Puvirnituq is a community of approximately 2,130 situated near the mouth of the Povungnituk River on the Hudson Bay coast. It was first established in 1921 when the Hudson Bay Company opened a trading post and attracted the nearby Inuit to settle here. HBC would open a general store in Puvirnituq in 1951 attracting even more Inuit. In 1960 the Puvirnituq Cooperative was founded and took part in the creation of the Federation of Cooperatives of Northern Quebec.
The first cooperatives in Nunavik saw the light of day towards the end of the 1950s. Pressured by his parishioners who had heard of this new way of doing business from people in other communities, Father André Steinmann, from the Catholic Mission, undertook with the help of the Puvirniturmiut to advocate for and then to found a cooperative. He contributed his expertise in this area to name the first board of directors made up of Charlie Sivuarapik, who was to become president, Aisa Koperqualuk, Peter Angutigirk, Paulusie Sivuak, Taania Qumak Angiyou and Tamusi Tulugak.
Thanks to the involvement of its artisans and to the fruit of their labour, especially that of the sculptors, the community was able to raise the necessary funds to start up the cooperative.
The cooperative committed to promoting and selling the works of the sculptors abroad in exchange for which a certain percentage of the profit from these sales was put back into the start-up fund of the cooperative.
Quickly, the cooperative philosophy, which fits in well with the traditional ways of the Inuit based on sharing resources, brought new adherents which would make this cooperative one of the most dynamic in the movement.
Strengthened by the success brought to them by working together, the Puvirniturmiut quickly came to the conclusion that if the idea of cooperation was pushed a little further and extended to other communities, this would give the Nunavimmiut such a strong tool for economic and social development that government bodies and economic interests would not be able to ignore them.
That is how it was decided to invite the other already-existing cooperatives to unite as a federation. Thus, strengthened in number, they could all henceforth count on each other in more difficult times in addition to benefiting from greater purchasing power.
Puvirnituq (commonly called POV) artists will use gray steatite soapstone for their carvings and will often polish them until they are dark gray to black. The themes they carve include traditional hunting and fishing methods, camp scenes, arctic animals, and legends such as Sedna and Lumaaq. Puvirnituq was once one of the major carving communities but has seen a sharp decline in art production in the mid-2000s.
Puvirnituq is also known for its stonecut prints with which some artists began experimenting in the early 1960s. A printmaking shop was established here and an annual print catalogue was published showcasing the works that had been produced the previous year. In the late 1980s, a fire destroyed the print shop and it was not rebuilt due to the declining demand for prints at the time.
Notable artists (past and present) include:
- Syollie Awp Amittu (1936-1986)
- Davidialuk Alasua Ammitu (1910-1976)
- Davidee Angutigirk (1949-2016)
- Peter Qumalu Assappa (1935-)
- Siasi Atitu (1896-1983)
- Joanassialuk Irqumia (1912-1977)
- Abraham Niaquq Irquq (1930-2014)
- Joanassie Jack Ittukallak (1949-)
- Peter Boy Ittukallak (1954-)
- Samisa Ivilla (1924-1995)
- Aisa Koperqualuk (1916-2004)
- Annie Mikpiga (1900-1984)
- Josie Papialuk (1918-1996)
- Peter Qauritaiyuk (1963-)
- Eli Sallualuk Qinuajua (1937-2003)
- Daniel Qumaluk (1919-1983)
- Leah Qumaluk (1934-2010)
- Levi Qumaluk (1919-1997)
- Pauloosie Sivuaq (1930-1986)
- Aisa Sheeg Sivuarapik (1925-1979)
- Charlie Sivuarapik (1911-1968)
- Joshua Sheeg Sivuarapik (1949-2011)
- Lizzie Kumangu Sivuarapik (1943-)
- Thomassiapik Sivuarapik (1941-2009)
- Joe Talirunili (1893-1976)
- Kanayuk Tukalak (1937-2005)
- Lukassie Tukalak (1917-2003)