Louie Kamookak, Inuit historian and educator, has died

Inuit historian and eductor Louie Kamookak has died. He was 58 years old.

Kamookak was famed for his role in the discovery of HMS Erebus in 2014

Louie Kamookak, a Gjoa Haven historian who spent more than 30 years recording oral stories of Inuit encounters with the ships and Franklin’s men, has died. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Louie Kamookak has died after a period of serious illness.

Kamookak's home was Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. He was 58 years old and is perhaps most famous for his role in the discovery of HMS Erebus in 2014, one of polar explorer John Franklin's lost ships.

Kamookak was an amateur historian who had been collecting Inuit oral history most of his life. He was recognized last year with the Order of Canada, after being inducted into the Order of Nunavut earlier in the year. In 2015 he was among the recipients of the inaugural Polar Medal, an award meant to recognize exceptional dedication to the North and its people.

A diver examines the hull of HMS Erebus. Kamookak played a key role in the discovery of the wreck in 2014. (Submitted/Manitoba Museum)

Last September Kamookak was continuing his historical work, looking for the Franklin's remains. Franklin, with his crew of 129, were never seen again after the 1845 expedition to discover the Northwest Passage.

Kamookak was also involved in a project to collect and share knowledge held by Inuit elders surrounding Franklin's ill-fated expedition.

Kamookak was the honorary vice president of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

'A legend'

"He was something of a legend before I met him," said John Geiger, chief executive officer of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Geiger said Kamookak was able to bridge the gap between contemporary historical accounts and Inuit knowledge of the lost Franklin expedition.

Then Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna congratulates Louie Kamookak on his induction into the Order of Nunavut in 2017. (Nick Murray/CBC)

"He was incredibly important to the society. Louie was … the last great Franklin searcher. He's someone who devoted decades of his life … to educating young people. He's educated people across Canada and across the world.

"He's made an enormous contribution and we're very sad to hear of his passing."

Geiger said the society is planning a new society medal in honour in Kamookak's name.

"He was a very important person in our community. We want to make sure he's never forgotten."

With files from Michelle Pucci