Helen Gruben| Board Elder
Helen Joyce Gruben (nee Inglangasuk) was born October 28, 1930 to Lennie Inglangsuk and Sarah Kyikavichik at Napoyak Channel a few miles from Aklavik, NT.
Helen attended the Aklavik Residential School from 1938 to 1942 when she completed grade six. She moved to Tuktoyaktuk and travelled with her parents and has fond memories when her dad let her stand with him on the crow’s-nest when they were travelling across the Arctic Ocean to Banks Island, a trip that took 14 hours. They also travelled to Anderson River and Nullok to live and to hunt and trap. She fondly remembers good times as her family had to work together to hunt for their food in order to survive the winters where the temperatures hovered at -70. They sewed their own clothing such as parkas, mittens, mukluks and hats using caribou and seal skins.
On September 7, 1947, Helen married Willie Gruben in Tuktoyaktuk. Willie is the son of Mary and John Gruben and was born at Kittigazuit, NT. They raised six children and adopted two grandchildren. Today she has 25 grand children and 14 great grandchildren. Her husband passed away in 2001.
Helen began her career as a cook in 1955 when she was employed by the local school until 1970. In 1970 until 1982, she was employed by the Polar Shelf Continental Shelf Project as a cook. She also worked as a cook for the oil companies in the Tuk area in 1983. In 1990 she returned to school and graduated with a Community Health Representative Diploma. For seven years she was the CHR in Tuktoyaktuk and retired in 1997.
Helen has been actively involved with the Anglican Church since 1960 as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary and a lay reader. She continues to attend church services and is often relied on to say a prayer for the sick or a community feast. She reads her bible daily.
Today at the age of 79, Helen continues to sew traditional clothing and moccasins. She enjoys reading, watching TV, going for long walks, visiting friends for tea and spending time with her family. Helen is currently a board member of the NWT Suicide Committee and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Helen was the first native woman to be elected as a councillor of the Tuktoyaktuk Community Council in 1960. Helen is the first person in Tuktoyaktuk who people call upon when there is a death, family crisis or when support is needed. She relies on her strong faith in the Lord and tells other "To pray and put your faith in the Lord.”