History of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Co-operative


History of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Co-operative

May 1st, 2010

Jennifer Alsop, SERNNoCA Researcher

In coordination with Dr. Ian McPherson, University of Victoria

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Dorset Cultures
  3. The Settlement of Cape Dorset
  4. Early Cape Dorset Art and James Houston
  5. Introduction of the Co-op concept
  6. Those Early Days
  7. Operations/ Expansion of West Baffin: 1970 to Present
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix A: Early Cape Dorset Artists
  10. Appendix B: Cape Dorset Resources



The community of Cape Dorset is a young and vibrant one, very much focused upon the production of prints, graphics, carvings and other types of Inuit art. It is said that Cape Dorset has more artists per capita than any other community in Canada. The following case study traces the history of the people of this community in Nunavut. In particular, it will highlight the role that the West Baffin Co-operative played as a mechanism of community-based ownership and development, and it will consider the contributions made by the seminal characters involved in its expansion.

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Early Dorset Cultures

The barren hills surrounding the community of Cape Dorset have long been inhabited by nomadic indigenous people whose traditional patterns of living on the land was dependent upon seasonally available marine and land mammals, as well as fish.  Various archaeological discoveries in the Canadian Arctic archipelago have revealed that people have been living in the region as far back as 4500 BP (Before Present). In archaeological terms, Pre-Dorset cultures have been defined by the materials left behind, materials that have survived centuries in the earth, such as micro-blades, small scrapers and other types of small tools[1]

In 1925, Diamond Jenness discovered remnants of an early civilization - that of the Dorset people, who were said to live in an area around the present day community of Cape Dorset from 800 BC to AD 1300.[2] This culture was apparently more successful than its predecessors, in part because people became proficient at hunting on the winter sea ice. These people flourished in a period that became much colder than that experienced by pre-Dorset cultures. The Dorset people were possibly the first in the Canadian Arctic to build igloos, and they are well know for the miniature carvings, which have been found in various Dorset excavation sites. The climate warmed around AD 800, and the Dorset way of life was negatively impacted by a shorter winter hunting season out on the ice.[3]

Around AD 1000, Thule culture arrived. Thule inhabited the area around Cape Dorset more than 1000 years ago, and the stone foundations of their homes can still be seen at various sites on Dorset and Baffin Islands.[4] Thule culture was focused upon the hunting of large sea mammals in open water through the use of large skin boats, and harpoon lines. In addition, dogsleds were widely used for winter transport across long distances.[5]

Dorset Island lies in close proximity to Baffin Island, on the southwest shore, and is apart of the Foxe Peninsula. The Foxe Peninsula was named after Captain Luke Foxe in 1631, an English explorer in search of the Northwest Passage.  Cape Dorset was named after one of Foxe's financial sponsors, Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset, who was a Lord of the Admiralty.[6] Dorset Island is comprised of a 243 metre high mountain, or 'cape', which is part of the Kinngait range, meaning "high mountain", in Inuktitut. Inuit residing in the area of the Foxe Peninsula are of Sikusalingmiut heritage. Writing in 1978, Bil Gilbert describes the surroundings of Cape Dorset in the following way:

Baffin Island itself is black and silver. Peaks, escarpments and cols of dead black rock, some of the oldest rock in the world, rise precipitously above the high, sharply defined tideline.... It is largely an abstract, a still life, but not entirely so, and the evidences of life are more outstanding here, than they might be in the south because they are rarer.[7]

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The Settlement of Cape Dorset

From the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, whalers and missionaries visited the area.  In 1913 the Hudson's Bay Company set up a trading post in Cape Dorset. A settlement began to grow around it, and southern goods and technologies began to be distributed among the Sikusalingmiut. 

