|If a person's wealth can be determined by the size of his family, Felix Kopak is indeed a rich fellow. His family, immediate and extended, at last count, number 113. I met Felix in Rankin Inlet in 2002 when he was visiting friends. His appearance reminded me of the changes that have come to the north. Felix is from an era where the Inuit, living off the land, dressed far differently.
Felix was born in April, 1918, near Repulse Bay, a community which lies on the Arctic Circle. This particular clan of Inuit were called, Netsilingmiut, the People of the Seal. Although the Inuit had evolved into masters at surviving in the world's most hostile environment, periods of deprivation and starvation were common. This was especially true during the first half of the last century. Conditions reached a climax for Felix when he was 5 years old. With his family and him starving, Felix was adopted by a couple and moved to the Baker Lake area.
As a young man, Felix worked in many communities in the north. He married and his family grew to include 16 children of whom 4 were adopted. In 1969 the Kopak family moved back to Repulse Bay. It was there Felix acquired a reputation for being able to pilot a boat under extreme conditions. This situation was not infrequent because survival meant hunting and fishing even at times during severe weather.
Well into his eighties Felix can still be seen riding his Honda or skidoo, depending on the season. Having a remarkable memory, Felix enjoys telling stories of his life to visitors. Every spring, however, he and his family pack up and move to the land and live as he and his ancestors had. Then every day was a quest to conquer the uncertainties of nature in Canada's far north. Felix Kopak passed away early in 2005 just shy of his 87th birthday.