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Women & Girls: How Susan Aglukark found her people, and herself

Performing in Sudbury on Aug. 12, Aglukark now looks to art to heal herself and others
Susan Aglukark performs in Sudbury on Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. as part of Her Northern Voices concert at the Collège Boréal Concert Hall.

Juno Award winner, Susan Aglukark, left her people to find her people. 

Born in Arviat, Nunavut, her parents’ formative years were in traditional Inuit culture, but Aglukark’s were not. She told she left in order to leave; not in pursuit of something, but simply to go somewhere else. 

The first Inuk artist to win a Juno is now a winner of three, as well as a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement. She is an officer of the Order of Canada, holds several honourary doctorates, and has held command performances.

But Aglukark said she was not an artist in her mind when she left her community and moved to Ottawa, and at no time did she pursue celebrity. It was a series of “happenstances” that led her to the studio, and to her future. 

“I was not a singer, I was not a songwriter, I was not an artist. I left home to leave, “ she said. “And then a series of happenstances, of incredible people and incredible opportunities, introduced me to this company of artists.” 

She said it was the mix of recording studio writers and musicians that gave her a sense of belonging. “This beautiful thing happens when you find your people, you say, ‘okay, I belong here,’ and my artist's heart responded.”

Aglukark said that as a young Inuk, having left her comfort zone, she was pleased to find artistic acceptance as a new feeling of safety. “The more comfortable I was in this environment, the more I recognized this new kind of safety, where I was given space to discover that I, we, have a right to Indigenous healing.”

She said that she didn’t know at the time that “I have a right to explore what’s broken in me.”

“We have a right to heal, we don't have to stay in broken places. That's not normal. That part is not normal,” said Aglukark. “The more I learned this, the more I was healing, the more I had to advocate.” 

That’s why in addition to making music, Aglukark founded the Arctic Rose Foundation

The charitable organization grew out of the Arctic Rose Project, a smaller version of the foundation started by Aglukark in 2012. The Foundation works to support Northern Inuit, First Nations and Métis youth through the creation of Indigenous-led, arts-based after school programs, and other engaging cultural and creative projects.

She has also begun teaching, with a class coming up at Fleming College’s Haliburton Campus

She’s offering students a chance to re-learn how to learn. It’s about changing the idea of institutional learning, and fear of failure, into developing a love of learning and understanding the value of making mistakes.  “What we're navigating in this program is learning with emotion,” she said. “I'm using expressive arts as one of the guiding tools in the process, which, as an artist, that's pretty exciting.”

Aglukark said that the art has never been about understanding her identity; she is clear on who she is. Rather, it is about healing. 

“The healing begins when we realize that the ‘collective past’ that Inuit, First Nations and Métis we taught was false, we have to change the lens through which we view,” she said. “We were the generation that was sold the notion that our ancestors needed to be rescued.”

She said that the conversations correcting that narrative are important for healing.  “Why were we told that? Why was that so important for the other side to tell us?” she said. 

She said it’s a narrative that is not even that old. 

“We (the Inuk), our grandparents, great grandparents, we had access to them. That's how recently our world had changed,” she said. 

She said a big piece of healing is correcting that narrative, to teach Indigenous children where, and who, they truly come from. “We're incredible people with this incredible history. Our ancestors weren't these poor wandering souls, trying to figure out how to live in this world, they were incredibly, highly socially organized, and the more we learn about that, the more we heal, it becomes part of the healing journey,” she said. 

And, “if you're an artist, it turns into art,” she said. 

Susan Aglukark will be in Sudbury on Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. as part of Her Northern Voices concert at the Collège Boréal Concert Hall, 21 LaSalle Blvd. Tickets are $45 for General Admission or $60 for VIP. Tickets can be purchased at, or by calling Sudbury Performance Group at 705-662-8518.

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Women & Girls is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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