'Unknown' RCMP special constable identified quickly on social media

How social media helped solve the identity of this 'unknown' special constable from vintage photo.

Amy Killiktee says the man is her grandfather, Special Const. Ningeok Killiktee of Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Special Const. Ningeok Killiktee of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, was stationed at Dundas Harbour. This photo was taken during a dog-sled patrol to Eureka, says granddaughter Amy Killiktee. (NWT Archives)

The identity of an RCMP special constable, labelled in a vintage photo at Yellowknife's museum as "unknown," was a months-long mystery until this week.

When CBC Nunavut posted the photo on its Facebook page on Tuesday, Nunavummiut (the people of Nunavut) figured out within minutes who this man was, and where the photo was taken.

The photo is part of the RCMP special constables exhibit at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

The identity of this special constable was found after CBC Nunavut posted the photo to Facebook asking for help. (NWT Archives)

"I was surprised," said Amy Killiktee, who says she's the granddaughter of the mystery man.

"I just saw the photo on Facebook and I was like, 'Why are they doing that?'"

People couldn't help but comment on the stunning photo of the iconic constable on a smoke break.

He is Special Const. Ningeok Killiktee of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, says Killiktee. Special constables were Indigenous men who knew the land and helped guide and interpret for RCMP officers in the North. They were called "special" because officers knew they couldn't survive without them.

Killiktee's grandfather was stationed at Dundas Harbour, in the High Arctic off Devon Island, and this shot was taken during a dog-sled patrol to Eureka, she says. 

"He was already retired — [had] been for a long time — when I was born," said Killiktee.

"He would tell me like small stuff here and there, how he would be working with the RCMP, the white man, and how he had to help them."

Ningeok died on Sept. 18, 1999 from kidney failure, Killiktee says. He was 82.

'Just fantastic', says archivist

"He's taking a smoke break," says Erin Suliak, the N.W.T.'s territorial archivist.

"He's wearing these beautiful decorative [kamiks] with beautiful diamond patterns on it.

"It looks like it's springtime, because he's got his parka off… He's wearing goggles, which makes identification more tricky, but it makes the photo so iconic."

Suliak says it's "just fantastic" that the once "unknown" constable will finally be identified for the exhibit.

Suliak said this photo was "timeless" and has a "mystique" to it.

"The meeting of worlds — the traditional world and the modern world, too — it's what makes the photo so interesting, but it also makes it tricky to identify — unless you're related to the man, apparently."

Suliak says there are many unknown photos within the territory's archives, and encourages people to check and when possible, help identify and locate the individuals in the photos.

With files from Peter Sheldon, Lawrence Nayally, Michelle Pucci


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