The mid-20th century was a time of drastic changes for many Inuit across the Canadian Arctic, including those residing in the small hunting camps around Cape Dorset. These hunting camps were generally composed of extended families groups, not exceeding more than thirty to forty individuals. Due in part to declining caribou populations and encouragement by the Canadian Federal government, many Inuit families made the decision to settle in permanent locations. Between 1938 and 1953, Anglican and Roman Catholic missions were constructed in Cape Dorset, along with a school and a number of homes.[8]

Prominent Sikusalingmiut elder, Kanaganinak Pootoogook, born in 1935, describes his experience with the early settlement of Cape Dorset:

When I was a boy ... the only 'kadlunaks' in Cape Dorset were the Hudson's Bay Trader, the Roman Catholic Priest, and the people from the Baffin Trading Company. It was like that all of the time I was growing up, but in those days the idea of having to work for our livings never occurred to us, all I though about was growing up to be a man, having a team of fast dogs, and being able to get all the game I needed. However, I did not travel by dog team for all that many years, for despite what I would have liked to do there were more and more Kadlunaks arriving.[9]

In the late 1950's, Kananginak was faced with the decision to move into town, as his father had grown quite ill:

Back in 1957, I was in Cape Dorset because my father was ill and as the youngest I had to stay home with my father who loved me very much. The government asked me to stay in Cape Dorset with my wife and our little daughter. At first I wasn't happy, for I wanted to go hunting game when I could be a man, able to feed my family. By that time, there were nurses, a government and a teacher also in Cape Dorset."

Moving into town meant the end of a nomadic, ancestral life for Inuit. In Cape Dorset, the transition to a new way of life, and memory of another way of life, would be captured in the art produced by many of its residents, which would become famous around the world in the latter half of the 20th century.

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Early Cape Dorset Art and James Houston

Mid-20th century artist, James Houston, was long inspired by the works of his artistic forefathers, the "Group of Seven"; who were a group of early 20th century Canadian artists, famous for capturing great scenic paintings of the Canadian landscape. After a brief period of time in the Canadian Military in France, Houston found himself in 1948 on a train heading north from Toronto, through northern Ontario. He was in search of distinctly Canadian landscapes and vistas. In Moosonee, he was offered a ride on Canadian Air Force plane, bound for a meteorological station in Inukjuak, which had been established as a part of the war effort.[10] On the east coast of the Hudson's Bay, Houston "discovered" Inuit art, and he remembers that historical moment:

 I see this guy come running up the beach at me ... fist out, clenched like that, and I thought this could lead to a punch in the nose. Instead of that, he opens his fist, and I see for the first time, the first Inuit carving, that I'd ever seen. I took it in.  I was so excited by it. The following day, I went down to the HBC outpost, this fellow, Norman Ross who was the Hudson's Bay manager. I know this thing is 100 to 150 years old. So I raised it up in front of Ross, and I opened it up like that, and I said, "How old do you think this is?" He says, "I don't know, maybe it was carved last night, or early this morning, just for you".  At first I thought, oh how disappointing. And then I thought some more, I thought, "You don't mean to say that there are people around here who can make this thing today, this marvelous thing that I've got in my hand?". And, he said, "Yah sure, they made it for you." Well, the whole world opened up for me, and I thought, anything could happen from this.[11]

In Inukjuac, Houston gathered a sample of carvings to bring back with him to Montréal, where the Canadian Handicrafts Guild recommended that Houston head back to the North and encourage Inuit to produce more carvings for sale to the South.  In 1949, Houston spent a number of months in Inukjuak, Povungnituk and Akulivik, and the thousand carvings he brought back to the south out-sold anyone's expectations. From 1950 to 1952, Houston served as a 'roving crafts officer', for the Handicrafts guild, traveling by dogsled, airplane, and, occasionally on the CD Howe Arctic Patrol vessel. His work for the Guild, was largely supported by federal government grants, and in 1952 he illustrated a small book, Sunuyksuk, published by the Department of Northern Affairs encourage the arts and crafts industry among the Inuit. [12]

After several years of collecting Inuit art and promoting its sale in the south, Houston was posted to Cape Dorset as a Federal Service Officer in 1954, where he encouraged Inuit to carve and make graphic prints.  It was during this period that Houston and Kananginak Pootoogook's destinies became enmeshed. Houston, who acquired the Inuit name Shaumirk, (meaning "left-handed one") employed Pootoogook for odd jobs around the fledgling government buildings as well as some stonework.[13]

