Kalluak, Mark

Teacher, editor, translator and storyteller born near Tavani (Nunavut) in 1942 – died in Arviat (Nunavut) in 2011.

Mark Kalluak was born in 1942 near Tavani, a mining settlement in the Kivalliq region, on the west coast of Hudson Bay, in Nunavut. He was raised in a traditional Inuit way of life, on the banks for the Maguse River. In 1948, with several other Inuit children, he was sent to hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba for medical treatment for polio (poliomyelitis). He stayed at the hospital for four years, during which time he learned to read and write Inuktitut syllabics and English. The disease reduced mobility in his hands for the rest of his life. In 1953, one year after returning north, he is sent to the federal secondary school Sir Joseph Bernier in Chesterfield Inlet, a village in the Kivalliq region. In 1960, he moved to Eskimo Point (now Arviat) and started a family with his wife Mary. It was in this village that Mark Kalluak built his career, at the local, community and federal levels. By the 1960s, he served on the boards of various local organizations, such as the Eskimo Point Residents’ Association and the Eskimo Point Community Council. Mark Kalluak served as mayor of his city for several terms in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the late 1960s, Mark Kalluak began working in the administration of Canada’s Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. In 1966, he founded the bi-monthly and bilingual (English, Inuktitut) newspaper for his village’s community council, Tusautit: Eskimo Community Newspaper, which was published until 1970; early issues of this newspaper were released under the name Messenger until 1968. He continued to expand his journalist and editorial skills, working for Keewatin Echo, a monthly, bilingual (English, Inuktitut) educational newspaper for adults published in Churchill, Manitoba, between 1968 and 1975, and Arviap Nipinga, Eskimo Point’s monthly community newspaper, published primarily in Inuktitut, between 1971 and 1976. As mayor of Eskimo Point, he also played a key role in the creation of the Arviaqpaluk Radio Station, the village’s local radio station. Mark Kalluak's career as a journalist during this time foreshadows his later ambitions that guided his life work: the defense and transmission of Inuit culture, language and stories, as well as a commitment to Inuit education.

These ambitions are combined in Mark Kalluak’s first books: How Kabloonat Became, and Other Inuit Legends (1974), Inuit Unipkatuangi (1974), and Unipkaaqtuat nunaup asianit (1975), all published by the Information and Education Department of the Government of the Northwest Territories. The 1974 imprints are the English and Inuktitut versions of the same collection of Inuit legends. Both are illustrated with photographs by David Webster and ink drawings by Mark Kalluak himself, and feature various Inuit creation stories from five Eskimo Point storytellers. These stories emerged during the elder meetings held each Friday at the City's Adult Education Centre, where Mark Kalluak had taught Inuktitut and literacy since 1969. Marcel Akadlaka’s thirty-four tales, some of which have previously appeared in the Keewatin Echo, are also included in these volumes. The third imprint, published in Inuktitut and illustrated by artist Germaine Arnaktauyok, presents traditional legends from other countries for schoolchildren in the Northwest Territories. It should also be noted that Mark Kalluak translated the New Testament into Inuktitut.

For Mark Kalluak, it was just as important to awaken non-Inuit to the cultural richness of his homeland. Between 1974 and 1990, he worked for the Inuit Cultural Institute (ICI) in Eskimo Point.  ICI founded in the early 1970s, has a mandate to promote the Inuit language and cultural heritage in the Northwest Territories. Mark Kalluak placed his skills as a communication specialist and interpreter at the service of this institute. He edited ICI’s magazine Isumasi, and organized numerous workshops focused on the creation of bilingual glossaries (Inuktitut, English). These workshops bear witness to the linguistic awareness that led him, in the 1970s, to take sides in the debate on the standardization of Inuktitut and to defend the use of syllabics. In the mid-1980s, Mark Kalluak's involvement in the activities of the ICI caught the attention of Ingo Hessel, a Canadian specialist in Inuit art. Together with David Webster and Mark Kalluak, they conceived a project to interview major artists from Arviat, resulting in a bilingual publication (English, Inuktitut), Pelts to Stone: A History of Arts and Crafts Production in Arviat (1993). The interviews in this collection conducted between 1990 and 1991, outline the history of Inuit art in Arviat. Ingo Hessel has deemed the work foundational and the publication was praised in the Inuit Art Quarterly.

For his work, Mark Kalluak was awarded the Order of Canada in 1991. Educator, specialist in Inuktitut and influential man in his community, he was now a respected elder. In 1999, the young Government of Nunavut placed him in charge of Inuit cultural heritage issues for the Department of Education. In this role, he had a decisive influence on the development of Nunavut’s school curricula. Museums and government agencies recognized his wisdom and academics – students and researchers – turned to him for their field studies. The practice of archeology in the Arctic is a subject of reflection for Mark Kalluak, as evidenced by the CD and Web site Arctic peoples and archeology (2006). In the 2000s, the Arviat Recreation Centre was renamed "Mark Kalluak Community Hall'' in his honor. During the same decade, Mark Kalluak continued his life work, publishing more collections of Inuit legends: Unipkaaqtuat Arvianit. Traditional Stories from Arviat. This two-volume, bilingual collection (Inuktitut, English) appeared successively in 2009 and 2010 and included his illustrations.

Mark Kalluak passed away in 2011, leaving behind seven children, as well as some thirty grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ingo Hessel, who was preparing a high school Inuit art history textbook with Mark Kalluak, wrote his eulogy, entitled "Mark Kalluak (1942-2011)", which was published in Inuit Art Quarterly. The young territory of Nunavut recognized his work and exceptional contribution, by awarding him posthumously the Order of Nunavut in 2011.

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.