He didn’t drown, I saw only his head (sticking out the water).”

Iqaluit Ranger Noah Alookie takes a photo right after they rescue fellow ranger Jeetaloo Kakee. Photo courtesy of Noah Alookie

Kullualik asked Alookie, who was lighter in weight, to push a qamutik toward Kakee while Kullualik held a safety rope.

“Both of us were yelling, I pushed the qamutik toward Ranger Jeetaloo. Jeetaloo was in the water up to his neck,” said Alookie. “The qamutik (went) back and forth. He managed to get into his qamutik. (He) grabbed the cross piece. We grabbed the (other) cross piece. The qamutik sank through the ice. (Now) both of us were in the water. I yelled at Sgt. Kevin Kullualik, “Pole! Pole! Pole!” We went and got into a safe area.

“I look back to see if Ranger Jeetaloo is still holding on. Sgt. Kevin took Ranger Jeetaloo. We handily walked to his Ski-Doo. A tent was set up already by the Rangers. I cry. I cry in my heart,” Alookie said. “Both of us got changed, and headed toward Nattilik Lake. Jeetaloo was pushed (in the) qamutik, and checked on every 15 minutes. It took us four to five hours to Nattilik Lake to the cabin.”

Ranger Jeetaloo survived. His body survived without medication, but all of his belongings were lost. Adam called for an Iqaluit helicopter. It was not coming until the morning.

The next day, Alookie heard the chopper, which landed on the Nattilik Lake ice with two nurses on board to tend to Kakee.

Alookie, who’s also a board member with the Amaruq (Iqaluit) Hunters and Trappers Association, said he later learned that if the qamutik pin didn’t come off his Ski-Doo, he would have drowned.

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