Former Kuujjuaq mayor Sammy Koneak dies at 56

·2 min read

Sammy Koneak, a former Kuujjuaq mayor and longtime leader in the community, has died.

The 56-year-old died in hospital in Kuujjuaq in the early hours of May 6, two years after a cancer diagnosis, his older sister Martha Koneak Greig said.

He is survived by dozens of family members including several siblings, children and grandchildren.

Koneak was born in Kuujjuaq but his family is from Killiniq, a former Inuit settlement near the northern tip of Nunavik. He spent most of his life in Nunavik’s administrative capital community.

Koneak Greig described her younger brother as a good hockey player, hunter and community member.

“He was a thinker, like, for the future, for the betterment of the people, not so much for himself, but for the people,” she said in a phone interview.

“That is one strength that I really saw in him.”

Koneak held many leadership roles over the years in Kuujjuaq.

He was a recreation co-ordinator, hockey coach, organizer of the Aqpik Jam Music Festival, municipal councillor and Makivvik board member.

In 2018, Koneak was elected mayor of Kuujjuaq. He held that position until Mary Johannes was elected in 2022.

For the past two years, Koneak had been battling brain cancer.

Throughout that time, Koneak was routinely flown south for treatment and surgeries. While surgery proved to be successful at times, Koneak Greig said her brother’s cancer still found ways to come back and spread.

It got to the point this year that there wasn’t much else doctors could do, so Koneak entered palliative care. But Koneak Greig said her younger brother never gave up, and kept fighting until the end.

She said that she will miss how she and her brother were always there for each other.

“Since mom and dad passed away, he would always come to me for advice,” Koneak Greig said.

“He had always supported me in what I do, and likewise, I would support him in anything that he does.”

Funeral arrangements are still being planned, but Koneak Greig said she will update friends, family members and colleagues who plan on flying to Kuujjuaq to participate.

Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News