Kiviaq

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Queen Alexandra Community League, 10425 University Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 4P6 on May 28 from 2-6 PM. Please join us in celebrating Kiviaq’s life and achievements if you can. There will be an informal opportunity to share your experiences.

Kiviaq, former Edmonton athlete and lawyer, dies at age 80

Trevor Robb
Edmonton Journal
Published on: May 2, 2016
Last Updated: May 2, 2016 9:15 PM MDT

A former Edmonton lawyer, boxing champion, football player and city councillor, David C. Ward, also known as Kiviaq, has died at the age of 80 after a long bout with cancer.

Bob Coe was a childhood friend and fellow classmate of Kiviaq at Queen Alexandra School. He said Kiviaq died April 24. He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and had surgery in 2009 to remove most of his cancer-riddled liver.

“I got a phone call from his granddaughter the day after he passed away,” Coe said.

Born in Chesterfield Inlet, N.W.T., in 1936, Kiviaq and his family moved to Edmonton when he was four. Raised by his Inuit mother and his stepfather, an RCMP officer, Kiviaq was renamed David Ward and given a new birth certificate.

Coe, 81, said he and Kiviaq were longtime playmates as kids. As a small, undersized Inuit child in Alberta, Coe said Kiviaq was bullied often in school.

“He was bullied a fair bit. In fact, a few times he had been picked on by a couple of guys and beaten up, so he learned boxing for self-protection.”

But his love for boxing went far beyond self defence.

As a prize fighter in the 1950s, Kiviaq won 102 of 108 fights, capturing a string of provincial and Golden Glove championships.

He would then go on to use his athleticism in the boxing ring and become a running back for the Edmonton Huskies junior football team. He played a couple of exhibition games with the Eskimos in 1955. However, before the regular season started, Kiviaq slipped on a wet field and was hit by three opposing players simultaneously. He suffered a broken neck that left him paralyzed.

It was months before he could even wiggle his little finger, but he made a full recovery.

Kiviaq eventually went on to tackle politics. He served two terms on city council between 1968 and 1974. In 1976, he ran unsuccessfully for the mayor’s chair alongside political veterans Cec Purves and Bill Hawrelak.

The City of Edmonton honoured the former alderman in 2003 by declaring March 14 Kiviaq Day.

In 1983, he became the first Inuit called to the bar and worked out of a small office in the Birks Building just off Jasper Avenue. For 20 years, he lobbied to have David Kootook awarded a posthumous Governor General’s Award for his part in saving the life of bush pilot Martin Hartwell, whose plane crashed in the Arctic in November 1972.

He ran his own open-line radio show at CJCA. Both Kiviaq and Coe are members of the Edmonton Broadcasters Club.

In 2001, he successfully fought Alberta’s name laws — which require a person to have both a first name and a last name — to restore his original Inuktitut name. His life and his battle for equality for Inuit people is the subject of a 2006 documentary film, Kiviaq vs. Canada.

“He was a great guy to chum around with and go biking with,” Coe said. “He lived a lot of life packed into a relatively short life — he did a lot of living.”

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Click above to enlarge a picture and view its caption.

Nation’s first Inuit lawyer has mean left jab for justice

Thomson, Graham
Edmonton Journal [Edmonton, Alta] 19 Apr 1999: B.3.

When the new territory of Nunavut was born April 1, media reports trumpeted the new premier, Paul Okalik, as Canada’s first Inuit lawyer.

He’s not.

The first Inuit to be called to the bar has been practising law right here in Edmonton for 16 years.

To his family, he is Kiviaq.

To others, he’s David C. Ward, a self-made man who has attracted attention in Edmonton over the years as a street fighter and a prize fighter, a winning aldermanic candidate and a losing mayoralty candidate, a controversial talk show host and a combative lawyer.

Never one to swim with the current, he has made a career of speaking his mind, no matter the consequences.

While Inuit across the eastern Arctic were celebrating the birth of their new homeland, Ward dismissed the event saying it meant little without Inuit rights being enshrined in an act of Parliament.

“There is an Indian Act and no Inuit Act,” he says in one of many letters on the subject he has sent to the federal government. “There is a Minister of Indian Affairs and an Interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians and no one for the Inuit.”

He has launched the fight from his small cluttered office in the Birks Building just off Jasper Ave. The walls are covered with black and white photographic mementoes of his early athletic career, but the place of honour is reserved for an impressive Inuit print. Soapstone carvings sit on shelves lined with legal books and “thank you” cards from clients offering gratitude but little money. “I barely break even every year,” he says of his struggling practice that specializes in criminal and family law.

“The Indians and Metis have rights over us, they have (identity) cards … they have something they can go to,” he says . “We have nothing. They gave us Nunavut. Well, ringy-ding-doo.”

It’s a difficult struggle he has taken on voluntarily, without pay, much as he has spent most of his legal profession and indeed much of his life.

For 20 years he lobbied alone to have David Kootook awarded a posthumous Governor General’s award for his part in saving the life of bush pilot Martin Hartwell whose plane crashed in the Arctic in November 1972.

At times Ward has been down, but the scrappy fighter born 63 years ago near Chesterfield Inlet, NWT, has never been out.

At the age of four his family moved to Edmonton where he was raised by his Inuit mother and his white step-father, an RCMP officer.

“I never had friends growing up,” he said, remembering frustrating years at Garneau high school where “everybody ignored me, unless they were looking for someone to beat up.”

Being an Inuit raised in a white man’s world — feeling like the underdog — shaped his self-image and stoked his self-motivation.

