Pitseolak Ashoona Artist Biography
Pitseolak Ashoona (female.; 1904-1983) was born on Nottingham Island in the Hudson Straights, while her family was en route from Sugluk (now Salluit) on the north coast of Arctic Quebec to the south coast of Baffin Island. She spent her childhood in several camps on the south Baffin coast. As a young woman, she married Ashoona and together they bore 17 children. Only six of these children lived with Pitseolak, while the others had either died in childhood or were adopted and raised by other Inuit families, according to tradition. Pitseolak raised Namoonie, Qaqaq, Kumwartok, Kiugak, Napachie and Ottochie. Her husband, Ashoona, died during a epidemic in the Nettling Lake area he was still in his prime, leaving Pitseolak to raise their young family on her own. Most of her children went on to become well-known Cape Dorset artists.
She settled permanently in Cape Dorset in the early 1960’s. Pitseolak was among the first in Cape Dorset to begin drawing, and the most prolific. She made close to 9,000 drawings during her 20 years in Cape Dorset. Her prints have appeared in every annual print collection since her work was first published in 1960. Her best and most authentic drawings were of “the old Eskimo ways”, a way of life deeply embedded in her memory. Pitseolak was been awarded several honours over the years, and her work has been the subject of several projects. In 1971 the National Film Board produced a film based on her book, “Pitseolak: Pictures out of my life”. In 1974, she was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and she received the Order of Canada in 1977. Pitseolak died in 1983 and is buried behind the Anglican Church in Cape Dorset. She fulfilled her promise to work on her drawings and prints until she was no longer able. Her vast legacy of orginal work now resides on long term loan at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where it is being photographed, documented and exhibited. - West Baffin Island Co-op, 1999.