Arnakalak, Kowmageak

Poet and community worker born in Iqaluit (Nunavut) in 1951 – died in 1979.

Kowmageak Arnakalak, also known as Anakalak, was born in 1951 in Frobisher Bay (today Iqaluit), a city located in the Northwest Territories, which became the capital of Nunavut when the territory was founded in 1999.

Kowmageak Arnakalak attended high school in Frobisher Bay, and then continued his post-secondary education at the Churchill Vocational Centre, a school located on the premises of a former military camp in Churchill, Manitoba. This school operated from 1964 to 1973 and enrolment was limited to  Inuit youth from the Eastern Arctic. Kowmageak Arnakalak probably went to this school at the end of the 1960s. He then worked for the Baffin Region Inuit Association. This organisation represented the 14,000 Inuit from thirteen communities in the Baffin region (today Qikiqtaaluk) and promoted their socioeconomic development. The association was renamed the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) in 1996. The QIA has been a leader in Inuit land claim negotiations as well as a defender of the history and culture of the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut.

Kowmageak Arnakalak authored five poems in bilingual versions (English, Inuktitut) between 1975 and 1976. The poems are entitled: “Prayer“ (1975), “A Song for My Dogs” (1975), “My Teacher” (1975), “Northern Lights” (1975) and “The Message came in Human Form” (1976). The poems were published in the Inuit Tapirisat’s periodical Inuit Monthly = Inuit Uplumi, which was renamed Inuit Today in 1975, between the release dates of Kowmageak Arnakalak’s first two poems. The poem “Northern Lights” was Kowmageak Arnakalak’s most disseminated literary work. It was republished in the periodical Bulletin in 1977, as well as in Penny Petrone’s Canadian Inuit literature anthology Northern Voices: Inuit Writings in English (1988, 1992). In this poem, Kowmageak Arnakalak compares and contrasts the legends and scholarly explanations for the Northern Lights phenomenon and then celebrates their beauty. Another author and artist from Nunavut, Alootook Ipellie was also interested in the Northern Lights and he illustrated Kowmageak Arnakalak’s poem “A Song for My Dogs”. Kowmageak Arnakalak’s poetry promotes the transmission of his community’s cultural heritage and history.

Kowmageak Arnakalak died young at the age of 28 years in 1979.

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.