Qumaq, Taamusi

Historian, linguist, writer and politician born in Niqsiturlik (Nunavik) in 1914 – died in Puvirnituq (Nunavik) in 1993.

Taamusi Qumaq, also called Taamusi Qumaq Allatangit, was born in January in 1914 on the Niqsiturlik Island, on the Hudson Bay’s coast, and died on July 13th, 1933 in Puvirnituq, Nunavik.

Son of Juusua Nuvalinngaq and Aalasi Qingalik, his parents taught him the basics of hunting and writing Inuktitut syllabics. His dad’s death, when he is only thirteen, left his family dependent on their neighbours. To provide for his family, Taamusi Qumaq learned trapping techniques from his elders, sculpted soapstone and worked in different positions for the Hudson’s Bay Company. As an adult, he married Maina Milurtuq in 1939 and became the biological and adoptive father of six children. Early in his life, he recognized the depletion of resources in Nunavik, the power relationships left by colonialism, and the need for Inuit population to organize to defend their identity and interests and to gain political autonomy.

Two closely related aspects mark the life of Taamusi Qumaq: first, his political and cultural work in his community and second, his literary, historical and linguistic works. In 1959, he left the Hudson’s Bay Company to participate in establishment of Puvirnituq’s first Canadian arctic cooperative. He chaired the Puvirnituq Community Council between 1961 and 1968, establishing a library and the first local FM radio. He travelled to Kuujuuaq (Fort Chimo) to attend a meeting of Northern Quebec Inuit leaders in 1964, where he met the Prime Minister of Quebec, René Lévesque. He was a co-founder of the Fédération des Coopératives du Québec Arctique and the Saputik Museum, in Puvirnituq (1978). He was a vocal opponent of the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement viewing the document as an unacceptable land claim for Inuit communities. In 1992, he worked with others dedicated to Inuit justice as a participant in the Inuit Customs and Traditions seminars with Zebedee Nungak and Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Taamusi Qumaq was also involved in Avataq’s Elders Council. A spokesperson for Inuit interests and cultural richness for Canadian federal and provincial institutions, he devoted his writing to the preservation and transmission of the knowledge in his own community. He is the author of Inuksiutitt allaniagait sivulitta Piusituangit (1988), an encyclopedia about Inuit way of life and cultural traditions written in Inuktitut between 1976 and 1977, and Inuit uqausillaringit: ulirnaisigutiit (1991), a dictionary and linguistic study of the Inuktitut language, containing 30,000 entries, written over seven years with the financial support from the Quebec government and SAGMAI (Secrétariat des activités gouvernementales en milieu amérindien et inuit).

Taamusi Qumaq received a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 1989, the Northern Science Award in 1991, the Order of Canada in 1993, a Université du Québec’s special mention for his lifetime achievements in 1993 and the Canadian Centennial Medal. His autobiography retracing the historical development of Nunavik in the 20th century was published posthumously, in trilingual texts (Inuktitut, English, French) in Tumivut magazine between 1993 and 1998. A French translation (Je veux que les Inuit soient libres de nouveau) was published in 2010, followed by a Marathi translation in 2019 and finally, a bilingual Inuktitut and French edition under the title ᐃᓄᓐᓂᒃ ᐃᓱᒣᓐᓇᕿᖁᔨᒋᐊᓪᓚᐳᖓ ᐃᓅᓯᕐᒥᓂᒃ ᐊᓪᓚᑐᕕᓂᖅ (1914-ᒥᑦ 1993-ᒧᑦ). Je veux que les Inuit soient libres de nouveau. Autobiographie (1914-1993) in 2020.

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.