Political leader, author and journalist born in Tasialuk (Nunavik) in 1947.
John Amagoalik was born in a seasonal camp in Tasialuk near Inukjuak, Nunavik in 1947. He is a little brother to Markoosie Patsauq and Jimmy Patsauq Naumealuk, and a distant cousin of Zebedee Nungak. His family was one of many forced by the Canadian government to relocate to Resolute Bay in the High Arctic in 1953, where living conditions were extremely difficult. John Amagoalik attended residential schools in Resolute Bay, Churchill and Iqaluit and spent two years recovering from tuberculosis in the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton.
John Amagoalik began his political career in 1971, as an information officer for three years for the Government of the Northwest Territories. In 1979, he served as the vice president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (1979-1981), the Canadian Inuit association and its president for two terms, 1981-1985 and 1988 to 1991 and was copresident of the Inuit Committee on National Issues (ICNI), an association aiming to represent all Canadian Inuit in constitutional matters, in 1986 and 1987. In the early 90s, John Amagoalik was a political advisor to the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, the Inuit association negotiating with the Government of Canada to settle land claims. After the ratification of the Nunavut Act (1993), he was nominated Chief Commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission (NIC), responsible for overseeing the creation of Nunavut. For his wisdom and leadership during this period, John Amagoalik is known as the “Father of Nunavut.” He fought side by side with Markoosie to lobby the federal government to acknowledge the human tragedy caused by the High Arctic relocation and to reveal the relocation’s true motivation: insuring Canadian sovereignty in Far North. In 2010, an official apology was received from the Canadian government as well as a financial compensation for the once relocated families.
As an author and journalist, John Amagoalik has published articles in Inuit Today magazine and his regular column in Nunatsiaq News between 1995 and 2002 was called “My Little Corner of Canada”. His autobiography, Changing the Face of Canada. The Life Story of John Amagoalik was published in 2007 by Nunavut Arctic College in English, Inuktitut and in French as Un nouveau visage pour le Canada. Un récit de vie de John Amagoalik (2007). He tells his life story, intertwined with important Canadian Inuit historical and political events and his reflections for the future.
John Amagoalik has received many distinctions for his political leadership: the 20th Anniversary Award for Notable Contribution to Inuit Political Rights in Canada from the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (1994), an Honorary Doctorate from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1997), the Order of Nunavut (2014) and the Order of Canada (2019).
John Amagoalik and his wife Evie have four sons and three grandchildren.