Nowra, Apelie

Musician, hunter and Inuit elder born in Kuujjuarapik (Nunavik) around 1936 – died in Kuujjuarapik (Nunavik) at the beginning of the 21st century.

Apelie Nowra, whose first name is also written “Abelie”, “Abellie” or “Apellie”, was born in Kuujjuarapik (also known as Kuujjuaraapik; formerly Poste-de-la-Baleine; at last known as Whapmagoostui in Cree) around 1936. He died sometime at the beginning of the 21st century.

Apelie Nowra was born into a large family of eight children, three girls and five boys. His parents often travelled by boat or dog sled to Inukjuak to do business. Apelie Nowra has fond memories of them: his father, as he became too old to hunt seals, continued his trapping activities for his entire life to provide for his family. Starting in 1946, Apelie Nowra, who was fascinated by hunting trips, took advantage of his parents' absences to start hunting, borrowing the rifle of one of his older brothers. It was not until the death of his mother that he was allowed to take part his family’s hunting and fishing parties. He then distinguished himself by his skill, slaughtering ptarmigan and seals, sometimes at the risk of own life: during one winter, he found himself adrift alone on an ice flow, and owed his salvation to his older brother Lucassie Nowra. After spending several years living in hunting camps, he settled in Kuujjuarapik where he worked for a qallunaq (White person), before entering school in 1955.

During his school years Apelie Nowra learned to play the guitar, accompanying hymns at the request of his teachers. He began to make a name for himself in his community: collaborating with his wife Sarah Nowra, his songs have been recorded and broadcast on Radio-Canada. In 1970, he learned to play the organ for church services, at the request of the Bishop’s widow in his Anglican parish, and by the 1990s, he became the official organist for his parish. In the early 2000s, he performed the duties of Deacon, occasionally celebrating religious services. As well as music, Apelie Nowra was also an accomplished soapstone carver: a soapstone totem pole he carved was sold in 2020 on the Barnebys auction site. As a testimony of his dedication to traditional Inuit culture, Apelie Nowra participated in the archaeological rescue excavations commissioned by the Avataq Cultural Institute in June 1987 in the context of the environmental impact studies of the refurbishment of the Inukjuak airport infrastructure.

As an elder, Apelie Nowra retraced his life in a trilingual story (Inuktitut, translated into English and French), which was published in Inuktitut magazine in 1985 with the title “My childhood in Kuujjuaraapik. Mon enfance à Kuujjuaarapik”. In his story, Apelie Nowra mentioned the author and sculptor Isa Smiler, who might have been well-known to him and who also may have inspired him to write this autobiographical tale.

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.