Born in a hunting camp on northern Baffin Island, Manasie Akpaliapik settled with his family in Arctic Bay in 1967. He first learned to carve by watching his grandparents and his aunt. At the age of twelve he was sent to residential school in Iqaluit, where the Inuit language, Inuktitut, and traditional beliefs were restricted. This had a profound impact on Akpaliapik, who rebelled by leaving school at age sixteen. He married a young woman named Noodloo and moved back to Arctic Bay.
After the tragic death of his wife and their two children in a house fire in 1980, Akpaliapik moved to Montreal. He began sculpting again, learning how to use new tools and media and how to create intricate detailing. Presently, Akpaliapik resides and has a studio in Toronto.
Akpaliapik has always been interested in learning more about Inuit culture in order to preserve for young Inuit it through his sculpture. He received a Canada Council grant in 1989, to travel back to Arctic Bay to learn drum dancing and kayak making, and to research and collect stories told by elders. Akpaliapik has also invested much of his time giving carving workshops in the North and in the South. He explains: "Everything that I'm doing is trying to capture some of the culture, about my traditions, simple things like hunting, wearing traditional clothing, harpoons, using legends. I feel that the only way we can preserve the culture is if people can see it."