The Untold Story of Marc Tungilik The Carver

Marc Tungilik was a great carver of Inuit lifestyle, simply because he lived it.  Since birth I have heard the sound of hacking, chipping, sawing, filing and sanding. They were very much a part of our everyday sound around our home when he was carving.

He took the Lord`s Day to heart so Sundays and Holy Days were his rest days.

The way our dad made sure we always had something to eat and dressed warmly was to hunt and carve.

His hunting provided food and clothing and we were nomadic people before I turned six.  Meaning that we did not live where there were stores or any place where one could shop at a moment`s desire. We would have to dog team about three hundred miles to do that.

Most of the time it would just be my dad and my brother Kadluk who would travel bringing my dad`s carvings and furs caught by both to the Hudson Bay Company at Repulse Bay, Northwest Territories at the time before April 1, 1999.

Marc Tungilik`s carvings were always very interesting as they were often of a scenery, rather than one piece in the earlier days.  I recall when he had caught narwhals he would be supplied with ivory for months.

This was like his gold mine, we were set to have enough food for the dogs and us from his hunting and the ivory carved would provide us with store-bought food and clothing. The blubber of the narwhals is much brighter than the seal`s when using a qudliq (a soapstone oil lamp or stove).  We eat the nutritious skin and dried the meat and the rest of the meat is dog food.

This was a very good life for us as a family.  We went everywhere together as we traveled by dog team in the winter and by a homemade boat in the summertime.

My dad had made this little boat, but it was mainly made for hunting, as at one time he was seal hunting at the flow edge when he did not have a boat yet so he swam to the seal he shot as he could not afford to lose it.

Inuit in those days had a strong traditional belief that if one needs to kill in order to survive, then the catch must be used to it`s fullest.  The older Inuit still strongly believe in this, but this belief somehow got shattered back in the 1970s when the Marine Mammal Protection Act came into place, that`s when the wasting of skins began for some and mostly the younger generation that saw no use for the skin but still valued the nutritious meat.

My dad made carvings of such events.  He would use different medium for his carvings.  For example, if he made an Inuit camping scene, the people figures, husky dogs and animal images would be made out of ivory while their base was made of soapstone, contrasting and complementing the beautiful ivory carvings.

I remember when I was a little girl how I adored the things my dad would make for me.  I recall having toy ivory spoon, knife, fork and an ulu, but I would use them daily for eating, though in the iglu days everyone ate with their hands most of the time. Good strong teeth we had.  I also had hair barrettes made out of ivory and had floral designs he made by using different colors of plastic from combs.

Marc Tungilik was one of the few carvers I knew who would get requests from the Hudson Bay Company people and the occasional visitor by airplane to make different carvings than his regular ones. One such request for him was to carve a beaver and non of us had never seen one, not even a photograph.

So this southern man dug into his pocket and showed him the side of the Canadian nickel that has a beaver on it, of course he carved one.

Many people have Marc Tungilik`s carvings.  I too have some of his works.  Marc Tungilik passed away at age of 82 on September 22, 1986.

His love of carving has inspired me to help other Inuit artists.  In my life  I  have witnessed him rise and fall, then rise again.  Yes this man was a carver genius.  After all he had a wife and when I was born I had one brother and two sisters, a family of six we were.

Since my parent`s marriage, I was my mom Angugatsiaq`s first biological child while to my dad I was his four daughter. I had six siblings born after me and then four more adoptions after the six.

Now when I see my dad`s Marc Tungilik carvings in museums and galleries, my love for him rises and memories of my childhood come back.  I will forever be very proud of him.

Taima for now.

Theresie Tungilik

1 Comment

  1. Brad Wark
    Nov 24, 2012

    Beautifully written and fascinating to read, thank you for sharing.