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David F. Pelly Writer, Researcher, Historian, Photographer

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In the late 1970s, as an experienced Ontario-based canoeist, David Pelly looked north for deeper wilderness. It was early days for “recreational canoeing” in the far North. He led his first Arctic expedition in 1977, beginning a northern career which spanned more than 40 years of wilderness travel in the barrenlands. “It was a canoe that first brought me here,” he said, “but it was the land, the people and the stories that kept me coming back.  I can’t imagine not having had the North as a big part of my life.” In time, it was home. David spent most of those 40 years travelling, living, and learning in Canada’s Arctic.  He has researched and written extensively about the land and its people, the culture and history of the North. He was a modern-day explorer of the northern cultural landscape. Much of his northern work was rooted in the collection and preservation of Inuit traditional knowledge.

The rest of this website celebrates that long career in the North, and records its diverse elements.
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Photo by Michelle Valberg

In 2015, David began a new phase of northern work
The Ayalik Fund gives those Inuit youth who would otherwise not have such opportunities a chance to build self-esteem and confidence, through challenging outdoor adventure, meeting other young Canadians and social-cultural exploration.

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“Eric at age 16, at the end of a day of whitewater kayaking
on the Slave River, Fort Smith, NWT.” Photo by Rita Antoniak

Founded on the basis of successful real life experience, the Ayalik Fund was established as a charitable foundation by Laurie & David Pelly in memory of their adopted Inuit son Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly, from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Eric benefited from participation in several different youth programs of this sort, and from their adventurous travel as a family, all of which was fundamental in helping him develop his own self-confidence and self-esteem. Despite myriad challenges rooted in his early life, he grew up to be a fine young man. Tragically, Eric died in his sleep in 2014, at age 19½, of sudden cardiac arrhythmia. The Ayalik Fund and all of its participant youths honour Eric’s legacy, by following his lead. You too can help make a difference, one youth at a time.

For videos and stories of the youths’ experiences, and more information about the foundation, please visit: