Meekeeseetee Saila was born at Tasiujajuaq, a camp outside of Kinngait, in 1939. Saila began carving in 1948 or 1949 after James and Alma Houston came to Kinngait to start an arts and crafts program. Saila’s father Pauta Saila had emerged as an important artist and Meekeeseetee learned techniques from watching him carve.
Saila developed his carving style over a long career that spanned from from the 1950s to his death in 2008. His works from the 1970s, which often depict hunters and families, are characterized by large, expressive features. Beginning in the 1980s, Saila began carving incredibly graceful loons with long and slender necks. These loons quickly became a signature subject for the artist and he produced them regularly for the rest of his career. Originally Saila’s loons were small, as carving the bird’s long, slender necks was difficult on a large scale but by the 1990s, Saila’s loons became larger and more varied. Though available to artists in the 1970s, Saila did not use power tools in his carvings until the 2000s, favouring hand tools instead.
Saila is an incredibly influential artist in his community. Notably, the artist Ningeosiaq Ashoona has taken up Saila’s signature style of loon and has made a name for herself making elegant loons with long necks.
The work of Meekeeseetee Saila has been exhibited widely across Canada and in the United States, Germany, South Korea and Switzerland. His work can be found in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.