It was no surprise that Tammy, granddaughter of Matriarch Bessie Pihuak Omilgoetok and the late Paul Omilgoetok, agreed to have her family’s photo shoot at “the River,” where Tammy is often seen casting her rod with the midnight sun.
Eight o’clock in the evening in mid-August above the Arctic Circle is filled with pastel skies and a sun that we’re getting used to seeing set once again after a summer with 24-hour sunlight. A perfect night not only to honour kakiniit but also to honour some of the women who wear them proudly, so willing to share with the world, with you. Letting beauty flow like the kuugaq, we all laughed on that brisk, late summer evening. It was important to photographer Denise Peterson and me to work with Pihuak first and foremost because she is the oldest tattooed woman in our community, wearing her traditional forehead and wrist markings at the age of 81 — markings she remembers her great-grandmother wearing, and now she wears them along with three of her granddaughters.
It was as if time had stopped or slowed down — even the undulating kuugaq stream seemed to have paused in awe. One by one, the captivating and eloquent Matriarch Pihuak and her family arrived and made their way riverside. I was completely mesmerized and wondered if the fish swimming beside us also halted mid-water to see four generations of Omilgoetok women and children dressed in their best hand-sewn outfits, with the wind helping itself, dancing in their hair. Head to toe in Inuit beauty. For one of Pihuak’s granddaughters, Geneviève, her wrist markings from her great-great-great-grandmother bring a sense of pride and identity. It’s a statement that her family is still here. And they aren’t going anywhere.