Nappaaluk, Mitiarjuk

Novelist, historian and teacher born in Kangiqsujuaq (Nunavik) in 1931 – died in Kangiqsujuaq (Nunavik) in 2007.

Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk, also known as Mitiarjuk Attasie Nappaaluk, Salomé Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk or Salomé Mitiarjuk Attasi Nappaaluk, was born in 1931 in Kangiqsujuaq, and she died in her home village in 2007. She was the wife of Naalak Nappaaluk, and counted 54 children and grandchilden as her decendants. The eldest in a family of girls, she learned the traditional Inuit legends and stories from the east coast of Hudson’s Bay from her mother and from her father, a seal hunter, she learned Inuit stories from the Ungava Coast.

Her youth was spent living a traditional Inuit way of life (hunting, fishing, preserving skins and storytelling) and she was in contact with the Catholic missionaries in her community. It was this contact that began her interest in writing and teaching. The missionary Lechat taught her to write Inuktitut in syllabics at the age of twenty and she then began to translate the mass books into Inuktitut and assisted the missionaries with a Inuktitut dictionary entries. At the request of Lechat, she wrote her novel Sanaaq in the 1950s. This was the first Inuit novel written by an author, who had never read a novel. Her novel containing stories of the life of Inuit in Nunavik before the arrival of the white missionaries and their influences, and it caught the attention of the influential anthropologist  Bernard Saladin d’Anglure as of 1956. It was published in Inuktitut in 1984, then translated into French and published under Saladin d’Anglure’s care in 2002, and finally translated into English and published in 2014. Due to the length of time before its publication, the first author to publish an Inuit novel remains Markoosie Patsauq, not Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk. Nevertheless, she has received a number of prizes and distinctions: National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1999), honourary Doctorate from McGill University (2000), Order of Canada (2004), Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher (2015), many recognitions which she has proudly received on behalf of her family. Between the writing and publication of Sanaaq, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk was a consultant for the Kativik School Commission and taught Inuktitut and Inuit culture in Nunavik schools between 1965 and 1996, the date of her retirement. As part of her educational efforts, she wrote more than twenty essays, which include Encyclopedia by Mitiarjuk. The latter was written at the request of Saladin d’Anglure between 1965 et 1967 and compile traditional knowledge, legends and notions of natural history specific to the Inuit of Nunavik. They were published in a trilingual version (Inuktitut, English and French) in the Tuvimut magazine in the years 1993 and 1994. After her retirement, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk remained a member of the Community Council of Kangiqsujuaq and the Inuit Language Commission of Nunavik.

According to her daughter Arnaujaq, Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk experienced the recognition of her novel Sanaaq as an honor for the Inuit of Nunavik. According to Saladin d'Anglure, she not only gave her people a recognized voice, but also reinvented the literary genre of the novel.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.


(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.