20 books to read for Nunavut's 20th anniversary
July 9 is Nunavut Day! It marks the 1993 date that the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act went into effect, which led to Nunavut officially becoming a territory on April 1, 1999.
To celebrate Nunavut's 20 years, here's a list of 20 books featuring Nunavut storytellers.
In musician Susan Aglukark's first picture book, Ukpik loves her life at camp in the North with her family, friends and puppy. When a trader from the south arrives, Ukpik learns how to use forks, knives and spoons and is excited to teach other children as well. But then Ukpik wonders if the new tools will change her community's way of life and turns to her grandmother for guidance.
Celebrated artist Germaine Arnaktauyok tells her life story in this beautiful book, from her upbringing in a camp near Igloolik, Nunavut to residential school in Chesterfield Inlet and art school in Winnipeg and Ottawa and her eventual return north. The book features over 100 full-colour reproductions of Arnaktauyok's stunning work.
Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani / Only in My Hometown by Angnakuluk Friesen, illustrated by Ippiksaut Friesen & translated by Jean Kusugak
Written in English and Inuktitut, this picture book portrays life in a snowy Nunavut town. Featuring poetic text coupled with vivid illustrations of Canada's magnificent north, this collaboration by Nunavut sisters Angnakuluk Friesen and Ippiksaut Friesen was published to critical acclaim in 2017.
Kenn Harper is an Arctic historian and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Thou Shalt Do No Murder recounts a 1923 murder case in which an Inuit leader named Nuqallaq was tried in the murder of a white fur trader named Robert Janes on Baffin Island. Harper narrates the events leading up to Janes's death — including threats he made against the Inuit community he was living in — and reveals evidence that shows the Canadian justice system was biased against Nuqallaq from the outset.
Alootook Ipellie was acclaimed visual artist and writer whose work explored the intersection of growing up as an Inuit man in Canada. This book is comprised of 20 short stories with pen ink drawings, a fantastical collection exploring Inuit mythology, colonialism and the realities of life in the north. Ipellie died in 2007.
Aalasi Joamie grew up in Pangnirtung, Nunavut and learned how to harvest and identify Arctic plants from her mother. She continues to pass this knowledge on to younger generations and has collected her teachings into this book, which looks at 18 common northern plants.
Those Who Run in the Sky is a coming-of-age novel that follows a young shaman named Pitu who, while learning to use his gifts, ends up trapped in the spirit world. The YA novel, Johnston's first, was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature and won the Indigenous Voices Award for most significant work of prose in English. Johnston will be publishing a sequel to the book, Those Who Dwell Below, in May of 2019.
Written by Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful bedtime poem where a mother speaks to her Kulu — an Inuktitut word for babies and young children — about of the gifts bestowed upon a newborn by all of the animals of the Arctic.
Mark Kalluak has been collecting stories from Arviat, a Nunavut hamlet located on the western shores of Hudson Bay, since the 1970s. In this picture book, Kalluak shares and illustrates some of his favourite stories passed down from his community and his family.
Michael Kusugak's YA novel tells the story of Wolverine, a young man burdened with a curse set upon him by a cranky shaman. Banished by the shaman's magic animal, Wolverine must embark on a dangerous journey in order to return home to his family. Kusugak is a bestselling writer who has published a dozen books for children.
Published over 30 years ago, Michael Kusugak and Robert Munsch's classic picture book tells the story of a sea monstress called Qallupilluit who likes to steal children. This book marked Kusugak's debut as a writer.
When Talittuq starts second grade, he notices that his classmates' families are all very different. Some have one mom and one dad, while others live with their grandparents or have one mom. This picture book by Jesse Unaapik Mike & Kerry McCluskey and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko is about how loving families come in all shapes and sizes.
Paul Okalik became Nunavut's first premier when the territory was created in 1999. His memoir Let's Move On describes his upbringing in Pangnirtung, Nunavut — enduring hardships like starvation and confrontations with the Canadian justice system — as well as the ups and downs of Nunavut's early days.
The Shadows that Rush Past by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by Emily Fiegenschuh & Larry MacDougall
Award-winning writer Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley tells traditional Inuit horror stories in this illustrated collection of fairy tales. The stories feature child-abducting ogresses, giant polar bears and fearsome creatures like the amautalik and akhla.
Skraelings is a historical YA novel about a young Inuit hunter named Kannujaq, who discovers a village that is home to an ancient race called Tuniit. The peaceful camp is being tormented by a murderous band of Vikings. The novel won the 2015 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young Adult Literature.
In this traditional Inuit story, two rabbit sisters play on the open tundra in spite of their parents' warnings. When a hungry owl finds the sisters, a wild chase ensues and the rabbits must use their guile to escape.
Combining memoir with fiction, Tanya Tagaq writes about a young girl's coming of age in 1970s Nunavut. She is a witness to the mythic wonders of the Arctic world, which juxtapose harshly against the violence and alcoholism in her community. Split Tooth is the first book by Tagaq, a Polaris Prize and Juno-winning Inuk singer.
In this picture book by Cape Dorset artist Ningeokuluk Teevee, a curious young Inuit girl collects clams with her grandmother for dinner and encounters a variety of fascinating sea creatures. The book was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — illustration in 2009.
Saqiyuq by Nancy Wachowich, in collaboration with Apphia Agalakti Awa, Rhoda Kaukjak Katsak & Sandra Pikujak Katsak
Three generations of Inuit women from the same family tell stories from their lives, documenting the ways in which life has changed for their northern community. Apphia Agalakti Awa, Rhoda Kaukjak Katsak and Sandra Pikujak Katsak share their stories with Nancy Wachowich, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who records them in this book.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier chronicles her remarkable life and climate change advocacy in the memoir The Right to Be Cold. A Nobel Prize nominee, Watt-Cloutier has been one of the most influential champions of the Arctic over for nearly 20 years, speaking to world leaders about how the effects of climate change are being felt by Inuit communities in Canada's north.