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Fiction Indigenous

Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel

Sanaaq: An Inuit NovelMitiarjuk NappaalukAssociation Inuksiutiit1984

From the University of Manitoba Press: Sanaaq is an intimate story of an Inuit family negotiating the changes brought into their community by the coming of the qallunaat, the white people. Composed in 48 episodes, it recounts the daily life of Sanaaq, a strong and outspoken young widow, her daughter Qumaq, and their small semi-nomadic community in northern Quebec. Here they live their lives hunting seal, repairing their kayak, and gathering mussels under blue sea ice before the tide comes in. These are ordinary extraordinary lives: marriages are made and unmade, children are born and named, violence appears in the form of a fearful husband or a hungry polar bear. Here the spirit world is alive and relations with non-humans are never taken lightly. And under it all, the growing intrusion of the qallunaat and the battle for souls between the Catholic and Anglican missionaries threatens to forever change the way of life of Sanaaq and her young family.

From Wikipedia: The first draft of Sanaaq was written in Inuktitut syllabics by Nappaaluk. Many of the chapters, or “episodes”, of the novel were originally written at the request of Catholic missionaries stationed in Nunavik who were interested in improving their own knowledge of Inuktitut in order to better communicate with local communities and translate prayer books into the Inuit language. Nappaaluk, who was asked to initially create a type of phrasebook using syllabics to record common words from everyday life, instead created a cast of characters and a series of short stories about their lives.

The novel took almost 20 years to complete.Between 1953 and 1956, Nappaaluk completed episodes 1-24 before leaving Nunavik and going to southern Canada to receive hospital treatment; upon her return, she wrote an additional 13 episodes until the missionary supervising her work was transferred to another community.