Freeman, Minnie Aodla

Playwright, writer, poet and committed essayist born in the Cape Hope Islands (Nunavut) in 1936.

Minnie Aodla Freeman, also known as Mini Freeman, was born in 1936 on the Cape Hope Islands located in the middle of James Bay in actual Nunavut. Daughter of Malla and Thomas Aodla, sister of the militant Inuit, George Weetaltuk and wife of Milton Freeman, a Qallunaat (white man), she grew up with her brother and grandparents in Moose Factory, a small village on the southern shore of James Bay. In Fort George (now Chisasibi), she attended a Catholic residential school where she learned Cree from the other school children. Her nursing studies were interrupted when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis at sixteen and she became a teacher for primary school in Moose Factory, just before being recruited by the federal Ministry of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources in Ottawa, to work as a translator because of her multilingual skills. She finally relocated to Ottawa at the age of eighteen.

The career of Minnie Aodla Freeman took two paths: literature and the promotion of Inuit culture, closely linked to the defense of Inuit interests. It was as a playwright, that she began her career in literature, with the play Survival in the South, created for the Dominion Drama Festival in 1971 and staged in Ottawa in 1973. An Inuit discovering southern culture and the ensuing culture shock was the focus of her autobiography Life Among the Qallunaat (1978), which was translated into German in 1978 as Tochter der Innuit: Sprung ins 20. Jahrhundert and into French in 1990 as Ma vie chez les Qallunaat, and then republished in English in 2015 by the University of Manitoba Press. In 1994, she publish with Odette Leroux and Marion E. Jackson an exhibition catalog entitled Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset (into French: Femmes artistes inuit. Échos de Cape Dorset).

As of the writing of her play, she engaged in all kinds of activities that promoted the Inuit voice as opposed to the southern view of Arctic life in Canada. She was a councillor of Indigenous culture for Radio-Canada between 1973 and 1979, directed the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, founded in 1981. She works as a teaching professional, creating educational documentaries on Inuit culture, being an editor of the Inuit Today magazine, an instructor of Inuktitut at the University of Alberta in the 1980s, an editor of several articles in the Canadian Encyclopedia in the 2010s as well as a teacher in jail. She also was an activist, being the Executive Secretary of the Land Claims Secretariat of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an organization representing all Inuit in Canada, and participating in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015.

Minnie Aodla Freeman currently lives in Edmonton and she is a respected Inuit elder.

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.