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History Polar Regions

The Ancestors Are Happy

True Tales of the Arctic

by (author) David F. Pelly

Publisher
Crossfield Publishing
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Category
Polar Regions, Indigenous Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781999177966
    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price
    $23.95

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Description

The Ancestors Are Happy is a masterfully woven tapestry portraying a landscape of stories, which also offers a compilation of personal tales from Inuit informants whose lives collectively span the 20th century, a period of remarkable transition for the North. It draws on the author’s experiences and encounters over forty years of living, travelling, and learning in Nunavut. David Pelly’s lucid text is rooted in oral-history collected from Inuit elders, for which work he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Readers will be carried on a journey across Canada’s Arctic, into the land itself, and into the lives of a memorable array of northern characters. At the core is an exploration of Inuit cultural tradition, the hallmark of Pelly’s celebrated writing career, which includes nine previous books as well as hundreds of magazine articles. The ancestors are happy, say Inuit elders, when the stories from the land are told, and retold, and thus preserved.

About the author

David F. Pelly is a seasoned Arctic writer, a modern—day explorer of the North's cultural and historical landscape. He has been travelling, living and writing in the Arctic for more than 40 years. David led his first Arctic expedition in 1977, beginning a northern career spanning the decades since. In addition to his writing, he has worked with biologists and archaeologists in the field, developed and written documentary films, served as co—curator of Inuit art exhibitions, and assisted with numerous community—based cultural projects across Nunavut.

David F. Pelly's profile page

Excerpt: The Ancestors Are Happy: True Tales of the Arctic (by (author) David F. Pelly)

Uvajuq

A long time ago, when people lived forever, there was a family of giants who lived on the north side of Kiilliniq (Victoria Island). A people of the sea, these giants were accustomed to eating large sea mammals like bowhead whales, bearded seals and walrus. One summer, when food became scarce, they decided to walk south across the island, led by a man named Uvajuq. As giants, they could wade through the largest lakes, so crossing any body of water that lay in their path was easy. Unable to find any food that suited them, they grew increasingly hungry as they walked. Of course, they saw caribou, so small in the eyes of the giants – like lemmings to us today – that it never occurred to them to eat the tiny caribou. As they wandered about from place to place without food, Amaaqtuq, the mother of the family, eventually became weak and collapsed from hunger. Uvajuq and his son pressed on until first the son and then the father also collapsed, falling face-down on the ground with their heads pointed south. They died of starvation where they lay. Over time, their bodies were covered by soil and rocks and are now the only hills for miles around in the otherwise flat land. If you look carefully, you can still see some of their ribs showing through the hillsides. Not long after he collapsed, Uvajuq’s bladder burst, and the liquid ran out to form Qigiqtaqtuuq and other small lakes on the southwest side of the hill. The Uvajuq family was just the first to perish. Traditionally, this story was used to explain the origin of death among Inuit of the region. But starvation and death continued in Kiilliniq. Other Inuit in the same country went to a fishing lake named Aariaq. There, they became desperate with hunger, started killing and eating each other and eventually they all died in this manner A short distance away at another lake named Iqaluktuuttiaq, a highly-skilled hunter used his bow and arrow to shoot a tuullik (yellow billed loon). This loon was divided up amongst all of the people there, but there were so many that the bird had to be cut at every joint in order to give everyone a tiny morsel. It was just enough to save their lives. * * *

Editorial Reviews

"You will learn something from David's work — he writes about the real stuff."
— The Honourable Peter Irniq, First Commissioner of Nunavut
"David Pelly is one guy who has learned to talk to our elders and listen to stories ... Nobody could have done a better job writing down my mother's memories of her childhood than David Pelly."
— Manitok Bruce, former cabinet minister, Government of Nunavut
"Pelly captures the spirit and history of the land and its aboriginal mysticism."
— Canadian Geographic
"He writes with respect and clarity, which allows the reader to learn in a truly honest and insightful way."
— Paul Okalik, First Premier of Nunavut

“You will learn something from David’s work – he writes about the real stuff.” ν The Honourable Peter Irniq, First Commissioner of Nunavut

“David Pelly is one guy who has learned to talk to our elders and listen to stories ...  Nobody could have done a better job writing down my mother’s memories of her childhood than David Pelly.” ν Manitok Bruce, former cabinet minister, Government of Nunavut

“Pelly captures the spirit and history of the land and its aboriginal mysticism.” ν Canadian Geographic                                     “He writes with respect and clarity, which allows the reader to learn in a truly honest and insightful way.” ν Paul Okalik, First Premier of Nunavut

“An important and delightful read, and a vital historical work to preserve a vanishing culture.  Both the climate and culture of the Arctic are changing at a dizzyingly fast rate.  It is too easy to forget the past, the world as it once was.  Which is why David Pelly’s new book, The Ancestors Are Happy, is a must read.  Because to survive in this increasingly urban world, we can’t forget the human power of perseverance and joy within our relationship with Nature, in all its embracing wonder and swirling spring blizzards.”    - Jon Turk, author, The Raven’s Gift

Other titles by David F. Pelly