Pangnirtung grieves after mayor suffers heart attack and dies while on the land

The community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, is grieving the loss of its mayor.

A ranger and former MLA Hezakiah Oshutapik served multiple terms as mayor

Pangnirtung Mayor Hezakiah Oshutapik loved to be on the land. The community leader died on Friday. Besides his work in politics, he worked for many years for the local housing authority. (Submitted by Rita Kuniliusee)

The community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, is grieving the loss of its mayor. 

Hezakiah Oshutapik died of a heart attack while out on the land on Friday evening. He was 63 years old.

Oshutapik was trying to get his snow machine unstuck, according to his family.

Oshutapik was a Canadian Ranger and a former MLA of Pangnirtung in Nunavut's third assembly. He was elected in a byelection in 2011. 

He has served previous terms as mayor, and was elected again to this role in October 2019. He was a plumber and an oil burner mechanic. He worked for many years for the local housing authority. 

Acting senior administrative officer for Pangnirtung Daryl Dibblee said the hamlet council was looking forward to Oshutapik's leadership over the coming four years. 

"Friday at 4:30 [p.m.] he came dancing by my office. He was so happy to be going out on the land with his wife. He was going to his camp for the weekend," Dibblee said. 

The hamlet council had a scheduled meeting last night. Dibblee said the council would recognize their mayor, and the RCMP, who worked with local search and rescue volunteers to bring the body back to the community. 

His sudden passing has left a great hole.- Premier Joe Savikataaq

Premier Joe Savikataaq recognized the passing of the former member during a scheduled televised news conference at the Legislative Assembly. 

"Hezakiah Oshutapik was a strong leader in his community and his sudden passing has left a great hole," he said. 

"On behalf of all members of the Legislative Assembly, we extend our condolences to his family and the community," Nunavut Speaker Paul Quassa wrote in a press release.

The community flag at the Legislative Assembly was lowered to half mast in recognition of Oshutapik's death.

The family and hamlet are waiting to hear from the Nunavut Department of Health if they will be able to hold a memorial for the community leader, considering the COVID-19 funeral restrictions.