Houston remained impressed by the skill of a number of Cape Dorset residents. In the fall of 1957, Houston introduced printmaking to Pootoogook, and others in the community. In 1958, he helped establish a printmaking shop, in which it was hoped that residents could learn to produce prints for outside markets[14]. Kananginak Pootoogook was one of the earliest students of Cape Dorset printmaking; over time he mastered the techniques of copper engraving, lithography, stonecutting, and silk-screening. Pootoogook describes the early days of the printmaking shop:

I worked all week from Monday to Saturday for $12.00. It wasn't much but we tried to remember that if people liked the pictures we made, there would be more money later.... We worked very hard and made many mistakes in what we were doing. We didn't have very many good tools, so we used Shaumirk's when we first started printmaking.[15]

Pootoogook also partnered with his father in those early days of the printmaking shop, often printing both his own work and his father's drawings: [16]

In 1958 my father was in bed all the time so Shaumirk asked him to make drawings with a pencil and I used to fetch them. Not too many prints were made at that time because we didn't have all that much paper or ink.[17]

Kananginak's prints generally include the many species of birds and animals he hunted for food. In 1977, the World Wildlife Commission released a limited edition of works in which four of his images were included.

The beginning of the printmaking shop were filled with setbacks and learning experiences. Initially, linoleum was used as the primary material in the printmaking process; which was fastened to piece of thin wood. The design was copied onto the linoleum, and once finished, inked and paper set on top. If prints were deemed satisfactory, 12 copies were promptly made. Over time the skills of the printmakers improved, and helpers were brought in to the shop to assist the printers with certain tasks. Sales to the south began to pick up.

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Introduction of the Co-op concept

In 1958 discussions around the development of a co-op in Cape Dorset began in earnest, after the printmaking shop began to take off. The 'project approach' to co-operative development adopted by the Department of Natural Resources and Northern Development involved presenting project plans to the community after the area economic surveys had been completed, and allowing the community to "accept" or "reject" the idea[18]. Once approval was given by the community co-op members had to decide upon what aspects of co-operative business to pursue. They decided on a two-fold program. On the one hand, they wanted to encourage community members to participate directly in the economic development of their communities through co-operative ownership. On the other, they sought to build skills development and system sustainability through educational programming for co-operative membership, management and executive. This would be accomplished in order to improve understanding of the corporate body of the Co-op, its relationship with organizations and corporations external to the community, and the roles and responsibilities of members, including their levels of general and technical knowledge.[19]

Pootoogook, began to think about the benefits of such an arrangement:

Our carvings were increasing and there was a collection of prints gathered down south, so with Joanasi Solomoni as interpreter, we learnt more and more about co- ops. I began to think that a co-op would be better than the traders, and as I heard more and more about it I decided that if we could have a coop woe could have two stores here and that would be better, for the prices of things would be lower .. A co-op however would help the people even more than the B.T.C (Baffin Trading Company) for now the people were longer poor and could help themselves through the coop with carvings and prints.[20]

Don Snowden, and Alexander Sprudz were two officers at DNANR, whose extensive lobbying efforts within the federal government, helped in securing funding toward the creation of northern co-operatives in the 1950s and 60s. Their knowledge of co-operatives stemmed from knowledge ascertained from the strong co-operative movements in their homelands of Lithuania and the Netherlands.[21]  While departmental figures, such as recently hired James Houston, played a role in setting up several of the first co-operatives, in other communities, church priests and RCMP officers were responsible for introducing the idea to recently settled communities. Financing for Inuit co-operatives was made available to those that needed it through the Eskimo Loan Fund. Residents of Cape Dorset were in a relatively good position with regards to financing the construction of the co-op, as the money saved from the sale of prints to the south was pooled and used to set up what was initially called the "West Baffin Sports Fishing Co-operative".

