The Fan Hitch      Volume 15, Number 2, March 2013

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

From the Editor... Turning Dreams into Reality

In the News

Return of the Far Fur Country Project Update

Another Inuktitut Word for Snow

A Condo for Dogs: The Evolution of Our Dog Houses

Antiquity of the Inuit Sled Dog Supported by Recent Ancient DNA Studies

A Different Type of Sledding

Astrup’s Harness: A personal voyage to understand an old sealskin sled dog harness, Part 2

Movie Review: The Stories of Tuktu: Tuktu and His Eskimo Dogs

IMHO.... Why do we do this?

Navigating This Site

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

Defining the Inuit Dog

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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Movie Review....

                                         Screen grab courtesy of NFB

The Stories of Tuktu:
Tuktu and His Eskimo Dogs

reviewed by Sue Hamilton
Netsilingmiut, Netisilik Inuit, also known as People of the Seal, once lived a nomadic existence on the land north of the central Canadian Arctic coast in the regions surrounding the present day communities of Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven), Taloyoak (Spence Bay) and Kugaaruk, (Pelly Bay). According to anthropologist/ethnographer Asen Balikci, author of The Netsilik Eskimo (The Natural History Press, 1970, ISBN 0-385-05766-0) the area occupied by Netsilik was about 9,000 square miles (23,310 square kilometers). Centuries of isolation from the outside world began to change in the early 1920s when firearms were introduced along with other implements that made hunting and the creation of clothing and other necessities easier. This came at a heavy price, however. Although continuing to hunt caribou and seal and harvesting fish, the trapping of Arctic foxes became important in order to trade pelts for manufactured goods. Eventually, the fox population declined as did the market price of pelts. In the 1930s missionaries exerted their influence on Netsilik who had always believed in supernatural beings, various deities related to their natural world, and who practiced many taboos that guided all aspects of their lives. Considered to be among the last Inuit to be living their traditional way of life, the “acculturation process” of the 1960s precipitously changed that forever.

Aware that a millennias-old lifestyle was soon to end, anthropologists, ethnographers and a few photographer/filmmakers (some of whom had lived and travelled with nomadic Inuit) recorded this disappearing way of life of Netsilingmiut and Inuit of other arctic Canadian regions. Much of the filming was done in conjunction with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), who has an impressive anthology of archival documentary films. One of the NFB’s collections is called In Celebration of Nunavut – Stories of Tuktu, thirteen short films (about fourteen minutes each), created in 1967 and 1968 about a fictional Netsilik Elder, Tuktu, who narrates his childhood recollections of living a nomadic lifestyle. The titles in the series are: Tuktu and the magic bow, Tuktu and the magic spear, Tuktu and the snow palace, Tuktu and the big seal, Tuktu and the indoor games, Tuktu and the big kayak, Tuktu and the trials of strength, Tuktu and his Eskimo dogs, Tuktu and the clever hands, Tuktu and his nice new clothes, Tuktu and the caribou hunt, Tuktu and the ten thousand fishes, Tuktu and his animal friends. A portion of this collection has been made part of NFB’s much celebrated Unikkausivut, Sharing our Stories.

                                         Screen grab courtesy of NFB
In Tuktu and his Eskimo Dogs we see Inuit Dogs in spring and summer used for hunting, carrying packs and pulling sleds. Pups, their eyes yet to open, are cuddled by young girls and an adult dog is taken into a snow house and offered a non-frozen meal. Also inside the snow house we see the qulliq (seal oil lamp) burning and food being cooked.

Although some of the action may have been performed for the camera, what you see is truly authentic and represents the last vestiges of a soon-to-disappear way of life. These scenes carry Tuktu and his Eskimo Dogs and that is important to keep in mind because the dialog lacks authenticity (apparently not created from any Inuktitut translation, or at least not a very good one) and is clearly non-Inuit in origin nor is the narrator or the way he speaks. The same can to be said for the lack of relevance of the musical accompaniment. In creating the Unikkausivut series, NFB was aware that many of their films were originally made by and bore the unmistakable characteristics of a non-indigenous culture. In a September 2011 The Fan Hitch interview, Assistant Commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada, Claude Joli-Coeur, explained,  “That is a part of the richness of our collection, to see the evolution of how Inuit culture was represented. We have films that were originally made by white people, with a European approach. And later, we see white people who have transformed themselves through the cause of the Inuit, becoming almost Inuit themselves. We are now making films with Inuit creators. And we have selected the films to give you that historical perspective.” So it is important to wade past much of what is audibly described and focus on the visual evidence.

                                         Screen grab courtesy of NFB
Learn more about Unikkausivut here where you can watch online for free Tuktu and his Eskimo Dogs and sixty other archival and modern day documentaries, Inuit legends and animated films. To own all 488 minutes of this treasure go here.
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