Origin: Qamani’tua (Baker Lake), Northwest Territories, 🇨🇦
Journalist, cultural worker and musician born in Qamani’tuaq (Nunavut) in 1952.
William Tagoona was born in Qamani’tuaq, (former Baker Lake), in today’s Nunavut in 1952. William’s father, Rev. Armand Tagoona was the first Inuk to be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada and a founding father of the Arctic Christian Fellowship, the first Inuit church. In 1957, a diagnosis of tuberculois meant that William Tagoona was separated from his family and placed in the Clearwater Lake Sanatorium in Manitoba. He attended residential school in Churchill, Manitoba and completed high school in Ottawa in 1970.
William Tagoona spent some time working for Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC, the Association of the Inuit of Canada) before relocating to Kuujjuaq (Nunavik) in 1971 to begin a career in journalism for Inuktitut magazine. In 1973, William Tagoona founded and served as the first editor of Tagralik magazine, a publication of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association (NQIA), providing the community news about land claims negotiations. As a journalist, he has written over thirty articles in Inuit magazines, Atuaqnik, Makivik News, Makivik Magazine and Inuktitut. He co-edited with Minnie Grey et Marianne Stenbaek, Voices and Images of Nunavimmiut. Vol. 1, Stories & Tales (2013). Voices and Images of Nunavimmiut is a collection of 10 volumes aiming to present the Inuit perspective regarding all aspects of their society.
Throughout his life William Tagoona has been passionate about improving communications for Inuit communities. He joined CBC North in 1982 beginning a 30 year career as a broadcaster, creating Inuktitut language programming. He also participated in the film productions, The history of Nunavik: a new political era (Kativik School Board, 1997) and Napagunnaqullusi = Se tenir debout (Makivik, 2015).
William Tagoona was a member of one of the first Inuit rock groups, The Harpoons, in the 60s. He began to write songs in Inuktitut when he lived in Kuujjuaq in 1971 and his musical style has been described as Inuit country western. His music is well known and well loved in the North. His musical recording studio, Qimuk Music, has produced 35 albums. William Tagoona received a Lifetime Contribution award in 2001 at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.
William Tagoona lives in Kuujjuak with his family. He is the co-host of the radio news show Tuttavik, heard in the afternoons on CBC North.
His awakening as an Inuit activist was realized in the early 1970s when he moved to Montreal to work on the team negotiating a land claims agreement with the Quebec government involving the James Bay Hydro Electric project. There, he was inspired by the young indigenous singer/songwriters he met, such as Willie Dunn. William’s awakening ran parallel to the political and social struggles of the Inuit people as they tempered their self-determination and place in the Canadian cultural and political landscape in those dynamic times.
William’s ambition to record his songs at a higher level of production, led to his challenging the CBC to create opportunities for Inuit artists to record with professional musicians in professional recording studios. Thus began the era of the CBC Northern Service Broadcast recordings, in 1978 with CBC producer, the late Les McLaughlin at the helm. The recordings eventually featured artists from the NWT and the Yukon as well. Since the early 1980s, William has performed at many CBC True North Concerts along with a wave of Inuit performing and recording artists at the time such as, Etulu and Susan, Charlie Panigoniak, Alexis Utatnaq and Susan Aglukark.
In 1978 William recorded his first album, “Northern Man” with the CBC Northern Broadcast service. Since then, he has released 3 more albums and been included on numerous CBC Northern Service Broadcast compilation recordings. His song, “Anaanaga” is featured on the 2016 Grammy Award winning compilation “Native North America”. In 1999, William was presented with a Lifetime Contribution Award by the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in Toronto. He was presented with the award by his friend the NWT Premier Stephen Kakfwi.
In his lifetime, William has been driven to fuse his love of popular music with his love for Inuit culture and most importantly, the Inuit language, Inuktitut. William’s legacy continues to this day. The torch being taken up by the plethora of Inuit singer/songwriters and performance artists such as William’s son, Derek Tagoona with his band “Angava”, Tanya Tagaq, Elisapie Isaac, Susan Aglukark, Nelson Tagoona, Sylvia Cloutier, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and “The Jerry Cans”, all keeping the traditional values, culture and language of the Inuit alive and thriving.