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View from a mountaintop in Arctic Bay.


Felix Pisuk
In the days when I used to go out hunting, I liked to go with someone who was sinnakittuq, someone who didn’t need much sleep. Those who need a lot of sleep have red raw eyes when you wake them up before they have had enough sleep. If parents, out of a misguided sense of love, don’t wake up their children when they are young, they have difficulty waking up early when they are older. We were told this by our parents. Those people who have the ability to wake up early become leaders. (Page 34)
In this first chapter, Agiaq, Pisuk and Ka&&ak share their sleep related experiences. When Agiaq was young, children went to bed early for two main reasons: to heal from snow-blindness (the eyes needing to rest) and to keep fit for a good and productive lifestyle. People who stay up late, also get up late in the morning, which means that they cannot go hunting. According to Pisuk, it can also lead people to bad acquaintances. Most of all, being well rested was essential to the dogsled driver. Falling asleep at the reins can lead you straight into the water. Dogs will follow the floe edge, but the sled can encounter a kangiq&uq at any time and throw its occupants overboard. Agiaq once sent his hunting companions into the water because he wanted to get back home as quickly as possible, without resting. Agiaq also tells of a similar adventure lived by his brother.

Sleep is different nowadays than it was back then, if only for the fact that people do not sleep together anymore. Children now have their own room, so they don’t have to suffer the snores of their parents! Pisuk associates bedtime with a matter of doing what you are being told, in addition to living a good life. Children who listen to their parents and go to bed early will lead a good life and have better control over their sleep. Pisuk says that he only slept three hours a night when he was young. His grandmother would have made him that way by telling him when he was just a baby that he would not be a big sleeper like her. Ka&&ak also points out that good sleeping habits and good life go together. Then she draws distinctions between the words sinnakittuq, sinnakisaktuq, sinnarluktuq, sinnarluaqijuq and sinnariktuq, all describing types of sleepers.

In addition to how important it was to go to bed early, how important sleep was for the hunter, and sleep differences from one person to another, this chapter also quickly addresses the importance of the name given to a child and the impact words can have to a newborn’s future character. Both of these themes will be covered in length in later chapters.