Indigenous Success Stories

Treaties and Land Claims

Naujaat elder remembered as tireless advocate for Nunavut land claims

May 3, 2023

Donat Milortok died April 26

Donat Milortok, ready to go caribou hunting, in May 2014. (File photo courtesy of Piita Irniq)

By  Cedric Gallant – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This story was updated on Wednesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Donat Milortok “put Inuit first, and he worked tirelessly to make sure we had land claim agreements that Inuit would be proud of,” said Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. vice-president Paul Irngaut.

Milortok died on April 26 at the age of 80. He was a founding board member of Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, the predecessor to NTI. A message posted to the NTI website said the organization was saddened to hear of Milortok’s passing, noting he played an important role in establishing the negotiating team for the Nunavut Agreement.


Donat Milortok, left, and former negotiator James Arvaluk in October 1984. (Photo courtesy of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.)

The Nunavut Agreement, signed April 30, 1990, gave Inuit title to the land that would eventually become Nunavut.

In 1969, Milortok became the first council chairman of Repulse Bay (which was later renamed Naujaat), and his continued efforts toward Inuit rights brought him national recognition. He became a land claim fieldworker for Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, now Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and then did the same work for the land claims commission.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News on Monday, Irngaut said Milortok knew the importance of creating land claims for Inuit. Citing another instance of his activism, Irngaut recalled when Milortok helped Naujaat re-establish the tradition of bowhead whale hunting in 1996.

“He was instrumental in having the first bowhead hunting, after so many years,” Irngaut said. “He was always outgoing, he was always friendly. He will have a lasting impact with NTI and the signing of the agreements that Inuit can be proud of.”

Milortok remained active into his later years by winning a Naujaat council seat in 2017 and again in 2019. According to the NTI statement, Milortok “was a fierce advocate for Inuit management of wildlife and the land itself.” He spoke in support a protest against the Baffinland Mary River mine in 2021.

Donat Milortok is survived by his sister Susie Angotealuk, and his children, Jackie Milortuk, Linda Tinashlu, Aari Milortuk and Elaine Nalungiaq.

Tinashlu said there are many things she could share about her father, but kept it simple in a message to Nunatsiaq News over Facebook. “We will miss him, from all the kids and grandchildren,” she said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the date of Donat Milortok’s death. 

From left to right, John Allupalik, Donat Milortok and Susan Black in Fall 1988. (Photo courtesy of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.)