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Idlout Family Members Talk about Joseph Idlout’s Photographs.

The photographs and history featured in this exhibition are particularly important for Joseph Idlout’s descendants and members of his larger community.  Below are some excerpts from interviews with family members.  We thank them for their permission to post their comments.

We also welcome reflections from other family members.  If you would like to contribute, please contact Carol Payne at


Joseph Idlout’s eldest son Paul Ullatitaq Idlout spoke with Christina Williamson and Carol Payne in Apex, outside of Iqaluit. Retired from his careers as an RCMP Special Constable and the first Inuk and first Nunavut-born Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic, Paul Ullatitaq Idlout was eighty-four years old at the time.  He enthusiastically studied the photo album while speaking to us about the images.  Paul Ullatitaq Idlout’s son Eric had introduced us to his father and helped arrange our meeting.  The three of us sat talking in the kitchen of Bishop Idlout’s home in Apex, an album of photographs resting in front of him.
Bishop Idlout had not seen most of the photographs in the album before and yet they held a deep and immediate sense of familiarity for him.  As he told us, “This land is still in my head. I was there many days when I went outside the hill is in my head.” (Paul Ullatitaq Idlout 2018)  Paul Ullatitaq Idlout is visible on almost every page of the album.  He appears as a young man posed with family and camp members.  In one sequence of images, he and his first wife, Ishoogituk, one of Ludy Pudluk’s sisters, walk toward the Anglican Church in Pond Inlet [Mittimatalik] on their wedding day and greet well-wishers. In others, he is pictured participating in the hunt.  Perhaps the most spectacular of these images is a photograph of him standing astride a dying polar bear. The enormous creature struggles to raise its head while the young hunter restrains him with a harpoon.  During the meetings and interviews conducted by Christina, Alexandra, and me in Pond Inlet [Mittimatalik] the week before, this had been the most popular of the images.  Young boys, in particular, were drawn to it, gasping in awe at the sight of the triumphant hunter, not much older than them; they snapped up the extra copies of this photograph that we had printed.  And back in Apex, at his kitchen table, Paul Ullatitaq Idlout, too, smiled broadly and laughed when he turned the page to see the dramatic image.  


In Ottawa in 2023, Susan Salluviniq, Idlout’s youngest daughter, sat down with Augatnaaq Eccles and Carol Payne over some of her father’s photographs. She, too, revisited family and experiences through the photographs. 

Susan Salluviniq has lived in Resolute [Qausuittuq] since her family’s relocation in 1955.  She is a former mayor of the hamlet and an advocate for the High Arctic relocatees.  This was not the first time that Susan had seen her father’s photographs and the camera provided a bond between the two. As she told us, “I remember looking through pictures that my father had taken.  He gave me a camera for my birthday. I guess he wanted this to continue of him taking pictures.”(Susan Salluviniq, March 2023).  

Susan was a young child, still being carried in her mother, Qillaq’s, amauti when the family was relocated to the High Arctic.  As a result, she does not have personal memories of Aulatseevik, where most of the photographs were shot; but they nonetheless brought back memories of her father’s hunting prowess and travelling with him to hunt seals as a young child.  When she saw pictures of her mother, Qillaq, Susan smiled deeply and recalled how much sewing she had to do and how beautiful their clothes were. Above all, the photographs represented a deep familial bond: “They were living in very peaceful surroundings. Caring. They were so at peace, looking at the pictures. A total different way of life from how we are living today.  You know we are working at home or in the community.  We’ll go camping to get closer to the family and you can tell that they were close.” (Susan Salluviniq, March 2023)  

Susan recalled how Idlout and Qillaq welcomed and cared for relatives, including Kadloo’s family and relatives visiting from Pond Inlet [Mittimatalik]. She shared the photographs with extended family in Resolute [Qausuittuq]. 


For younger generations of the Idlout family, the photographs were equally vivid.  Joshua Idlout, Paul Ullatitaq Idlout’s son and Idlout’s grandson, spoke with Alex Anaviapik, Christina Williamson and Carol Payne in Mittimatalik.  Through the images, he considered what his father had taught him about hunting and the model his grandfather, Idlout, and great grandfather, Akoomalik, provided.  Joshua Idlout told us about his first narwhal hunt.  Narwhal were plentiful in the waters around Curry Island but Joshua Idlout and interviewees noted that a double-tusked narwhal was unusual [Figure 7.17] He started the story by saying, “We foremost respect the animals that are around us, you can’t waste what you caught, share what you caught with the families that are hungry.” Then Joshua narrated a riveting story about the hunt and familial connections with the land: 

"… we start hearing narwhals … There was my dad, myself and my cousin we were up most of the night. The first lead I came to there was about a part of 7 young males (narwhals) with tusks. He was just about to shoot the one in the front but he thought the others in the back would get him. The ones in the back were shot but we didn’t know there was one in the middle. When I shot him I knew I had him, he was dying and two other narwhals came up beside him and hugged him and they took him down. They tend to do that with their own. Protect each other and maybe in a way find out if they’ll be okay. Like I said I didn’t see him again. 

But during another time that same day another pod came, my first time hunting a narwhal with my dad. My first hunt with him and my first kill. I actually harpooned him myself while dad was a good maybe half a mile from us, my cousin on the other side was yelling out asking for help too ‘cause he caught one too. So dad had to decide which one to go to. My narwhal went to the other side of the lead so I had to find another way to cross it. So I went across it and harpooned it and came back. 

When we butchered our meat dad said that was enough, we got enough, he just wanted one young one, one black yearling or two because its nicer meat for the ladies, softer, tender. Just when we were going home, crossing another lead a big full whale came up right in front of us, he was a lot bigger than us, so we let him pass through and crossed the went and went home. It’s hard work coming home in this area in the Spring, the ice has really thin areas. My grandfather taught us how to get around this area, especially the area he was born. That was my dad’s hunting ground. That’s where we did most of our hunting." (Joshua Idlout, May 2018)