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A Famous Inuk

photo of Angulalik and his family - Perry River, 1959
Angulalik and his family. Perry River. 1959.
(S.J. Bailey/National Archives of Canada/PA-175729)

Angulalik’s outward trappings of success were many. He had a successful business, a large ship, and he was also known to import stylish clothes from the south. Not surprisingly he stood out among native people in the northern Canada. He was photographed by many, and written about in newspapers and magazines. He was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee medal in 1935 in recognition of his accomplishments.

In 1953 he was presented the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation medal, however, the decade of the 1950s was to bring hard times for Angulalik and his family and see Angulalik on trial for murder.

Sometime in 1956, the sons of a man named Otoetok, had been habitually stealing trade goods from Angulalik’s store. He confronted one of the boys and forced him to return the stolen items. This event was a humiliation for Otoetok, who had already commented publicly on his resentment of Angulalik’s prosperity. On several occasions after the incident, community members witnessed Otoetok threaten to kill Angulalik.

This situation was to come to a head during a New Year Eve party on December 31, 1956 at Norman Evalik’s house. In a crowded house filled with partygoers who were drinking homebrew, Otoetok again threatened Angulalik and began pushing him around. He tried to stay away from Otoetok, but to no avail. In the drunken din of the party no one realized the seriousness of the altercation, and in what perhaps was a moment of panic Angulalik stabbed Otoetok with the small knife he always carried for eating.

Otoetok’s wounds were not serious as he had only a small cut on his arm and a small slit in his abdomen. However, because he did not treat these wounds but continued to eat and drink copious amounts over days, the resultant intestinal gasses caused a portion of his bowel to be forced through the slit in his abdomen. By January 4th Otoetok suffered an agonizing death by strangulated bowel.

When Angulalik learned of Otoetok’s death he dictated a letter to Norman Evalik and sent one copy to the police and one to the HBC manager Bill Heslop. The letter explained how badly he felt about Otoetok’s death, and that he had considered suicide. In the ensuing trial at Cambridge Bay conducted by Judge Sissons, Angulalik was acquitted of the charge of murder.

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