Igloliorte, John

Hunter, storyteller and artist born in Nain (Nunatsiavut) in 1936.

John Igloliorte, also known as John Igloloirte, was born in Nain, then the northernmost village in Labrador, in Nunatsiavut in 1936. At his birth, Nain had a population of a few hundred inhabitants. When John Igloliorte was a little child, his father died from tuberculosis. His family could hardly provide for their basic needs, so other families of the community periodically cared for him. Like the other children of the community, he grew up rambling in Labradorian nature on the Atlantic coast, and his life was punctuated by seasons. He completed his primary education at the Nain mission school, but soon left school and returned to live with his mother. His stepfather taught him how to provide for his family: how to fish for cod, catch seals, use a rifle and handle a dog sled. When  he was not much older than 13, John Igloliorte became a hunter. In the 1960s, he met his future wife, Dina, by way of a common friend. The couple married on February 4th, 1963, at the priest’s home in Makkovik (or Maquuvik), a village located in eastern Labrador, north of Rigolet. They moved back to Nain and Dina gave birth to two children, Adam and Henrietta.

In 1976, John Igloliorte published a bilingual (English, Inuktitut) article in Inuktitut Magazine, the periodical of Canadian Inuit. Entitled “My Life in Nain. Inôgusiga Nainime Aglataujok John Igloliortimut”, this article told stories from John Igloliorte’s childhood. In the 1980s, he helped write and illustrate several school workbooks for the Labrador School Board. In 1994, he published an autobiographical book, An Inuk Boy Becomes a Hunter, which he wrote in English and illustrated himself. In these memoirs, John Igloliorte uses his childhood stories to explain the troubles Labradorian Inuit experienced in the 1940s and 1950s; their constant fight for survival, the challenges they had to face, as well as their victories. He depicts the habits and customs of Inuk society and reminds his readers how crucial these habits and customs are, in order to gather and hold together Inuit communities. For instance, he praises the young Inuit boys’ traditional games, which he considers help apprentice young hunters. The “Knuckle Hop”, the “Plane”, the “One Foot Kick”, the “Ear Pull” and other games, which are still played nowadays create competitions and require agility, strength and physical endurance. In the chapter entitled “Christmas Time in Labrador”, which was republished in the anthology An Atlantic Canadian Christmas Reader: Stories and Traditions (2010) edited by Leslie Crewe, John Igloliorte records his Christmas childhood memories in Nain and every tradition related to this time of the year. Among other stories, he mentions how important the church was as a central place for the community. He also reminisces about his participation as a violinist in the Christmas choir, which was perceived as an honour. John Igloliorte’s writings are characterised by an authentic art of storytelling; they testify to the meaningful and sudden changes the Inuit communities had to go through in their transition to a modern life style, and they testify to the loss of ancestral traditions as well. An Inuk Boy Becomes a Hunter opens with a tribute to the shamans who guided John Igloliorte’s community throughout the centuries.

In 1994, John Igloliorte was still living in Nain.

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.