Paingut “Annie” Peterloosie, a counselor, healer and actor, has walked on. A winner of the 2011 Culture, Heritage & Spirituality Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF), Peterloosie was beloved by everyone from the NAAF staff to film director John Houston.
“Her friends at the foundation developed a great affection for Annie in her journey with us last year,” the NAAF said in a statement. “Her joy and warmth touched each person who had the pleasure to meet her. The strong connection she was able to make with all individuals was truly extraordinary.”
Peterloosie, who passed away on Saturday November 12 in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, was in her early 70s, according to the Nunatsiaq News. She was born on Baffin Island, in Akunniq near Pond Inlet, and spent the first 25 years of her life living off the land, the NAAF said in its biography of the award winner.
After marrying she continued the traditional Inuit way of life with her family in Pond Inlet. She appeared in John Houston’s Diet of Souls (2004) and Kivioq (2007), the former a documentary examining the Inuit’s spiritual relationship to animals, and the latter a look at the Inuit creation story.
“Anybody who has the idea that these people are special, they have special things to contribute, catch it now, catch it fast because the example that we learned again this week with the loss of Annie Paingut Peterloosie, they’re not going to wait forever,” Houston told CBC News upon hearing of Peterloosie’s death. “If you want to do anything special with them, they’re ready. They are not going to be there forever.”
Besides appearing in Houston’s films, she performed with the Tununiq Arsaniit Theatre Group. Preserving Inuit culture and language were paramount for her, as she explained eloquently, in Inuktitut, in this NAAF video of last year’s winners.
“All stories guide us to do right by others and thus live a long life. It’s very strong that people my age are remembering oral stories—I find it easy to tell,” the elder said of her participation in Kiviuq. “It’s a mental inheritance, passed from mind to mind without paper. I heard it at six and remember it now.”
In addition the elder worked as an addictions counselor, regularly advised judges in the Nunavut Court services, and acted as a counselor and healer, the Nunatsiaq News said. Peterloosie also worked with the Nattinnak Visitor’s Centre in Pond Inlet, the NAAF bio said.
“Preserving Inuit culture was her life’s work and can still be seen throughout the community and across Canada,” the NAAF’s biography said. “By spending endless hours teaching schoolchildren, tourists and community members about traditional Inuit languages, music, art, food harvesting, design and the creation of clothing her goal of preserving Inuit culture will be carried on by those she taught.”