• Feature

Carving on the Land with Uriash Puqiqnak

Sep 19, 2023
by RJ Ramrattan

The following photographs were taken on August 25th, 2014 about five miles outside of the community at Puqiqnak’s summer cabin.

Captured by RJ Ramrattan, General Manager for Canadian Arctic Producers, on his cell phone, the following images offer a special glimpse of the artist at work. The final piece, Proud Hunter (2014), tells the story of a poor young hunter hoping to take a wife. 



Explains the artist:

This story is part of a larger story my mom used to tell me at bedtime. It’s a story I’ll never forget. This man was a poor hunter, who wanted to marry an Inuit lady. He asked his mom, “Can you ask the parents of this woman I want to marry for their permission?” His mother said, “You cannot do that because you are a poor hunter.” He kept asking his mother for help until finally she went to the parents of the woman. She said, “My son wants to marry your daughter.” The woman’s parents said, “No, because he is a poor hunter.” Still, the poor hunter continued to ask his mother and the parents, until finally they agreed. Before his new wife came, the hunter built a big igloo and assembled a dog team. He hunted walrus and caribou. When she arrived, he held up a bird and a fish. He said, “I have hunted, and I have made clothing for you. This is what I have. And I hope that you are proud to be my wife.” 



I have hunted, and I have made clothing for you. This is what I have. And I hope that you are proud to be my wife.



The topography of Gjoa Haven and the surrounding area is characterized by wide open skies and rocky terrain. Beyond the community, King William Island’s expansive vistas are dotted with seasonal structures, like Puqiqnak’s cabin, as well as indicators of wildlife such as the caribou jaw bone Uriash holds here.


When Uriash asked me if I wanted to see his cabin, I didn’t think twice!
He and I jumped into the truck and we drove straight there.
I watched him carve a beautiful sculpture while he shared many stories with me.
He talked about himself, his wife and living in Gjoa Haven.
We shared a pot of tea, what Uriash calls “Arctic Ice Tea” and dried fish.
We chatted for hours. It was a beautiful experience.

–RJ Ramrattan




Uriash’s time carving on the land is complemented by reading or sharing a cup of tea and valuable knowledge with friends. In the above images we see the artist flipping through the pages of Adrian G. Morice’s Thawing Out the Eskimo (1943), preparing his famous glacier ice tea and speaking to a hunter in Arctic Bay through the CB radio he uses to assist people who are lost or stuck on the land. In addition to his role as respected artist, Puqiqnak actively contributes to his community and has served on municipal and territorial governments. 




feature was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

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