(Annie Pootoogook was found dead in the Rideau River on Sept. 19)
APTN National News
Inusiq Shoo said he cried “a little bit” when he heard the news his cousin, famed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook was the woman whose body was found Sept. 19 submerged in the waters of the Rideau River near downtown Ottawa.
Shoo said he was on the computer at the Rideau branch of the Ottawa public library Friday when his friend came over to tell him about a story that just popped up on Facebook from Nunavut newspaper Nunatsiaq News saying Pootoogook was dead.
“I was shocked,” said Shoo, during an interview at a men’s shelter in Ottawa Friday night. “I am going to miss her. I loved her as a cousin.”
Pootoogook’s body was found in the Rideau River near the Bordeleau Park in an area of Ottawa known as Lowertown. The city’s trendy ByWard Market is just a few blocks from the park.
Pootoogook is best known for her artwork, which is in the collections of the National Art Gallery and the Ontario Gallery of Art. Her work has been displayed in galleries from Toronto, to New York City to Germany.
Originally from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, Pootoogook moved to Ottawa as her fame in the art world grew. Once in the city, she slid deep into alcohol and wound up at times homeless and eventually pregnant.
She was well known among the street and homeless community in the city and news of her death was slowly spreading Friday night.
Some expressed grief and anger and disputed the Ottawa police’s statement that no foul play was suspected in her death.
Ottawa police also issued a public call for help in tracing Pootoogook’s last movements.
“It’s not right what happened to her,” said one woman, who was on a bench in Bordeleau Park late Friday evening.
Shoo said he didn’t know what led to Pootoogook’s death in the river. He said he knew she was trying to leave her partner William Watt, known on the street as Bill or Billy.
“She always said she wanted to get rid of him, but she couldn’t,” he said.
Another woman who claimed she knew Pootoogook but didn’t want her name published, said she would try to leave Watt and escape to a shelter but he would also show up to “sweet talk her” with a bottle.
Shoo she shared a special connection with Pootoogook through their language.
“We always talked in Inuktitut when we see each other,” he said. “We never spoke English. That is how we know each other.”
Pootoogook was 46, police said.
“She was the best artist I ever saw,” said Shoo.