Kyle Kowtak

Serving On The Arctic Waters: Kyle Kowtak’s Coast Guard Summers

During the year he learns about his home and its history far from home, and in the summer he heads back to help out on the waters. Kyle Kowtak is from Rankin Inlet and has worked with the Canadian Coast Guard as part of the Arctic Marine Response Station for the past three years. A motivated lifelong learner who is proud of his Inuit cultural traditions, Kowtak lives in Ottawa and is in his second year of Nunavut Sivuniksavut.   

The job with the Coast Guard came up when Kowtak was applying for his birth certificate so he could get his passport. A friend was helping him and while they were online together they saw a job posting for the Coast Guard. His friend encouraged him to apply and he decided to take a chance and put himself out there in applying. 

In the end, he landed the job after an interview that took place over zoom. He works for the Coast Guard seasonally in the summer, two weeks on, two weeks off, and they fly him up to Rankin Inlet from Ottawa to work. This will be his fourth summer working on the waters and he loves how much time he gets to spend boating.

When he finishes as a student with Nunavut Sivuniksavut, Kowtak plans to stay in Ottawa and keep on studying, furthering his education in some way. In the first year of the program he’s in now, he had the opportunity to learn about the Nunavut land claims agreement and about his language. In the program’s second year, he learned more about the implementation of the agreement, political science and research. 

Research is the part of the program he loves best but he also loves the experience of meeting new people when they do performances. Students perform to fundraise for their year end cultural exchange trip and as part of a recent performance, they had the chance to perform with Susan Aglukark. The group travels out of the country to other places where there are Indigenous people like Hawaii or Norway and they decide on the destination by voting amongst themselves. Kowtak will be travelling out of Canada for the first time to Costa Rica while his classmates go to Hawaii and Peru.    

His advice for Indigenous youth considering leaving home to further their education but who are scared to leave or unsure is, “Don't be afraid to do anything. If you want to do something, you should do it. Just stay true to yourself and always be willing to learn. While you're young, it's a really good opportunity to further your education and travel the world.”

"Just stay true to yourself and always be willing to learn."

While Kowtak adapts easily to new environments and challenges, he needed help with reading and writing at one point. With the help of a friend, he was able to overcome his literacy challenges after reaching out and asking for help. He’s celebrating a year of sobriety and several months smoke-free from cigarettes. It’s been challenging, but Kowtak has found it’s gotten easier over time.  

If he could give his younger self advice it would be to be kinder and not so hard on himself. “It doesn't really matter what other people think about you. You just go for what you want in life,” he would tell himself to offer encouragement and wisdom knowing what he knows now. 

To maintain his mental health and create balance in his wellness, Kowtak believes in having a good routine that includes exercise and healthy eating. He finds inspiration to keep going within himself and when he starts something, he feels driven to finish it. Working with the Coast Guard is something he loves to do and loving his job helps him stick with it. 

After learning about his home and its history far from home, Kyle Kowtak heads home in the summer to serve his territory on the waters. Working for the Coast Guard and studying at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, he’s gaining a greater appreciation for where he’s from and giving back there on school breaks. Determined to keep learning, he’s going for what he wants and seeing where life takes him as a proud Inuk.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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    April 4, 2024
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