Osuitok Ipeelee was born at Neeouleeutalik camp, near Cape Dorset. He grew up "on the land," living the traditional Inuit way of life. The expression "on the land" is derived from the Inuktitut word nunamili, which refers to the seasonal migration of the Inuit when they lived in skin tents in summer and in snowhouses in winter. Living "on the land" also implies that the Inuit took what they needed from nature to survive: animals for food, their skins for shelter, and clothing, and stone for tools and cooking pots.
Osuitok learned to carve by watching his father, Ohotok. He sold his first piece in the 1940s, a miniature ivory fox-trap with moving parts. Osuitok's favourite subject is animals, especially birds, caribou, and polar bears. He also commemorates women and their activities, camp scenes, and shamans. Transformations, the ability of animals to change into humans, and humans into animals, have also inspired Osuitok.
Working primarily with stone, Osuitok often incorporates other media, staying true to the material's origins, using antler for caribou antlers and ivory for walrus tusks. The graceful, delicate rendering, and the careful, often precarious sense of balance of Osuitok's sculptures are characteristic of his style. Osuitok believes carving success comes from accomplishing ideas: "[When] you're a carver, if you get your ideas of what you're going to make, you have to follow each step by looking at your imagination."