JosÉ Kusugak was born on May 2, 1950, in an igloo in Naujaat (Repulse Bay), located on the Arctic Circle. He is the second eldest of seven brothers and four sisters and attended school in Chesterfield Inlet and Churchill and attended high school in Saskatoon. He first got involved with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then Inuit Tapirisat of Canada) in the early 1970s to work on the standardization of the Inuit writing system. Because project funding was delayed, Jose worked as an assistant to then President Tagak Curley, introducing the concept of land claims to Inuit in the Arctic. In 1974, Jose went to Alaska to study the Alaska land claims and traveled the Inuvialuit region as part of the land use and occupancy study tour. From late 1974 to 1977, Jose chaired the standardization program of the Inuktitut language; from 1980 to 1990, he was the Area Manager of CBC in the Kivalliq (Keewatin) region; and from 1994 to 2000 he was the President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, an affiliate of ITC. He was elected President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in June 2000. His wife Nellie works as a Northern Studies Teacher at Arctic College in Rankin Inlet.