He was here

Andrew Wagstaff
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Inuksuk placed in memory of Simon Gibbons

Nelson Monuments workers Dwight Brown (left) and Pat Doherty place a memorial inuksuk nextdoor to St. John Anglican Church in Diligent River on July 10. The monument is being placed in memory of Simon Gibbons, the first ordained Inuit Anglican priest who built this and other area churches more than 100 years ago.

DILIGENT RIVER – A two-year-long community effort to recognize the contributions of Simon Gibbons came to fruition with the erection of a memorial inuksuk near one of the churches he was responsible for.

The near-six-foot-high granite monument arrived on the site on the morning of July 10, and was put in place by employees of Nelson Monuments of Sussex, N.B. as a small group of community members looked on.

"It's so worthwhile," said Lorraine Maskill, one of the leading community members behind the project. "We knew right from the beginning when we first got into this, it was really like a mission from God. When you feel that inside... there's that calmness that stays with you and, even though we had all of these hurdles, it doesn't matter."

The monument is located on the property of Maskill and her husband Ron, next door to the St. John Anglican Church, built by Gibbons in 1889. It was the first local church built by Gibbons, an Inuit missionary priest renowned for his historic contributions.

The group had hoped to have the monument in place over a year ago, and have it located in the yard of the church, but was unable to gain the necessary permission. Instead, Maskill said they forged ahead with what she described as a "wonderful journey."

"We've been two years, and over a lot of rocky roads," said Mary Colpitts, another participating community member. "The people of Diligent River have just been wonderful. They are non-denominational when it comes to support."

Along with a $2,000 grant from the Municipality of Cumberland County, the community group has raised thousands of dollars for the cause, and continues to raise money for the interpretive panels that will be put in place next to the monument.

One fundraiser saw the group sell tickets on an Inuit sculpture created by an inmate at Dorchester Penitentiary who had come from Red Bay, N.L., the same community Gibbons hailed from. The inmate saw an article about the project in The Citizen, and wanted to contribute, according to Maskill.

Wanting to thank the inmate, she began searching the Internet for people in Red Bay. While doing so, she came in touch with Parks Canada representative Cindy Gibbons, who happened to be the great-niece of Simon Gibbons. She took an immediate interest in the project, and even visited the area last February. She plans to return for the official unveiling of the inuksuk.

Meanwhile, the project continues. An additional plaque, by Heritage Memorials of Amherst, will be placed near the inuksuk to include the message "Manelauttuk," meaning, "He was here" in Gibbons' native Inuit language. Also, efforts are being pursued to have Gibbons rescued as a "person of national significance" by Heritage Canada.

Organizations: St. John Anglican Church, Parks Canada

Geographic location: Sussex, Red Bay, Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Gary Jonah
    May 15, 2013 - 08:13

    Given the history of the inuksuk, there are variations on the pronunciation from English and of course the local languages of the north... From Wikipedia:...An inuksuk (plural inuksuit) [1] (from the Inuktitut: ᐃᓄᒃᓱᒃ, plural ᐃᓄᒃᓱᐃᑦ; alternatively inukshuk in English[2] or inukhuk in Inuinnaqtun[3]) is a stone landmark or cairn built by humans, used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America.

  • Dave
    July 12, 2012 - 09:15

    Why not support one of the local monument companies thereby supporting our own communities instead of contracting out to New Brunswick

  • Spill n Spell
    July 11, 2012 - 11:59

    Carly: it can be spelled inukshuk, inuksuk, or inuksuit.

  • Judi Allen
    July 10, 2012 - 18:44

    Congratulations!! Finally we have the monument in place. Thank you Lorraine and Mary and other community members for not giving up, and not giving in!!! I look forward to the dedication ceremony :)

  • Carly
    July 10, 2012 - 14:37

    It's spelled inukshuk