Akaka Sataa - Grace-Filled

Every death over the years feels like a piece of life ripped away. A hole left in the very air we breathe. When it concerns an elder, we often add the phrase "end of an era" to emphasize our sense of loss.

But this time, with the passing of Akaka Sataa, the watershed is real, the demark historic, and the significance worth pausing over.

Others will testify better than I can to the sheer competence that would have led to pride and impatience in most other men. But Akaka's humility was utter. Gentleness radiated from him. His strength was profound, bespeaking a phenomenal courage acquired and tested in solitude.

What made him an archetype, however, a rare example of human potential, was the sheer intensity and purity of his attention.

In later years, as his body bent and the daily trek into the public square left him almost unable to straighten, his impact on anyone who greeted him remained electrifying.

I have met very few people during my own nearly seven decades of life who, when their gaze turned towards another human being, it almost bowled them over with its sheer openess. English doesn't have as good a word for this as French does: "disponibilité". The closest we can come to it is 'availability', but that doesn't convey the active intensity. Somehow, 'available' leaves us still aware of the distractions that have temporarily been set aside.

With Akaka, you were everything. The universe paused and focused on your next breath to the exclusion of all else. A moment of pure awakedness.

Those who could make the transition quickly enough had an opportunity to tumble into a sample of eternal peace. Those whose own attention was too preoccupied to surrender to the moment could mutter a perfunctory greeting and move on without giving offence. Yet the experience lingered. Perhaps for a few seconds, perhaps to return days or months later. A realization of an opportunity squandered.

With Akaka's death, what has passed from the experience of life in Iqaluit might indeed be epocal. An era in which interpersonal grace could seem routine, if we chose to indulge.


  1. Nice Matt, very nice. Hugs

  2. I think the author's name is Peter?

  3. Yes, Peter Baril, thanks for this great article. You have expressed him so well. I loved him dearly. He was welcoming to all and always made everyone feel absolutely cherished. Such a man who taught many of us so much in his humble and respectful ways. Thanks again for the memory.

  4. Yes, Anonymous, my name is Peter and I wrote this particular tribute to Akaka. You can find dozens of other links to him and his activities by searching his name on Google.

    Together, Akaka, my father-in-law (Anuga Arnaquq) and the late Joanasie Anirmiut showed what lifelong friendship could be. Until old age imposed its limitations on the three of them, hardly a day passed that they didn't spend at least a few moments together. To this day, I can't look at a three-wheeler without imagining my sakkik's unique style of putt-putting along, invariably heading for Akaka's house, or whatever other location was convenient for them to meet.

    But it was Akaka especially who made me rue not having learned more Inuktitut while it was still possible for a Qallunaaq to do so in Iqaluit. Instead, I simply basked in the light of this immense soul, wishing I could more explicitly convey my esteem and enormous affection for him.

  5. As for MialiColey, how have I managed to miss your blog all this time! Shame on me. Thanks for leaving your comment and thus leading me to it. I am slowly exploring the archive and will watch for your future postings.

    While I'm at it, let me suggest you would really enjoy Bon Stewart. Check her out at: http://cribchronicles.com/ Well worth a few hours browsing through her archives as well. She is a phenomenonal writer and has reduced me to tears several times.

  6. Beautiful tribute to Akaka Sataa, Peter. Among other things, I remember him especially for his patience and willingness to teach an ignorant Qallunaat (me!) at courses offered at Adult Education in the early 1980s. I am sorry to hear of his passing.

  7. A peaceful soul.