elder honoured for achievements in literature, education
Attasie Nappaaluk of Kangiqsujuaq, one of Nunavik's most well-known
and respected elders, received yet another award for her life's
work last week, as Governor General Adrienne Clarkson announced
her appointment to the Order of Canada.
her life, Mitiarjuk, 72, has been committed to sharing her knowledge
and preserving Inuit culture.
a member of Nunavik's Inuttitut Language Commission and long-time
consultant with the Kativik School Board, has already received a
National Aboriginal Achievement Award as well as an honorary degree
from McGill University.
a young woman in Kangiqsujuaq, then known as Wakeham Bay, Mitiarjuk
taught missionaries Inuttitut and, in return, she learned how to
write syllabic script.
novel, Sanaaq, Canada's first work of fiction in syllabics, was
started during the early 1950s, when the Oblate missionary Robert
Lechat encouraged Mitiarjuk to write about daily life.
night, in her igloo or tent, Mitiarjuk began to write, crafting
characters and situations as she went along.
which was published last year in a French-language translation by
the publishing house Editions Stanké, is about the life of
a young woman called Sanaaq and her family, and takes place during
the years when Qallunaat were first coming into northern Quebec
as traders and missionaries.
her book, Mitiarjuk recalls those early encounters with Qallunaat
in a chapter called "The arrival of the white people."
say Qallunaat are very friendly, so don't be scared. They say they
are doctors," says one character in Sanaaq. "Qumaq isn't intimidated
by them at all because they have all kinds of gifts."
Sanaaq, there's a confrontation between the Anglican and Catholic
missionaries who are fighting for the souls of Inuit.
would be better to follow iksigarjuaq [the Catholic missionary],
thinks Qumaq. Even if my parents oppose this, no matter, they can't
change my mind," Mitiarjuk writes in another excerpt from Sanaaq.
continued working on Sanaaq with Father Joseph Meeus, and then with
anthropologist Bernard Saladin d'Anglure, who first came to Kangiqsujuaq
the film Atanarjuat focuses on the masculine point of view, Sanaaq
looks at Inuit life from a feminine perspective.
the second part of Sanaaq, which she completed during the mid-1960s
with Saladin d'Anglure, Mitiarjuk referred to such subjects as family
violence and sexual relations between Inuit and Qallunaat.
we read Sanaaq we're hit by the stability and peacefulness of the
life that's described ... that's a very strong point of Inuit social
life," said Saladin d'Anglure in a release on his translation of
Sanaaq. "Still, there are occasionally very grave conflicts, usually
because of the limited choice of potential mates and overwhelming
ambition of certain people who try to abuse their force and power."
addition to her work on Sanaaq, Mitiarjuk helped translate the Catholic
prayer book from one Inuttitut dialect to another.
also written 22 books that have served as teaching tools, overseen
teacher training and helped develop Inuttitut-language curriculum
for the Kativik School Board.
can live with Qallunaat," Mitiarjuk said in 1997, with the assistance
of an interpreter, at a meeting for new KSB teachers in Kangiqsujuaq.
"We used to live on Nottingham Island where there was a weather
station. I saw I could learn from Qallunaat even though they were
from a different culture."
that get-together, Mitiarjuk shared some of her lessons from life.
a child, I was taught a lot of things, how to survive, about what
kinds of animals to eat, what to do in severe cold - that if you
eat country food, it will keep you warm even if it's cold," she
we have store-bought food and houses, but if we had to, we could
survive in an igloo. To survive, you have to eat. Now, we have to
earn our living. We didn't expect this new way of living. It's brought
alcohol and drugs.
then, we would pass the time by playing with the bones of seals.
There were rules to follow. It was not the cold that kept us inside,
but the stormy weather.
there is still a lot to learn on the land. Each community is different.
Some places have different dangers, for instance, where not to go."
counselled newcomers to get out and learn about their communities.
cultures can work together ... don't give up. If you're in a hard
situation, don't ever give up, you'll die, just as if you were out
on the land."