Uitangak, Janni

Author, translator and igloo builder born in Inurruat (close to Puvirnituq, Nunavik) in 1953.

Janni Uitangak, also known as Johnny Uitangak and Johnny Amarualik Uitangak was born in Inurruat, near Puvirnituq, Nunavik, living a traditional life. He then attended school from 1958 to 1971 in Puvirnituq and Churchill, Manitoba, being in a situation of “losing his Inukness”, like he says, – language, culture and values – in the Qallunaat schools. Returning to Puvirnituq, Nunavik, he worked to recover his culture and in the 1970s, joined others who were opposed to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) as a member, director and president of the Inuit Tungavingat Nunamini (ITN), a movement opposing the signature of the land claims agreement between the federal government, Québec government and Inuit communities.

For fifteen years, Janni Uitangak assisted Taamusi Qumaq in the creation of Inuit uqausillaringit: ulirnaisigutiit (1990), a dictionary and linguistic study of the Inuktitut language, containing 30,000 entries.

Janni Uitangak is the author of several works, which have Puvirnituq history and culture as their theme. In 1993, the Iguarsivit School in Puvirnituq published two of his histories: one describing traditional life in Puvirnituq and the second a biography of “Janni Pov”. In 1994, he published the short essay Walk! Don't walk! Squaring off the land of the Inuit. An Essay on Historical and Political Developments of Nunavik (1994): a political text arguing for Inuit self-governance. After two years of research, he finished Panak. The Snow Book. A Handy Field Guide to the Principle of Snow (2010). An Inuktitut version of this guide was published the same year and Makivik Magazine has provided bilingual excerpts (Inuktitut, English) of Panak in its 2012 issues. This book will soon be published in a bilingual French and Inuktitut version. Janni Uitangak wrote a History of Puvirnituq (2013, unpublished) and provided the English translation for Avataq Cultural Institute’s bilingual (Inuktitut, English) publication Inutuinnauvugut: We are Inuit: Life stories of the people of Salluit (2016).

From 2008, Janni Uitangak has lived in Montréal, working for the Avataq Cultural Institute as a translator and interpreter in their oral history archives. From 2014, he has been very busy constructing igloos in Wendake, Montréal and Sherbrooke in Québec, demonstrating his mastery of this traditional skill, and then returned to Puvirnituq, where he now lives.

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.