Don Snowden had predicted a flourishing northern tourism industry in the Arctic. The Co-op at Cape Dorset was first incorporated in 1959 as the West Baffin Sports Fishing Co-operative, with the hope that sports fishing and other outdoor sports adventures would soon take off. Led by Arthur Emory Houghton Jr., president of Steuben Glass company, a plastic igloo was set up in Tellik Inuit about five miles north of Cape Dorset for the purposes of enticing sports-adventure enthusiasts to the Arctic.  In a strange twist, the West Baffin Sports Fishing Co-operative was advertised in a story in Newsweek as follows:

For rent: Plastic Igloo only 1,800 miles from North Pole. Seal and bear hunting ideal. Fine Eskimo cuisine. $760 to $1300 per week per person[22]

Don Snowden's prediction proved to be a little premature, however, and the tourist camp at Tellik Inlet only lasted two years, in part due to the inaccessibility of the site and the lack of transportation infrastructure.

 The original incorporation documents of the West Baffin Sports Fishing Co-operative were lost somewhere between Ottawa and Cape Dorset. As a result, in 1961, an amendment to the name of the Cape Dorset cooperative association's name was made and the co-op was reincorporated as the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Limited.  Original incorporation documents were signed by Kananginak Pootoogook, Iyola Kingwatsiak, Joanasie Salomonie, Lukta Quiatsuq, and Kiakshuk Qiatsuq. Kananginak writes of the benefits of co-op in Cape Dorset:

Perhaps if the trader [BTC] and the Government were the only people here, then some people who were poor wouldn't even go hunting but would probably just be helped by the Government...through [the coop], people get to know each other more than when it was just Government here. We are happy because we are no longer poor, indeed if there was no co-op I would just be staying in Cape Dorset living on welfare payments, but through the Co-op I am able to earn a living[23].
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Those early days

In addition to the expertise provided by James Houston, Terry Ryan, a young art student began at the West Baffin Co-op in 1960, initially as a temporary arts advisor.  He stayed for close to 30 years as the co-op's general manager. Writing in 1983, Ryan had this to say about his earliest recollections of Cape Dorset:

My first recollections of Cape Dorset date back to the fall of 1958, when I came by sea from North Baffin Island. Arriving in such a manner, tediously slow by today's standards, gave me a far greater awareness of the land, its character and its vastness than most visitors in the 1980s can achieve.[24]

Ryan has since helped three generations of Inuit artists develop and sell their art. For much of this time, he served as general manager. During the 25th anniversary of the Cape Dorset Co-op, in 1983, Ryan acknowledged the tremendous change the community had witnessed since his arrival in 1958:

During the past twenty-five years, the community has changed immensely; now it is busy, congested and seemingly ever-expanding. The population has more than doubled since 1958, from a handful of families living in town and the remainder in camps scattered along the south Baffin shore to an established community of almost one thousand people.[25]

During Ryan's over 30 years as general manager of the West Baffin Co-operative, he worked vigorously to further the cause of Dorset printmaking and art, on a number of fronts. He sourced stone for carvings, developed a network of dealers across North America, including the Dorset Fine Arts marketing and distribution centre in Toronto. He also managed the production of Cape Dorset's annual print catalogue, and helped organize community visits on behalf of traveling artists to the north, and also, of fine arts programs for the benefit of Cape Dorset printmakers, carvers and other artists/ craft makers[26]. In 1983, Ryan had this to say of the success of the West Baffin Co-operative:

Twenty-five years after the initial experiment, Dorset is showing the ability and the desire to become a centre for the graphic arts of the eastern Arctic, one that offers its facilities to aspiring artists whose own communities do not contain the necessary tools for the fulfillment of their artistic abilities.[27]
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Operations/ Expansion of West Baffin: 1970 to present

The West Baffin Co-operative Association has remained relatively independent of the co-operatives system in the north. Some attribute West-Baffin's relative strength and longevity, to persistent and effective management. This is a big part of the story, as Terry Ryan's extended tenure as co-op manager[AJ1] , and his background in the arts did much to help support the development of the arts sector, while maintaining a strong and vibrant co-op. However, this is only one part of the story. Cape Dorset artists are well recognized around the world, and their art has inspired the imaginations of millions of people. The talent of the artists of Cape Dorset, and the long-standing support from the community for West Baffin Co-operative Association are two essential elements of the co-op's success. Community support is an essential element to the success of any community-based business, co-ops aside. This support is represented graphically, in Graph 1 below, which plots employment and membership numbers at the West Baffin Co-operative during the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s.

