Unikkaaqtuat: Traditional Inuit Stories
McDermott, Noel K.
MetadataShow full item record
Commentary on Inuit language, culture and traditions, has a long history, stretching at least as far back as 1576 when Martin Frobisher encountered Inuit on the southern shores of Baffin Island. The overwhelming majority of this vast collection of observations has been made by non-Inuit, many of whom spent limited time getting acquainted with the customs and history of their objects of study. It is not surprising, therefore, that the lack of Inuit voice in all this literature, raises serious questions about the credibility of the descriptions and the validity of the information. The Unikkaaqtuat: Traditional Inuit Stories project is presented in complete opposition to this trend and endeavours to foreground the stories, opinions and beliefs of Inuit, as told by them. The unikkaaqtuat were recorded and translated by professional Inuit translators over a five day period before an audience of Inuit students at Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit, Nunavut in October 2001. Eight Inuit elders from five different Nunavut communities told stories, discussed possible meanings and offered reflections on a broad range of Inuit customs and beliefs. What emerges, therefore, is not only a collection of stories, but also, a substantial body of knowledge about Inuit by Inuit, without the intervention of other voices. Editorial commentary is intentionally confined to correction of spellings and redundant repetitions. A detailed account of the editing process highlights some of the problems of translating from Inuktitut to English. This is followed by a discussion on the possibility of developing a theory of Inuit literature, based on remarks about unikkaaqtuat made by the elders. The appendices provide background information on the subject of traditional stories and the development of Inuktitut in written form.