Ward has never run from a fight in his life, no matter how large the odds.

As a prize fighter in the 1950s he won 102 of 108 fights, capturing a string of provincial and Golden Glove championships.

As a halfback with the Edmonton Huskies in 1955, he was bumped up to the CFL and became, as one newspaper wag pointed out, “the first Eskimo to play for the Eskimos.”

In one of his first games Ward slipped on a wet field and was hit by three opposing players simultaneously. He thought he had simply pinched a nerve and stayed in the game. But X-rays afterwards revealed he had been playing with a broken neck, and narrowly avoided paralysis.

Ward laughs about it now, recounting how his athletic career subjected his body to fractured feet, a ruptured stomach, separated shoulder and broken ribs, elbow and neck. His nose has been broken “six or seven” times, adding unnecessary character to a face lined by wear, tear and cigarettes.

He exploded onto Edmonton’s political scene in 1968 after being elected to city council and winning the prestigious Vanier Award as one of Canada’s “five most outstanding young men,” for his work as a public relations officer, an insurance salesman and recreational director for the city.

He would say he was “of Eskimo ancestry,” but had no idea that his links to the Arctic were alive until the early 1970s when he attended a civic luncheon for some Inuit visitors.

A couple of Inuit women pointed at him and talked to each other in Inuktitut, a language he has since studied but never mastered.

“I asked (an interpreter), ‘What are they saying? I think I heard them mention my mother’s name.’ They said I had a brother in Baker Lake.”

Ward asked how they knew that.

“Because of the way you walk,” came the odd reply. “And sure enough I found out I had a brother. His daughter who knows English was phoning me and writing me and I found other relatives I had up there. It was a bit of a shock.”

He has kept in touch with his relatives ever since but still doesn’t understand what’s so odd about his gait.

“I was paranoid about walking for a month after that,” he jokes.

A personable politician, he successfully lobbied for the Commonwealth Games. But at times a quick temper would boil over and at one council meeting he almost came to blows with fellow alderman Ches Tanner.

Ward KO’d his own political career by taking a run for the mayor’s chair in 1976 against veterans Cec Purves and Bill Hawrelak. He garnered less than five per cent of the vote before going down for the count.

He ran his own open-line radio show at CJCA and CJOI before going to law school.

“All my life I’ve been a person who wanted to see justice done,” he said in a 1979 Journal interview. “Law gives you a chance of at least trying to obtain justice.”

He was called to the bar in 1983, a moment recognized in a letter from then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a “solid and progressive achievement in the history of your people.”

He strives to obtain justice for clients who often can’t pay.

He was married briefly once and has no children.

He’s active in charitable work and has set up his own projects, like the Aboriginal Youth Mentor Program.

He has focused his energy on winning more power for Canada’s Inuit, a fight he began on his own.

He says having a territory of their own is not enough, that without the legal protection provided in a parliamentary act, the Inuit face a slow cultural extinction.

It’s an alarming argument the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, which represents the country’s 50,000 Inuit, is neither embracing nor rejecting.

“So much of what (Ward) says reflects a frustration of many Inuit individuals and reflects a lot of the activity that ITC is undertaking,” said ITC executive director Alan Braidek from his Ottawa office. However, Braidek said “it’s too soon to say at this point” if an official Act will improve conditions for Inuit.

While an Act would enshrine Inuit rights, it would simultaneously limit them, said Braidek.

“You’d only have the rights that the Act says and likely (the government) would want to say, as it has with all land-claims agreements, that in return for this Act you give up all undefined aboriginal rights. Other agreements are full of that language and the Inuit and First Nations people have spoken against that.”

Braidek said the ITC and federal government are renegotiating their relationship and hope to have what he called an “Inuit Action Plan” by the end of the year.

Inuk wins the right to go back to using: his one-word name

The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont] 01 Dec 2001: A.3.

An Alberta Inuit man was buying new letterhead yesterday after the provincial government granted his appeal to return to his traditional, one-word name.

“I feel so different you can hardly believe it,” said Edmonton lawyer David Ward, who has already filed the papers to return to the name Kiviaq.

“I am me. I am not a figment of somebody’s imagination who said, ‘We’ll give him a white name. We’ll make him a white person.’ ”

In September of 2000, Mr. Ward made the initial application to change his name back to Kiviaq, the name he received in 1936 at his parents’ camp somewhere near Chesterfield Inlet on the west coast of Hudson Bay.

He says he, his mother and his sister were taken from the North and brought to Alberta shortly after he was born. Previously unregistered, his birth was then recorded under the name of David Ward.

But Alberta law requires both first and last names, and Mr. Ward’s original request was rejected. He appealed to Government Services Minister David Coutts and found out yesterday morning that his appeal was granted.

“Your current legal name marks your loss of contact with the community of your birth,” Mr. Coutts wrote in the letter. “You wish now to formally reassert this personal connection to your culture by taking the name you were given when you were born.”

The issue carries a political charge for the Inuit. Until the late 1960s, the federal government issued each Inuk a metal disc with a number on it, which is how they were then referred to.

Although surnames were restored in the early 1970s, mistakes were made and the Nunavut government is only now moving to make it easier for people to fix them.

Mr. Ward, who argues that the Inuit lack the kind of legal status enjoyed by other aboriginals, called the decision a victory for Inuit cultural affirmation even though the appeal is meant only to apply in his case.

Mr. Ward said his friends and associates are still calling him by his English name. The paperwork will take a couple weeks and then he’ll be Kiviaq.

“I know what I am now,” he said. “And I am what I am.”

Credit: Canadian Press