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Michael Kusugak

Inuit Author & Storyteller

Michael Kusugak is an Inuit author and storyteller who first become well known for A Promise is a Promise, co-written with Robert Munsch.  He takes audiences on a journey into a world & way of life foreign to most of us by sharing first-hand narratives from his Arctic home. Michael’s captivating presentations offer practical big-picture takeaways drawn from his early life traveling on the Hudson Bay and the traditional teachings of his community.

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Presentations

A Promise is a Promise
Michael Kusugak is a natural storyteller who has an easy rapport with audiences. He uses personal anecdotes of living in the Canadian Arctic and incorporates traditional spirit creatures into his stories to draw out lessons for modern life. His manner and stories will expand understanding of the Inuit beyond stereotypes of igloos, nose-rubbing, and whale blubber.

Inuit Stories
Michael Kusugak’s own story is equally as fascinating as those he takes pen to paper. He grew up living in igloos, sod huts, and tents. He traveled by dog team following the caribou or living on the sea ice so that his family could hunt seals, whales, walrus, and catch fish to eat. In this captivating presentation, Michael weaves traditional stories passed down from his elders with his life stories. 

Residential Schools
Michael spent many years in several residential schools. The worst of these was at the Catholic Mission in Chesterfield Inlet. It was run by nuns, priests and brothers. Michael talks about some of his experiences in these schools when requested in age/grade appropriate sessions. School had both negative and positive effects on his life, and he talks about both sides but likes to focus on the strength he gained and the learning that brought him to who he is today. Michael’s mother always told him, “No matter what you experience in life take the good and leave the bad behind.” This advice has guided him in his life.

Awards

2008
Vicky Metcalf Award - Children’s Literature

1994
Ruth Schwartz Award | Best Childrens Book

Summary Profile

Michael Kusugak grew up in Repulse Bay, a small village in the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut). During his childhood, Michael’s family traveled by dog team, living in igloos in winter and tents in summer. He had no access to books as a child, and didn’t speak a word of English until he was seven when he was sent to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. Michael went on to become one of the first Inuit from the eastern Arctic to graduate from high school.

While in school, Michael enjoyed writing stories and poems, but he never thought of becoming an author until he met Robert Munsch. “He stayed with us during Children’s Book Week once, and I told him all kinds of legends. He suggested that I write them down, so we worked on one together, and eventually, it was published!” That story, A Promise is a Promise, is based on one of Michael’s childhood memories. He explains, “I take things that are native to me, such as the northern lights, and create a story around them.” The story appeared in a Hollywood movie, “LEAVING NORMAL,” and was made into a play. 

Prior to writing books for children, Michael spent 15 years working for the government in various positions. In his last posting, he was Director of Community Programs for Arctic College. Now he devotes his time to writing, storytelling and speaking to educators.

Michael mesmerizes young audiences with narratives from his Arctic home and tales told with string. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, boating and looking out his study window at the northern landscape stretching towards the horizon. Michael now splits his time between Sooke, BC and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.