Graph 1


The late 1970s and early 1980s were a difficult time of great upheaval for the co-operative system in the north. Many co-ops over the ten year period were deemed "not in good standing"  in Annual Reports of the Northwest Territories Co-operative Movement, in the late 1970s to mid 1980s. Those deemed "not in good standing", had annual returns outstanding[29]  The system was challenged on a number of fronts. The recession of the late 1970s meant that credit was in short supply, and the governments became much more fiscally conservative with their spending patterns. The system of co-ops in the north at the time was unable to seek assistance from banks, and had been reliant for financing upon the Eskimo Loan Fund operated by the Federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development,. However, the Federal government slowly rescinded this type of economic development funding for NWT co-operatives and the West Baffin Co-operative did not escape this challenging period of time unscathed. As is evident in Graph 1, a membership drive was enacted in the early 1980s as a method of income generation for the co-op. Several years of a depressed art market in the south had a significant impact upon the co-op's bottom line.

The creation of the Arctic Co-operative Development Fund (ACDF) in 1986 , was a major milestone in the progression towards greater independence from government financing. ACDF is a self-managed fund of pooled financial resources, owned and controlled by the co-operative businesses receiving funding[30].  The Fund received a one-time contribution of source capital equaling $10 million in 1986 dollars, $4.9 million was through INAC and the Eskimo Loan Fund, which provided a loan guarantee and through the transfer of existing loans to the system. In addition, the Government of Canada provided $5 million in new cash, while the Government of the NWT provided $300,000.

Through ACDF, many co-operatives within the Arctic Co-operatives Limited (ACL), system were finally able to finance the expansion plans needed for their fast-growing communities. In 1993, ACL provided West Baffin Co-operative with project management services so it could upgrade its facilities.. In 1994, West Baffin further itself became a project manager and helped develop several housing units. In the same year, it installed a computer point-of-sale system.

Chart 1


Types of services


Retail store, arts and crafts, furs, contracting, tourism


Retail, hotel, arts/crafts, POL, contracts, agencies


Retail store, POL, arts/ crafts, video rental, fine arts marketing in TO


Retail, POL, big ticket (yamaha), arts and crafts, property rentals, other rentals, other contracts


Currently, the West Baffin Co-operative offers retail, POL, Yamaha sales, property and other rentals, and some contracting. The arts and crafts sector of the West Baffin Co-operative remains a strong and vital segment of the local economy. In 1978, after several years of jointly managing a marketing agency with a number of other Co-ops in the system, the West Baffin Co-operative ventured out on its own, and established its own marketing division, known as "Dorset Fine Arts", with offices in Toronto. Sales of graphics and sculpture are now accomplished through this southern office.[32] Cape Dorset art is world-renowned and easily identifiable.

Locally, today, the Cape Dorset Co-operative is now known as the Kinngait Co-operative. Many communities in Nunavut are currently undergoing a process to re-establish Inuit names for their communities; Cape Dorset is no exception to this. The co-op remains a core element of the community. As of 2005, 13 of the 15 artists from Nunavut, which have been made members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art, are from Cape Dorset:[33] Abraham Etungat, Pitseolak Ashoona, Pauta Saila, Kenojuak Ashevak, Osuitok Ipeelee, Kananginak Pootoogook, Mayureak Ashoona, Kiawak Ashoona, Paulaussie Pootoogook, Toonoo Sharky, Pitaloosie Saila, Aqjangajuk Shaa and Oviloo Tunnillie.

