Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak grew up in Repulse Bay, a small village in the Northwest Territories. His family followed the traditional Inuit life-style, traveling by dogteam, living in igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. He had no access to books as a child, and didn't speak a word of English until he was seven years old. "Every night my grandma would tell us a story to put us to sleep."
In 1955, a floatplane whisked Kusugak off to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. "When you're seven years old and hauled away from your parents, it's very hard. I cried the whole year I was there." The next year, when the plane came again, Kusugak hid in the hills. "I didn't go to school that year." In spite of his truancy Kusugak went on to become one of the first Inuit from the eastern Arctic to finish high school. He went to work for the government and spent 15 years in a variety of positions including
Director of Community Programs for Arctic College.
Kusugak had enjoyed writing stories and poems but had never considered becoming an author until he met Robert Munsch. "He stayed with us during Book Week once, and I told him all kinds of legends. He suggested that I write them down." They took one of those stories and worked on it together. A Promise is a Promise by Michael Kusugak and Robert Munsch was published by Annick Press in 1988.
"That story is based on a childhood memory. I like to write about my Inuit experiences. I like to take things that are native to me and create a story around them."
Kusugak has since published six other books about the legends and myths of the Arctic as well as his own personal experiences.
When he is not writing, he travels throughout North America visiting schools and enthralling students and teachers alike with his stories and traditional string tricks.
He still lives in the Arctic. "I've always been close to the land, the sea, and the animals. I want to share the things I know about life here in the Arctic."