An active participant in Inuit organizations, Jack Anawak is currently a minister in Nunavut's territorial assembly. He previously held a seat in the Canadian House of Commons.
Jack Anawak was born in Repulse Bay, Northwest Territories (N.W.T.), the son of Donat and Margaret Anawak. Because his parents had difficulty in raising a child while living in the traditional Inuit way, he was adopted by his uncle Lionel Angotingoar and his aunt Philippa Piova when he was only a month old. However, he was raised knowing both sets of parents.
After his adoptive mother's death from tuberculosis, Anawak was needed at home. As a result, he did not begin his formal education until he was eleven years old, when he went to the residential school at Chesterfield Inlet. Once he completed eighth grade, he returned to Repulse Bay. Two years later, he left for a job at a cannery in Rankin Inlet (he later worked for the Hudson's Bay Company). He returned to Repulse Bay again in 1973, to work at a Co-Op store and spend time with family.
It was at this time that Anawak entered politics, winning a seat on the community's settlement council where he was successful in a campaign to enlarge Repulse Bay's boundaries. His actions won him a spot on the negotiating team of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC), the group which produced the 1976 Nunavut land claim. He held other positions on the settlement council before returning to Rankin Inlet in 1981 to act as the Co-Op store manager. While there, he was involved with several groups, including the regional ITC organization.
It was not until the 1988 federal election that Anawak decided on a political career, running and winning as a Liberal in the federal riding of Nunatsiaq. As an MP, he was known for favouring issues affecting his constituents over party loyalty. He also drew controversy for frequently speaking Inuktitut in the House of Commons.
After the signing of the Nunavut Act in 1993, Anawak resigned his federal seat in order to accept the position of interim commissioner for the new territory. In the elections for the first legislative assembly, held on February 15, 1999, Anawak won the seat for Rankin Inlet North. He was defeated by Paul Okalik in the selection for premier on March 5, 1999. Jack Anawak currently holds a cabinet post as Minister of Community Government and Transportation.
"Anawak, Hon. Jack." Canadian parliamentary guide / guide parlementaire canadien, 1999. Ed. Kathryn O'Handley. Detroit : Gale Group, 1999. P. 1107.
"Jack Anawak : politician and Nunavut Interim Commissioner." Contemporary Canadian biographies on CD-ROM. 1998 edition. Toronto : Gale Canada, 1998. Originally published in Gale INFOBASE, December 1997.
"Jack Iyerak Anawak : Inuit member of Parliament." Native North American Almanac. Ed. Duane Champagne. Detroit : Gale Research Inc., 1994. P. 1000-1001.