In 2009, the West Baffin Co-operative celebrated its 50th anniversary. To celebrate, the 2009 Cape Dorset print collection was displayed at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit. It contained 36 prints[34]. In addition, the National Gallery of Canada opened a new exhibition, entitled "Uuturautiit: Cape Dorset Celebrates 50 Years of Printmaking". Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, as patron of the 50th Anniversary year invited Cape Dorset artists Ashevak Pootoogook, Ningeokuluk Teevee and the director of Dorset Fine Arts, Leslie Boyd Ryan, to tea at Rideau Hall. 

In celebration of West Baffin's 50th Anniversary, a one hour documentary was produced, detailing the  operations of the Kinngait studios, in contemporary times. From it's beginnings in the 1950, the studio has been incredibly important to the production of Inuit art, and is now the longest-established fine-arts studio in Canada[35]. To ensure the development of artistic talent in the community, paper and supplies are available to any interested community members to begin experiencing with drawing and painting. Emerging artists include Jutai Toonoo, Suvinai Ashoona, Arnaquq Ashevak, and Tim Pitsiulak. Yet, former manager Jimmy Manning, has noted the significant challenge in encouraging younger artists to express themselves.[36] In addition, celebrated Cape Dorset artists Kenovak Ashevak, at 82, noted that:

 When I look around at who is still drawing, it feels like we are babysitting, waiting for the departed ones to come back, knowing that they are not coming back, it feels like the light is getting smaller and smaller"[37]

Yet, it seems hard to imagine that a community such as Cape Dorset, with its significant investment in the arts, would allow this 'light' to disappear. Perhaps, the youth of Nunavut, given the significant challenges they are facing, simply need the time, patience and support in order to find a relevant way in which to express their feelings and insight about life in Nunavut today. That art which is most relevant, exciting and groundbreaking depicts life as it is, not as others feel it should be.

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 Over the past 50 years, the much-celebrated success of the West Baffin/ Kinngait Co-operative has proven to the world a number of different, sometimes challenged, truths about both Inuit culture, and secondly, about community-owned and controlled co-operatives. Firstly, despite all the changes that Canadian Inuit have experienced in the past 70 years, their unique culture - and way of seeing the world - is very much still vibrant and alive. Cape Dorset printmaking and carving have shared fragments of Inuit culture with the rest of the world. Art purchased from this community is held in very high regard internationally. Secondly, the Inuit of Cape Dorset have long supported their community co-operative. Many realized early on the benefits of such an economic organization, one which would simultaneously allow them to learn ways to generate income in a changing economic atmosphere, and, in concert with other community members, ensure that the organization met community needs in a democratic and transparent way. West Baffin is a wonderful example of how community economic development can, and should be, community owned and operated.

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Appendix A: Early Cape Dorset artists

Oschoochiak Pudlat (b. 1908)

Before moving to Cape Dorset in the early 1960s, Oschoochiak spent several years living in Peter Pitseolak's camp, Keakto. After his wife, Kanakpellik died, he was responsible for raising a rather large family. Oschoochiak began to draw in 1980, when he was


Jamasie Teevee  (b 1910)

Jamasie began to draw in the early 1960s while living in an camp on the coast of southern Baffin Island. In the early days of his drawings, he concentrated mainly on a technique called copper engraving, and his efforts took him back and forth between the camp, and the coop at Cape Dorset, in order to obtain the necessary supplies. Many of his engravings were published in the 1960s and early 1970s and depicted traditional life, in the camps alongside the shores of Baffin.

Later on in life, Jamasie began drawing on paper, using graphite and coloured pencils, in addition to felt-tip pens. His art is generally of precise, simple lines. A limited edition of six of his works was produced in 1980, commissioned by Theo Waddington, Inc. During the 80's, Pudlo resided in Cape Dorset, and was an active member of the Anglican congregation. His brothers were Pudlo Pudlat, Jaw (sculpter) and Simeonie Pudlat.


