In the early 1980s, Okalik worked for the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, as a deputy negotiator on the land claim which eventually created Nunavut. That claim, the largest in Canadian history, was signed in 1993.
Returning to school during the early 1990s, he obtained a B.A. in Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, and an LL.B. from the University of Ottawa. In 1999 he was called to the Bar, becoming the first Inuk lawyer in Canadian history.
On February 15, 1999 Okalik was elected to represent Iqaluit West in the first Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Nunavut's government runs on a consensus model, with the assembly choosing the premier from among its elected members, and on March 5 Okalik was voted the first Premier of Nunavut.
Okalik has two children, Shasta and Jordan. His surname is pronounced "OO-ka-lik".