The Fan Hitch Volume 11, Number 4, September 2009

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog
In This Issue....

From the Editor 

Fan Mail

Sled Dogs in His Majesty's Service:
Clark's Eskimo Dogs in World War II

Evolutionary Changes in Domesticated Dogs:
The Broken Covenant of the Wild, Part 3

British Antarctic Survey Sledge Dog
Monument Final Report

Tusaalanga: Learning Inuktitut Online!

In the News 

Book Review: The Inuit Thought of It

Tip: Removing Mats

IMHO: The Learning Curve

Index: Volume 11, The Fan Hitch

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Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Talk to The Fan Hitch

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
Book review…

The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations

by Alootook Ipellie with David MacDonald

reviewed by Sue Hamilton

Almost like clockwork, beginning in late January, calls come in from regional schools and libraries asking Mark and me if we would like to do a presentation on "dog mushing". It's not too hard to figure out their motivation. The media has begun to stir with the soon to start annual running of the Yukon Quest and Iditarod dog sled races. Teachers and librarians are eager (perhaps desperate) to offer programs to the classroom and the community. Word has gotten around that we have "huskies" and it is assumed therefore we must be interested in such events. We take these contacts as both an ever-recurring disappointment at the one-dimensional thinking which brings such inquiries to us, but we also see this as an opportunity to broaden minds and introduce the uninitiated to another culture. We explain, "We do not have dogs that are supposed to race, nor do we race them nor do we have any interest in racing events. However, we are prepared to offer a program on Inuit and the sled dogs that historically have been credited with very existence of a society in one of the most hostile environments on Earth for millennia." But I'm never sure if teachers/librarians are still interested in offering us an invite because they are merely wanting to fill a hole their school kids/community calendar or if they are truly eager to have them educated-enlightened. I'd like to believe the latter.

Sled dog events like the Yukon Quest and Iditarod can be used as the "hook" to get the public's attention, and then have it refocused on a presentation about survival, resourcefulness and triumph over adversity in the real world. (Funny how the Iditarod began as a commemoration of that sort of thing but the original history is often cast aside in favor of the popular current aspects of the event.) There's a lovely little book which ought be found in every school, public (and personal) library and put on prominent display especially in February-March. The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations by Alootook Ipellie with David MacDonald is a great starting point. Although rated for ages nine through twelve, clearly it can be enjoyed by adults who would not otherwise be willing or care to devote a lot of time and energy to learning about a culture not their own. Their interest would be piqued by the book's alluring cover, colorful pages, fine photos (some historic), drawings and maps and well-organized topics that aren't too lengthy.

The Inuit Thought of It offers a basic, but enlightening look at Inuit way of life and gives readers "below the treeline" a sense of connection and hopefully appreciation for the material things and activities so many of us use and enjoy today. Subjects covered are: the dog sled (qamutiq), kayak (qajaq), shelter, clothing, sports, hunting, food, medicine and healing. The book eases the reader into the title subject beginning with an overview of Inuit history, arctic landscape and climate and concludes with a brief description of modern Inuit life, a reading list, a quickie lesson on Inuktitut, a detailed list of photo and image credits and an index …all in thirty-two 8.5 x 11 inch pages. Good things do come in small packages!

When they see The Inuit Thought of It on display along side other sled dog books at their library during "race weeks", both kids and adults, whose interest in the subject of mushing will likely far exceed their knowledge of it, will read this book perhaps thinking they are going to learn more about the Iditaron [sic], but will come away gaining far more than they anticipated. From cover to cover, The Inuit Thought of It combines the entertainment readers seek with the education they need. But even for those of us having far more familiarity with sled dogs and the Arctic, this is book worthy of finding its way into our personal library, too.

The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations by Alootook Ipellie with David MacDonald is published by Annick press (2007). Soft cover: ISBN 1-55451-087-2, $8.95US/$9.95CAN; also available as a hardcover: ISBN 1554510880.
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