Pudlo Pudlat (b. 1916)

Pudlo spent his childhood in several camps on Baffin and on Coates and Southampton Islands in northern Hudson's Bay. Widdowed twice, he married his third wife, Inukjuakjuk, in the late 1940s. They lived at his brother's camp, at Kamajuk until an injury forced Pudlo and his wife into Cape Dorset. When he recovered, he and his wife moved to a nearby camp, Qeatuk, where he and his wife began to draw and carve.

In the late 1960s, Pudlo and Inukjuakjuk moved to Cape Dorset, and Inukjuakjuk died in 1972. Pudlo continued to raise his family, and concentrated on developing his artistic talents. He maintained a fervent interest in the old ways of the camps, and the trappings of modern life, and his work featured this developing duality in Inuit life. In 1976, his lithograph Timiat Nunamuit was part of a porfolio presented to participants at the United Nations Habitat Conference, held in Vancouver. In 1978, on of his designs was commissioned for use in the production of silkscreen banners by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. His 1976 print, Aeroplane, was commissioned by Canada Post in 1978.



Mary Pudlat (b. 1926)

Mary was born in Arctic Quebec, and migrated to Cape Dorset in the early 1940s, on Peter Pitseolak's boat, during one of his trips back from Northern Quebec. After settling in Cape Dorset, she married Samuellie Pudlat, who was a widower with two young children. They lived in several camps around Cape Dorset until Samuellie gained full-time work at the Co-operative in 1960. Once they moved into town permanently, Mary began to draw and her first work was published in 1966. She was also highly regarded in Cape Dorset as an accomplished seamstress.


Kenojuak Ashevak (b. 1927)

Kenojuak was born in Ikiriasaq, and at the age of five she traveled with her parents Seelaki and Ushuauk to northern Quebec to visit relatives. When she returned to Baffin Island several years later, Kenojuak lived with her beloved grandmother. As a young woman, she married Jonniebo, and while they were living in Qeaktuk - a camp a few miles from Cape Dorset, they began to carve, and later on, they started to draw. They both moved to Cape Dorset in 1966 so that their children could attend school. They worked together in their art, until Jonniebo's early death, in 1972.

Kenojuak is one of Cape Dorset's most celebrated artists. She was featured in a film produced by the National Film Board in 1961, and in 1967, she was the recipient of the Order of Canada. She and Jonniebo collaborated on a mural that hung in the Canadian Pavillion of Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan. In 1970, a stamp featuring her famous print, Enchanted Owl was issued by Canada Post in commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories. In 1982, Kenojuak was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. One of her images was selected for inclusion in the World Wildlife Portfolio, which was concluded in 1978. Her art and her life were the focus of a limited edition book, entitled "Graphic Arts of the Inuit: Kenojuak".


Kananginak Pootoogook (b. 1935)

Kakulu Saggiaktok (b. 1940)

Pitaloosie Saila (b. 1942)

Maroreak Ashoona (b. 1946)

Aoudlat Pudlat (b 1951)




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Appendix B - Resources:


Information about Inuit art online:

Information about Cape Dorset Inuit art:



Ryan, Leslie Boyd. Cape Dorset Prints, a Retrospective Fifty Years of Printmaking at the Kinngait Studios. San Francisco, Pomegranate, 2007.

Pitseolak, Peter and Dorthy Eber. People from Our Side: An Eskimo Life Story in Words and Photographs: An Inuit Record of Seekooseelak, the Land of the People of Cape Dorset, Baffin Island. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.

Walk, Ansgar. Kenojuak: The Life Story of an Inuit Artist. Manotick: Penumbra Press, 1999.




[1] Park, Robert. The Arctic Small Tool Tradition: Archaeology in Arctic North America. Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. Accessed from: http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/ArcticArchStuff/ASTt.html.

[2] The Nunavut Handbook: Traveling in Canada's Arctic. Pg 347, "Cape Dorset".

[3] Park Robert, Dorset Culture: Archaeology in Arctic North America. Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Canada. Accessed from: http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/ArcticArchStuff/dorset.html

[4] The Nunavut Handbook: Traveling in Canada's Arctic. Pg 347, "Cape Dorset".

