Epoo, Lazarusie

Storyteller, carver and politician born in Inukjuak (Nunavik) in 1932 – died in Inukjuak (Nunavik) in 2012.

Lazarusie Epoo, whose name has many variations : Lazarussie Epoo, Lazarusie Epo, Lagunusil Epo or Epoo, and Lazarisie Epoo, was born in 1932 in Inukjuak (formerly Port Harrison). He also died in this Nunavik village located on Hudson Bay in 2012. His wife Emily worked in the craft industry. He is the biological and adoptive father of nine children, including Daniel, also a sculptor. Lazarusie Epoo's cousins, Jackusie, Andrew, Simionie and Laimikie, then living in Qausuittuq (in actual Nunavut) were among the Inuit relocated to Resolute Bay in the High Arctic in 1953 by the Government of Canada. In 1993, Lazarusie Epoo testified on their behalf before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Lazarusie Epoo's career is characterized by two aspects: literary and artistic creation and political engagement. A storyteller and sculptor, he drew his inspiration from hunting, something he did as much as possible during his lifetime. His walrus sculpture carved in the 1960s was signed with his identification number, E9-1619. Many of his sculptures were included in the auction catalogue Important Eskimo Prints, Drawings, Paintings and Carvings (1975) published by Christie's in Canada  for their art sale at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montréal in 1975. Lazarusie Epoo found the material for his tales and stories in his autobiographical writing, which is unpublished (1981). Two excerpts of his autobiography have been published: a trilingual (Inuktitut, English, French) hunting anecdote appearing in the Tumivut magazine in 1995, entitled "A Polar Bear in the Moonlight" and “La vie traditionnelle était merveilleuse, mais.... Life in the Past was Wonderful but Sometimes...", a trilingual (Inuktitut, English, French) retrospective story on the difficulties of survival in the Far North.

Lazarusie Epoo was also a politically committed man. He was among the members of the first community council of (then) Port Harrison and became a local authority figure. His status as a community councillor led him to participate in the annual regional councils, organized by the Québec government beginning in 1964, which was formed to consult Inuit leaders on the Québec management of Nunavik. Here he met Taamusi Qumaq of Puvirnituq, Nunavik. Alongside Charlie Watt, whose wife is his elder sister, Ida Epoo, and Zebedee Nungak, he was one of the co-founders in 1971 of the Northern Québec Inuit Association (NQIA). He was NQIA’s leader in 1972, and from 1979 and 2009. Lazarusie Epoo was also the vice-president of Makivik Corporation, which succeeded the NQIA in 1978, following the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (1975). In 1980, he was elected mayor of Inukjuak. His influence at the regional and provincial levels allowed him to take a stand in defence of his community. He claimed the right for Inuit to define their own hunting quotas in his bilingual (Inuktitut, English) article "Bears, Quotas, Hunting", published in the magazine Atuaqnik in March 1980.

In 2018, Lazarusie Epoo was posthumously awarded the Order of Nunavik, an honour given to Inuit of Nunavik for their accomplishments in their community. The Epoo family, still politically influential in Inukjuak, received the award on his behalf.

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 imaginairedunord@uqam.ca 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.