Commemorating Inuk Nurses
Mabel Pokiak Lumsden was born on Banks Island, N.W.T., the westernmost point of the Arctic Archipelago, in 1941. In her early years, she spent time living and learning traditional Inuvialuit life on the land between her family’s summer camp of Tuktoyuktuk and their winter camp of Sachs Harbour. When she was five, she was taken away to residential school in Aklavik.
For eleven years until the age of 16 in Aklavik, Mabel attended the Roman Catholic Mission School/Residential School. She moved to Yellowknife to graduate her grade 12 from Sir John Franklin/Indian and Eskimo School in 1958. In 1960, Mabel entered into the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing, the school having begun accepting First Nations, Inuit, and Metis applicants as early as 1955. After three years of training and a small leave of absence, Mabel was among the 118 members of W.G.H.N.S.’s graduating class. Her timeline of hospitals having worked at remains clear, choosing to stay at Winnipeg G.H. for an additional one year to gain further practical experience in her specialties of Pediatrics and Obstetrics. She then went on to work at Inuvik General Hospital as well as different locations including Tuktoyuktuk.
Mabel ended up marrying and settling down in Ottawa, Ontario. She had five children and seven grandchildren. Upon retiring from the nursing profession, Mabel would end up continuing her education in other fields, garnering a diploma from Algonquin College in Ottawa for Legal Secretarial in 1987 at the age of 46.
Mabel Rose Pokiak Lumsden passed away in 2012 at the age of 71. Services were held for her both in Ottawa and in her home community of Tuktoyuktuk. She is survived by her children Charles, Marilyn, Robbie, Sheila and James, her grandchildren Melanie, Alexandre, James, Joshua, Allen, Matthew and Bryan. She is also immediate and extended family in Tuktoyuktuk, her five brothers and twelve sisters, and their great and many children and grandchildren. Mabel’s was a truly beautiful personality, was quick to wit, and she is dearly missed by all.
Based on 2016 Census, there are currently 125 Inuit Registered Nurses in Canada.