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Nunatsiavut holding events to observe 100th anniversary of Spanish flu epidemic in Okak

A map in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay offices of the Government of Nunatsiavut shows the Okak Islands area, where the community of Nutak was located. It was forcibly resettled in 1956. Also highlighted on the map is the community of Hebron, resettled in 1959. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
The Okak Islands area - Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram


The Nunatsiavut government is hosting a series of events today and next week in six Labrador communities to remember Okak and what happened there.

This month marks 100 years since a supply vessel, the SS Harmony, set sail from St. John’s for northern Labrador bringing with it a deadly virus which has become known as the Spanish flu.

The community of Okak was impacted most, with 204 of the 263 residents succumbing to the virus.

“As we remember this dark time in our history, we also celebrate the resiliency of those who struggled to survive and the generations that followed who continue to be impacted by this tragedy,” says Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe in a press release.

The release said the events are aimed at promoting an understanding of the history of Okak and sharing the story of how those that lived there were affected by the Spanish flu.

The Okak 1918 Commemoration Committee, with the support of the Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, put together the events.

Event information:

• Nov. 15 — Nain at the Jeremias Sillett Centre from 6-8 p.m.

• Nov. 15 — Hopedale at the Nunatsiavut Assembly Building (Court Room) from 6-8 p.m.

• Nov. 19 —Postville, Rigolet and Happy Valley-Goose Bay The Postville event will take place in the Postville Recreation Hall from 5-7 p.m.; in Rigolet at the Community Hall from 6-8 p.m. and in Happy Valley-Goose Bay the event will take place at the Labrador Friendship Centre from 6-8 p.m.

• An event planned for Makkovik on Nov. 15 has been rescheduled to a later date not yet determined.

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