Storyteller, hunter and Inuit elder born in the Sanikiluaq area (Nunavut) around 1890 – died in Inukjuak (Nunavik) at the beginning of the 1970s.
We only know Akuliaq’s surname, which means “space between the eyes” or “face” in the Inuktitut dialect of the southern Qikiqtaaluk Region (also called Qikiqtani or Baffin Region). Akuliaq is also a toponym, which refers to Plateau Akuliaq, in Ungava Peninsula (Nunavik). This Inuit elder from Sanikiluaq, a village on the north shore of Flaherty Island, in Hudson Bay, told his life to the anthropologist Bernard Saladin d’Anglure, in the course of an interview held in Inukjuak in December 1967. Bernard Saladin d’Anglure provided him with a notebook that he used to record his memories in syllabic characters. Akuliaq wrote that he was raised by his grandmother, the only mother he ever had; he mentioned his grandfather Tununiq and his mother Alicie Nainjajuq, but considered himself a fatherless child. Akuliaq’s grandmother hunted seals and seagulls with her husband’s two sons, Samwillie Arsaapaq and Danielli Sulusi, and she was well known for her hunting skills, as well as for sewing mukluks (kamiks). Akuliaq was cradled by his grandmother’s songs every night and grew up under her watch in an igloo near Sanikiluaq. In his youth, he learned how to use the harpoon. After his grandmother died, Akuliaq is said to have married a woman who was much younger than he was.
What remains from Akuliaq is the written story of his childhood spent with his grandmother, published in 1995 in a trilingual version (Inuktitut, English, French) under the title ”Memories of my Grandmother. Souvenirs de ma grand-mère” in Tumivut, the cultural magazine of Nunavik’s Inuit communities. Akuliaq also authored another tale, the story of Quqsulaat (or Qursulaaq), which he knew from an Inuit named Qarvik, and which he also recorded in the notebook Bernard Saladin d’Anglure gave him. Quqsulaat, who was a friend and a hunting partner of Akuliaq’s grandmother, was married to a tuurngaq, an evil spirit who could only be managed and ruled by shamans. Qarvik, who was sheltered by this couple for some time, witnessed their surprising practices. Quqsulaat was regularly devoured by her spouse, who thus granted her eternal youth and the couple’s house disappeared and reappeared according to the tuurngaq’s wishes. With Quqsulaat’s help and her husband’s powers, Akuliaq’s grandmother never ran out of venison. Akuliaq is regarded as the main author of Quqsulaat’s story and it has been told by other Inuit storytellers such as Lucy Weetaluktuk. Bernard Saladin d’Anglure retold this story and wrote about it in three academic papers: in Recherches amérindiennes au Québec in 1992; in Anthropologie et sociétés in 1998 and in Parcours anthropologiques in 2003.
Akuliaq was over eighty years of age when he died in Inukjuak (Nunavik). Although he was little known, his writings have provided anthropologists with an abundance of Inuit cultural myths to analyse. This work is continued by Florence Dupré in her anthropology PhD thesis “La fabrique des parentés. Enjeux électifs, pratiques relationnelles et productions symboliques chez les Inuit des îles Belcher (Nunavut, Arctique canadien)” (2014).