Darrel Nasogaluak

Beaufort Delta

Artist Story

I worked alongside my grandfather for years and years. He let me see how everything was done and I would help him without realizing at the time that it was his way of teaching me. Working with him taught me everything I needed to know about carving and making traditional tools.

I’ve enjoyed making things with my hands ever since I was a young fella. I started carving full-time when I was in my early twenties and that was my only source of income for a many years. In 1997, I took a different full-time position but I kept making tools for my personal use.

With the Tuktoyaktuk highway opening in 2018 and more visitors coming to our community, I started making carvings to sell again. I especially like to carve birds and polar bears. I usually work with stone, whalebone, antler or muskox horn. I first have to look at the material and figure out what will fit in it. With antler, I let the shape dictate what the bird will look like. It is a great feeling when a visitor sees and connects with the artwork I have made. Knowing they have an authentic piece of artwork from their trip to our community is important to me.

I make a lot of ulus for local people and the surrounding communities. I source out the best quality materials I can get, usually vintage handsaws with good steels. There is always a feeling of accomplishment when I make quality tools for others or myself. It’s also very nice to feel like I don’t have to buy the tools that I need.

I also make kayaks. In the 90’s, I worked with someone who used to be an archeologist. He got interested in how the kayaks were built, so I worked alongside him in the school to make one. Since then, I have built kayaks with students in Aklavik and in Tuktoyaktuk, as well as at the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife. The kayaks are made with sealskins on driftwood frames. Making them made me feel like I was bringing something back that my family was involved with.

I also teach carving classes where I encourage people to always challenge themselves and to improve. I teach them how to pick up different types of stones, bones and antlers and to keep building new things to build their capacity. Having that guidance helps people rise to their full potential. Overtime, they can only become better artists!

I think it’s important to work with youth. I always try to include them in what I do to pass on the knowledge and to ensure they remain connected to our culture. It’s important for young Inuvialuit to know where they came from. Our identity connects with the full richness of our culture. Personally, I feel like my artwork connects me with who I am. Especially when I make kayaks and tools like harpoons, ice chisels, snow knives and ulus, because those were the tools my grandfather made, and probably his father too!

Artist Bio: 

Darrel was raised in Sachs Harbour. He moved to Tuktoyaktuk when he was 18 years old. Darrel and his wife work with youth at the school and offer workshops in the community as well. He has built kayaks with students, which are now displayed in the airport terminal and in the school in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk. Darrel wants to ensure the students connect to their identity and culture by involving them in the whole process, from preparing rawhides to sewing. He also makes harpoons with young men who are learning to hunt, to ensure that they have their own handmade harpoon for years to come.

Last Updated: November 16, 2020

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