We are sad to announce the passing of Iqaluktuuttiaq elder and artist, Mary Kilaodluk. To all of us at the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, Mary Kilaodluk was a friend, a mentor, and an integral part of our lives. For over a decade, Mary worked closely with us to share her knowledge about the past and fulfill her vision of having younger generations of Inuit become strong in their culture. Mary taught by example, committing her own life to the revitalization of drum dancing and traditional sewing so that she might bring it back into the lives of others. Even in later years, Mary provided her community with a model of how to age with wisdom, grace and humour. She will be deeply missed.
Mary was born on February 11, 1943 in Batthurst Inlet, Nunavut. In the summer of 1954, Mary moved with her family to the community of Cambridge Bay. Mary was a multi-talented artist whose specialities ranged from music to dance and the visual arts. Her mother and grandmother taught her how to sew at the age of 5. She continued to sew and became famous for her appliqué work, parkas, kamiks, and wall hangings. She was often commissioned by local people and visitors, such as Susan Aglukark, to sew special garments.
Mary also gained renown for her traditional Inuinnait drum dancing. As a child growing up in Bathurst Inlet, Mary loved to attend drum dance celebrations. Her grandfather taught her how to drum dance at the age of 7. When Mary moved to Cambridge Bay, she stopped drum dancing, but one day in the early 1990s, Mary decided that she would relearn the traditional art of Copper Inuit drum dancing. Together, with her husband Tommy, Mary learned how to construct drums, how to sing, and how to dance again. Mary continued to perform regularly at community feasts and events, claiming that she was at her happiest while beating the drum.