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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
"Several Inuit and dogs, Berens Islands, Coronation Gulf, N.W.T. (Nunavut)." 28 May 1915
Wilkins, George H. (George Hubert), Sir, 1888-1958. Courtesy of Canadian Museum of Civilization
Oral histories and first hand stories of traditional life with Inuit Dogs, accompanied by both archival photos and Inuit drawings, appeared in issue number 12, Spring 2000 of Tumivut, the cultural magazine of the Nunavik Inuit, published by the Avataq Cultural Institute. Tumivut means "traces of our footsteps". It refers to the story of Atungaq who went around the world and left his footprints in the bedrock all around Nunavik.
The following three Elder remembrances conclude our Tumivut series. The Fan Hitch is indebted to the Avataq Cultural Institute for granting permission to share these stories with us.
The Day the Dogs Ran OffMy husband trapped along the shore along here and I went with him often. In the cold evenings when it was time to settle for the night I had to wait with my baby on my back while he finished the igloo. I couldn’t go outside to feed my crying baby until the igloo was ready, and it took some time. But we didn’t get cold at all with our clothing made of caribou skin.
by Sarah Baron, Kangirsualujjuaq
While my husband set his traps, I had to watch the dogs so they didn’t run off without us. We didn’t have a whip to keep the dogs from taking off but I used a sled brake made of sealskin and called “kinatarutik”.
Once when I was watching them, they were acting restless, as though they were expecting to be fed. They were anxious to go. They ignored my commands to keep still, and dashed off so fast, I had to get out of their way. Otherwise I would have been caught in the traces. There was nothing I could do. They left without us and we had to follow.
This happened near Tasialuk, near the Tasiujakuluk Lake. The dogs stopped when they got to the edge of the landfast ice. My husband got to them ahead of me, and came back with the dogs to pick me up. When dogs were raring to go you couldn’t stand in their way or you’d get caught in all the ropes. We had dogs that became impatient for action, especially when they were bored. They galloped until they got to the edge of landfast ice where the rough ice forms. On smooth ice they walked. Anyway I still think I prefer them to machines. Even in heavy blizzards they didn’t loose their way. They could take us home in a bad snowstorm, simply by following the last trail they took. Dogs were intelligent animals. They knew what their masters wanted. Dogs aren’t how they used to be, they’re dumber. Dogs then [understood] gestures and spoken commands. Dogs pulled sleds every day but they were given a day of rest once in a while, except when the weather was good for hunting.
* * *
A Difficult Dog Trip
by Lazarusie Epoo, Inukjuak
I once went out on a trapping trip with my Uncle Charlie. We needed foxes to feed our dogs. We had a frightening experience when we ran out of matches and had no food for two days. We were still two nights away from home. It was a freezing January day. We were hungry and thirsty. Our dogs were also hungry. It was cold and stormy, and we had the wind in our face.
At every trap, we ate the fox bait. Whenever we reached a river, we had a drink. The last night before home the storm ended, but we had to leave one of our dogs behind. That left six dogs.
Near home, we had no choice but to feed our mittens and boots to the dogs. But when we got ready to continue, two of the dogs refused to get up. That left us only four dogs, so we had to walk along side the sled. We arrived home at midnight. Those four dogs wouldn’t have been able to make it any further. By the time I was twenty-one, l had been through some difficult events.
* * *
One Smart Dog
By David Emataluk, Tasiujaq
Interviewed in 1985 (11-T01, 02)
We had a big dog with white spots over its eyes, which was a male, and also a black female. Our dog was a good one and could understand our language. Tamurasijaq’s family [left our camp] to look for animals elsewhere. Our camps were far apart, so on clear days, they would send smoke signals to let my parents know that they had enough to eat. My parents would do the same. People took care of each other in those days. […]
While inland, people would send smoke signals to let others know when they had killed some caribou. When we saw smoke, we would know that they had caught some. Whenever we saw smoke, we would go to that camp to eat. We might even stay overnight on the way, but the people who had sent the smoke signals would wait for the arrivals so they could feed them. Our big dog who could understand Inuttitut delivered messages from camp to camp. The messages were tied around his neck. Those messages were to let people know how things were going. It delivered those messages and came back with messages from other camps. It was a great dog.
Although not in print for ten years, Avataq hopes to relaunch Tumivut if financial support is received. However, Tumivut #12, Spring 2000, is available to purchase for $7.00 CD plus shipping. To get your own copy, please contact: