Jose Kusugak was born in Repulse Bay, Northwest Territories (now Naujaat, Nunavut) and attended residential school as a child. He began his career as a teacher, working at the University of Saskatchewan’s Eskimo Language School and the Churchill Vocational Centre in Manitoba, where he later served as a cultural and linguistic adviser. As head of the Inuit Language Commission in the 1970s, he was involved in developing a standardized, dual writing system for Inuktitut, using Roman orthography and syllabics. In the years leading up to Nunavut’s creation, Kusugak used his natural ability as a communicator to explain the land claim concept to Inuit communities across the Arctic and lent his talent and leadership to many other roles. An award-winning broadcaster and the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Kusugak was an honest and devoted advocate for his people, whom he described as “First Canadians, Canadians First.”
—To describe the place of his people within Canada, Kusugak coined the phrase “First Canadians, Canadians First”, as featured in Inuktituk on the cancel above.