For sycamore-sidhe and anyone else interested. Yes, sadly there aren’t very many books on such topics that aren’t sensationalized. Most ethnographers who studied inuit nunaat didn’t think collecting and helping preserve that knowledge was as important as gathering soapstone carvings. But I do know a few:
One that I’m re-reading part of on this trip is The Southernmost People of Greenland - Dialects and Memories (Qavaat - Oqalunneri Eqqaamassallu) by Mâliâraq Vebæk is very good. It’s mostly considered a linguistics book (its focus is on the difference between the now dead Qavaat dialect and standard West Greenlandic) so it may be difficult to find for that. But the content (offered in English translations as well) is all stories dictated by elders. A lot of them are ordinary daily-life stories, long technical descriptions of boats, but a bit more than half are myths. Although many of them are specific to just the South Greenland region. There are some second-hand stories of East Greenlandic legends, and ones that are common across Greenland though (like the mother of the sea story). Expensive, though.
A little book I love is Smell of Earth and Clay which is a collection of East Greenlandic songs. So not a guide to folklore but subtle reflections of it in daily life. But it’s rare and tiny and also expensive.
There’s also a set of videos called Unikkausivut that is almost all Nunavummiut-made films of daily life and legends. I saw some in a screening but I think you can stream some of them here. But much too expensive to buy. A Greenlandic film that is really good is Lysets Hjerte. It’s fiction, but deals with the Greenlandic myth (and real life) figure of the qivittoq (mountain wanderer) in different forms. It starts out and remains really really depressing, but beautiful, until the last ten minutes but is really excellent. Don’t see the Danish film from the ’50s Qivitoq though.
Also anything recorded by Knud Rasmussen is good. But judge by instinct - if the one you find has a cartoon ‘eskimo’ on it maybe try to find a different edition. And I’d say all of his Greenlandic ones are completely reputable, but I imagine there may be some conflicts in his writings of other areas of inuit nunaat. I haven’t seen those books outside of libraries. His are probably the only strictly “This is a folklore belief: ” books that are worth much and have English translations. And make sure you don’t get his expeditionbooks if you are looking specifically for folklore.
Also Saqiyuq: Stories From the Lives of Inuit Women is excellent, it is three generations of women in one family just telling about their life. The older woman who is first mentions folk beliefs occasionally, but there is a lot of traditional life descriptions. Not sure what you are looking for but this is a really great book discussing different impressions of the rapid change in the Canadian Arctic starting in the end of the 19th century.
Good luck! Does anyone have other suggestions for different circumpolar regions?
A funny little local government building in Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Northwest Territories, Canada.
It’s interesting to see this ‘new generation’ of corrugated arctic buildings cropping up (much like this in Nunavik) that are using the subtleties of the material to be a little bit witty and design-y, while not denying that the main reason for using it is still just utilitarian. The box-y variation in heights, the mix of circular, conglomerate and rectangular windows, the colours, the one bit of slanted roof - it’s all pleasing and a tiny bit whimsical, but not distractingly so.
I’d also like to point out the blog this is from, Inuvik Photos (the link is in the photo, like all of my sourced posts). It’s great to get an insight into the ISR because it is perhaps the most excluded Inuit region in broader discussion. For understandable reasons, the first block being that it is in some ways an extreme example of ‘Arctic life’ - in that the communities are all very small (the total population wikipedia tells me is about 5,600), very few, very far from one another and spread across a mass amount of land across the coast of Western Canadian Arctic (over 900,000km2); so that is about half the land mass, but 15% of the population of Nunavut. But it is especially unique among Inuit regions for a couple of reasons, and surely more I that can’t speak to after my limited reading:
- It encompasses three dialects - Siglitun, Uummarmiutun, Inuinnaqtun - none of which ‘competes’ for regional dominance (although Siglitun is most spoken), since the communities they are spoken in are so extremely isolated from one another and there is little in the way of a ‘central’ administration or cultural life
- It has some substantial communities and areas below the treeline
- There are few noteworthy ‘archaeological sites’
What I certainly can say is in all news I read about inuit nunaata - in Nunavummiut, Greenlandic and pan-Canadian indigenous news sources, ‘studies’ on different arctic-related issues ethnographic and not, also stuff released by the ICC and Gáldu and the like - the ISR has practically never come up. In fact I have only read of Inuit of the Northwest Canadian Arctic in passing never named in a community group, only 1) in the migration context, with little emphasis on those who settled there (considering there were so few) and 2) in linguistics where the ISR is split in three, and historically four parts.
Well. As I said I can’t speak to this fully. But look at the blog I link to, it’s an interesting eye on daily life in a fairly distant-from-thought region, even within inuit nunaata.
Part of a statement released by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 1992. I’m reading a study called Inuit in Cyberspace: Imbedding Offline Identities Online. Connection to the internet is very relevant to people in the arctic considering large distances between communities and the otherwise few connections to the rest of the world - especially considering how many interest groups are discussing the arctic without inviting arctic people or considering their views, let alone their right to determine their future for themselves. But it fulfills even more basic needs that are logistically more difficult in the arctic, like facilitating medical care, connecting families and friends, distributing news and giving citizens a say in governance. Greenland was the second country to have a fully functional digital communications network.
The first week in October a telecommunications satellite broke down and left all of Nunavut without access to the internet for about a day. When you consider that in most Western countries a large amount of medical information is stored online and even most local businesses rely on some distant companies to perform basic services - not to mention how many families in the arctic live in settlements that could easily be over 100 or 150 kilometers apart, and sometimes even further from substantial health and safety services - this is a big deal.
Another photo from my Highlights of an Arctic Revolution book. Here Greenlandic politicians and Ussarqaq Qujaakitsoq a dancer arrive in Iqaluit in Canada on their way to Ottawa to speak out against allowing large tankers to travel through the ecologically-sensitive Davis Strait between north of Greenland and Nunavut. This was the first instance where Greenland (if only ‘informally’) negotiated its own foreign policy. Its success later led the home rule government to request permission from the Danish government to negotiate with America over its airbase in Thule, and by gradually being ‘granted’ that permission more over time, Greenland has showed its competence in standing up to foreign nations and was granted explicit permission to negotiate foreign policy when does not relate to the rest of the realm in the self rule act.
Fridtjof Nansen & company on the coast of Greenland, 1888
Fun Greenlandic spring weather from earlier this year.