Home > A journey into Inuit Traditional Knowledge > Introduction

Photo Inuit men spearing fish at fish trap


Introduction is the first volume of the Interviewing Inuit Elders collection. As the name of the collection suggests, each book is a compilation of verbal memoirs of Inuit elders around a central theme.

The project was first undertaken as a partnership between Nunavut Arctic College and Leiden University in 1994. Later, in 1996, Nunavut Arctic College developed a course on Inuit Oral Tradition for students in the Inuit Studies program. The course objective was not only to train students to gather data, but also to preserve the information and make it accessible to other students, to researchers, and to the general public. Introduction is the result of this course. It presents “…interviews with the elders, essays by the students, and stories collected in the context of the oral traditions project.” (Page 12)

Elisapee Ootoova
During the summer, the seal and the bearded seal were cached if there was an abundance, even if it was far from the main camp. When you go hungry, you have no one to turn to, to let them know you are hungry. The distance to the cache is no barrier in times of hunger. The weather does not always cooperate either, for hunters to hunt daily. If they did not have caches, they would wonder if they would starve, even though they were constantly hunting for seals under the ice. Right now the dark season is coming to our land. The sky is getting darker. November, December and January are dark months. Sickness comes at this time. When you are recovering from an illness, the sun starts to come back. You know it’s a new season again, even though nothing is written. They probably used their fingers to count the months and used the stars to identify what season it was. You can see them shining out there and eventually they disappear. Two stars that are like this [demonstrating], akuttujuuk. When they start disappearing, you know that the days are getting longer. One is no longer ill, the stars are disappearing at longer intervals, and you know that daylight is returning. (Page 29)