Home > A journey into Inuit Traditional Knowledge > Introduction > Elisapee Ootoova

Photo Eskimo and his kayak at Port Burwell

Photo igloo couleur

Photo Pelly Bay Zac Martha

The Akkeagok family returning from a sleigh ride

Elisapee Ootoova

Elisapee Ootoova
My father did not have his boat at that time because somebody else was using it. He had been given a boat when he was working for the RCMP. He had equipment which he had acquired from them. He had left his other boat in the Tununirusiq area. There was an old boat that had belonged to the whalers, which was near our camp. My father got some wood from there and built a small boat. It only required five sealskins for the cover so it was really small. He made it so he could fetch the seals he shot from the water. He was the only man of the camp, even though my older brother helped him. That summer, my father caught twenty whales. I do not recall that myself, but my brother does and he used to write about these things. We never went hungry. As my father grew up an orphan, he was a determined hunter and he provided well. Back then, children didn’t used to have money. The only source of money was fox skins and narwhal tusks. That’s how it used to be. We can remember even when soap was scarce. We would go for long periods of time when we didn’t have contact with qallunaat. Only when the ice froze over, would we go where there were qallunaat, to get supplies such as tea and sugar.
(Page 13)
Elisapee Ootoova
Born on January 6, 1931 near Qausuittuq, Elisapee Ootoova moved with her family to Mittimatalik when she was about one year old. Her father, Qamaniq, worked for the RCMP. When she was just a baby, her marriage to her future husband was arranged by their respective families. She met him for the first time when she was only 15 years old. Since she was not used to socializing with any boys other than her brother, Elisapee had a hard time adapting.

Elisapee's story is centered on her experience as an Inuit woman of another era, when customs were very different from those of today. While talking about her life, Elisapee recalls how certain of these customs are less remembered nowadays, such as sewing, certain taboos affecting pregnant women, as well as customs around a woman's menstrual cycle, childbirth, or the education of children. We learn, among other things, that pregnant women were "not allowed to eat raw meat" (page 20) or that "girls were not allowed to sit where the men sat if they were menstruating" (page 39).