[5] Park, Robert. Thule Tradition. Archaeology in Arctic North America. Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Canada. Accessed from http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/ArcticArchStuff/thule.html

[6]  http://www.capedorset.ca/en/tourism_town_history.asp; accessed March 7th, 2010.

[7] Gilbert, Bil. "Kananginak: Eskimo Audubon". Audubon, July 1978, National Audubon Society, pgs 73 -  87.

[8] The Roman Catholic church was subsequently closed in 1960, due to the relative dominance of the Anglican faith amongst the majority of inhabitants.

[9] Pootoogook, Kananginak, 1973 Cape Dorset Prints.

[10] Graburn, Nelson H.H. "The Discovery of Inuit Art: James Houston - Animateur". Inuit Art Quarterly,  Spring 1987, Vol 2, no 2: 3-5.

[11] From video "Songs in Stone: An Arctic Journey Home", Houston North Gallery. (year?)

[12] Graburn, Nelson H.H., ibid, pg 3.

[13] Pootoogook, Kananginak, 1973 Cape Dorset Prints.

[14] Gilbert, Bil, ibid, pg 85.

[15] Pootoogook, ibid, 1973. 

[16] See 1959, The Legend of the Blind Man and  the Bear, Kananginak and Pootagook.

[17] 1973, Cape Dorset Prints. Kananginak Pootoogook.

[18] Mitchell, Marybelle, (1996) ibid, pg 165.

[19] Sprudz, Alexander. "Co-operative Development: Project Approach (The Canadian Experience), The New Harbinger Vol IV, No 2, 1977.

[20] 1973, Cape Dorset Prints. Kananginak Pootoogook.

[21] MacPherson, Ian "Case Studies: Arctic Co-operatives Ltd", University of Victoria, pg 273.

[22] Newsweek, date?

[23] Pootoogook, Kananginak, 1973 Cape Dorset Prints.

[24] Dorset 83: 25 Years of Cape Dorset Printmaking". pg 13.

.[25] Dorset 83, pg 13.

[26]http://www.cbc.ca/arts/artdesign/story/2010/03/09/awards-visual-arts.html#ixzz0iCNSycv0; accessed March 10th, 2010.

[27] Ryan, Terry. Dorset 83: 25 Years of Cape Dorset Printmaking. June 1983, pg 14.

[28] Data from Annual Reports of the Northwest Territories Co-operative Movement (1975 - 1982, and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd Annual Reports 1982 - 1986.

[29] The Annual Report of the Northwest Territorial Co-operative Movement, 1978, pg 4-5.

[30] "Arctic Co-operative Development Fund, notes to financial statements", 2007 ACDF Financial Statement, pg 7.

[31] Data from Annual Reports of NWT Co-operative Movement 1966 - 1982, and ACL Annual Reports 1982 - 2008.

[32] http://imedia.ca/portfolio/dorset_site001123/about.html, accessed April 28th, 2010.

[33] http://www.rca-arc.ca/en/about_members/index.asp, accessed April 28th, 2010.

[34] George, Jane Feature: "For Cape Dorset, the Light Still Shines: Renowned Co-op Celebrates 50 Years of Success", in Nunatsiaq News Online,  http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/492_feature_for_cape_dorsets_printmakers_the_light_still_shines/; accessed April 28th, 2009.

[35] For more information about Kinngait Studios, please see "Behind the Scenes at Kinngait Studios", http://www.sitemedia.ca/files/Kinngait_Studios_Presskit.pdf

[36] George, Jane, ibid, Nunatsiaq News.

[37] George, Jane, ibid. Nunatsiaq News


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Creator - Author(s) Name and Title(s): 
Jennifer Alsop, SERNNoCA Researcher
In coordination with Dr. Ian McPherson
Publication Information: 
Working Paper
Friday, May 28, 2010
Publisher Information: 
University of Victoria


Cape Dorset, NU
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