Kugaaruk, formerly known as Pelly Bay, was originally named for the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Governor, Sir John Pelly. Its current Inuktitut name means “a little stream”, after the small river that runs through the settlement.
The seal-dependent way of life of the Netsilik Inuit of the area was untouched by the whaling and trapping periods that affected other areas of the North. Although first European contact came in 1829, it was not until 1935 that the first southerner came to permanently reside here.
Kugaaruk is artistically renowned for small, delicate works of art, made from stone, ivory, or antler. The tradition of creating miniatures goes back hundreds of years, when talented Inuit artists created them as gifts for visiting missionaries and whalers.
While there are a number of types of Inuit fabric arts, perhaps the most well known are the exquisitely appliquéd wall hangings. Wall hangings are traditionally made of felt cut-outs appliquéd on a wool or duffle background and embellished with embroidery. The images are usually comprised of hunting or camping scenes, as well as shamanism, mythic heroes and legends.
Artists from Kugaaruk include Nick Sikkuark and Emily Illuitok.