Once a small trading post in the 1800s known as Fort Chimo (mispronunciation of saimuuk, meaning "let's shake hands"), it was also used by the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War in 1941 to survey the area. An airfield was built but was never used for its intended purpose, and was then turned over to the Canadian government in 1945. The site was then used as naval radio station, but high maintenance costs led to it being shuttered and moved to Forbisher Bay (now Iqualuit). The airfield eventually became the Kuujjuaq Airport, now a hub for northern air transit.
Kuujjuaq is known more for its handicraft than for soapstone sculptures. In the 1960s, Jeannie Snowball created a miniature doll representing the snowy owl, made of seal and wolf fur, called the "Ookpik," which quickly became a symbol of Canada's handicrafts. Its immense popularity is largely what gave the Kuujjuaq cooperative the necessary funding to start up.
Notable artists (past and present) include:
- Alicie Saunders
- Daisy Saunders (1916)
- Jeanie Snowball (1906-2002)