It isn’t just that he was already one of Reader’s Digest’s 2007 Heroes of the Year or that he has been a prominent leader for Nunavik for over a decade, Makavik Corporation president, Pita Aatami has just been elected as a member of the College of Fellows of the Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary.

“I was not even aware that I had been nominated and then I was appointed to the College of Fellows of the Arctic Institute of North America. I have no idea as to who put my name forward and I am still wondering if the person who nominated me is going to come out into the open,” said Aatami from his hotel room in Iqualuit.

Aatami had a similar mysterious experience with his Reader’s Digest nomination as well the same time a year ago. Right before Christmas 2007, out of the blue, Aatami became one of their Heroes of the Year for a lifetime of dedication to his people and environmental awareness.

Though he is still waiting on the details on what his new position within the research organization will mean, Aatami was told that he was elected to the fellowship because of his work in both governance and within the Inuit communities.

“I was nominated for different work I have done over the years, mainly with the Nunavik government that we are working on, trying to realize our own form of government in Northern Quebec. There is also my work with the youth that I have done over the years,” said Aatami.

Not only has Aatami been working diligently on the formation of the Nunavik Government but for the last 20 years Aatami has devoted a great deal of personal and professional time to improving the lives of youth in the north.

20 years ago Aatami started up a youth camp across the waters from his hometown of Kuujjuaq.

“It has expanded into other communities; the youth camp has become a model that other communities started using in my part of the world,”said Aatami.

When it comes to the Inuit youth, Aatami has also been responsible for starting up scholarship funds and strategies to keep kids in school.

For as much as he has vested in the actual people of the North, Aatami has also contributed a great deal to the research center in Kuujjuaq, which was also essential to his election into the fellowship.

“We have done research on the different kinds of foods that we eat and research on our environment, it is a priority for us,” said Aatami.

Feeling that the Inuit communities of Quebec’s north serve as a sort of “barometer of the world,” for global warming, Aatami has worked diligently to draw global attention to the cause.

“It is very important because once people know about the situation, more people will be aware of the environment to make sure that it is a priority to prevent contaminating the world we live in,” he said.

According to Aatami, spring comes earlier every year in his neck of the woods and fall is starting later and later, resulting in less ice for the polar bears that have been coming in closer and closer to some communities.

As for his increasingly public profile, Aatami is still humble despite his


“I don’t look at it as fame but more of recognition for the people. When I won the Reader’s Digest award I said that it wasn’t me who won it, it was the people that I work for that won the award so I am the one who was leading but it is still the corporation that I worked for over the years that won the award,”said Aatami.

What seems to excite him more is the fast approaching formation of the Nunavik Regional Government which will serve to amalgamate all of the existing organizations into one.

Now in its second phase of negotiation, both the Federal and Provincial governments have been very supportive of the file said Aatami, a dream that he said has been over 30 years in the making. He said that his people will most likely reach the major milestone within 3-5 years.

“Even though this will be a public form of government, we have been fighting for it because it would see the recognition of the Inuit as a people and Inuktitut as our own language. This would be one of the positive aspects, to have a government that officially recognizes your culture and your language,” said Aatami.