Arnakallak, Esther

Memorialist and elementary school teacher born in Mittimatalik (Nunavut) in the second half of the 1940’s.

Esther Arnakallak, also known as Maikpainnuk Arnakallak, is an author and early childhood educator. Probably born in the second half of the 1940s, she is originally from Nalluaq, a camp located near Pond Inlet (now Mittimatalik), a community on Baffin Island (Nunavut). Esther Arnakallak is the daughter of Qaumayuq and Samuel Arnakallak and has several sisters and brothers. She is also a mother. Esther Arnakallak studied at the Arctic College in Frobisher Bay (today’s Iqaluit), in actual Nunavut, and for most of her teaching career, she taught in the Pond Inlet Primary School.

In 1953, Esther Arnakallak’s family was forced by the Canadian government to relocate to the High Arctic. Like many other Inuit families and communities who were displaced to this unfamiliar, hostile and distant land, the experience was difficult for Arnakallak family. In August 1957, the Arnakallak family was allowed to return to Nalluaq. Unfortunately, Esther Arnakallak's paternal grandmother Maikpainnuk, (her namesake), caught tuberculosis in the High Arctic and died in a sanatorium in Hamilton, Ontario, before she could return to Baffin Island. Esther Arnakallak's generation was the last to experience the traditional, semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life in their childhood, before relocation, forced settlement and compulsory schooling arrived in the 1950s and 1960s.

Esther Arnakallak published her memoirs in Inuktitut entitled Makpainnup surusiunivininga nunaliralaangullutik ilagiit (1998). The book is unilingual, but the book title was translated into English : Makpainuk's Outpost Camp Memories. In 2007, Esther Arnakallak advised on the creation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. Education framework for Nunavut curriculum, a Government of Nunavut educational document, with other educators and elders.

Several members of Esther Arnakallak’s family can also be considered authors. Esther Arnakallak’s niece, Lily Tongak, contributed to anthropologist Nancy Wachowich’s essay in Elizabeth Hallam and Tim Ingold’ s Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts (2006) : this essay deals with Damaris’s life story, Damaris being the elder of Arnakallak family, who experienced the High Arctic relocation. Esther Arnakallak’s sister, Rhoda Arnakallak, contributed to the documentary Nallua by Christian Mathieu Fournier which wasreleased in 2015, and Her brother Titus Arnakallak is a translator and columnist.

Esther Arnakallak still lives in Mittimatalik, (formerly Pond Inlet) and is now an elder and a grandmother.

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.