Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak today released the following statement:
“It is with a very heavy heart that I honour Jose Kusugak who passed away overnight after a courageous battle with cancer. Jose was a friend, a teacher, an activist and a politician who fought and won numerous victories for Inuit throughout his lifetime. The fact that Jose maintained his talent for great storytelling and his renowned sense of humour until the very end is a tribute to his character.
My memories of Jose date back more than thirty years when I was a residential school student in Churchill, Manitoba. Jose was my first Inuktitut teacher and a wonderful and engaging instructor. He always connected with his class through jokes, puzzles, or some other activity entirely unrelated to the lesson at hand. He taught us the new standardized ICI (Inuit Cultural Institute) writing system and I credit Jose as one of the key individuals who inspired my love of Inuit language and culture.
Jose Kusugak’s history as an Inuit activist and politician is legendary. It began in 1971 when he first began lobbying the newly formed Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) for a standardized Inuktitut writing system. He later became Chair of the Inuit Language Commission where he continued his passionate work ensuring Inuktitut did not become a lost language. Jose worked as an Area Manager with Canadian Broadcast Corporation in Kivalliq from 1980 to 1990 and went on to serve as the President of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (1994 – 2000), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (2000 – 2006), the Kivalliq Inuit Association (2006 – 2010) and made great contributions to the Inuit Circumpolar Council.
Jose will be deeply missed by the many people whose lives he touched. The legacy he has left reaches across our territory and beyond. Right until the end Jose continued to work on behalf of Inuit and taught us all by his example.
On behalf of the Government of Nunavut, my thoughts are with his wife, Deputy Commissioner of Nunavut, Nellie Kusugak, his brother, Minister Lorne Kusugak, the Inuit Cultural Institute staff and the entire Kusugak family.”
The Honourable Eva Aariak
Premier of Nunavut