About the Author

Janet Tamalik McGrath

Janet Tamalik McGrath grew up in Nattilik culture in the 1970s. Throughout her childhood and early teen years she lived on the land in the summers with Nattilingmiut families, becoming fluent in the dialect and familiar with traditional values and teachings. After high school she became a regional interpreter-translator for the Nattilik area, innovating on audio presentation modes, assisting in the documentation of Nattilik grammar, and supporting script and font amendments to reflect the dialect’s unique phonemes. Her M.A. thesis was conducted and documented in Nattilingmiut dialect (“Conversations with Nattilingmiut Elders on Conflict and Change: Naalattiarahuarnira” 2004). Currently she works as a language advocate and consultant for Nattilik communities, and was approached by Qaggiavuut Society for assistance with The Breathing Hole.

Books by this Author
The Qaggiq Model

The Qaggiq Model

Toward a Theory of Inuktut Knowledge Renewal
edition:Paperback
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The Breathing Hole
Excerpt

Franklin: (to Argiaq) Welcome. Oo-noo-coot.

Argiaq stops in front of Franklin, then slowly extends his hand and touches Franklin—and everyone jumps at the same time. Holloway points his rifle, steps in front of Franklin, fires a warning shot into the air, and the two hunters either cover their ears and run, or duck, or scream or all three.

Holloway: Step back—

Franklin: Relieve them of their weapons—

Holloway: Shoot them—

Carter tries to get their harpoons but misses. Argiaq and Paningajak run, then stop.

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) They’re not spirits apparently—

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Keep running—

Holloway: Shoot them—

Carter: Don’t fucking move!

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) I touched one!

Franklin: (to Carter) There will be no swearing!

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Don’t touch!

Carter: Sorry, sir.

Franklin: This isn’t Waterloo—leave them their weapons. If they attack, we’ll shoot, but for now be friendly.

Argiaq: (to Paningajak, re: Franklin’s epaulettes) Look at those shiny things.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) They are dangerous—don’t go any closer—

Franklin: (calls to Argiaq) Oo-noo-coot.

Argiaq takes a reluctant step towards Franklin.

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) They are puny humans, just like us.

Franklin takes another step towards Argiaq.

Franklin: We are a peaceful people.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) These people are not our people—they are very pale and they stink.

Holloway: Are you sure they’re friendly?

Franklin: We’ll find out if you don’t blow them to kingdom come first.

Holloway: If they don’t kill us with their stink first, sir.

Argiaq: (to Franklin) Qilau’mut mumiqpakpihi? [Do you drum dance?]

Franklin: (to the crew) Lay down your weapons.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) They don’t drum dance like we do to create harmony between people . . . don’t get any closer to them.

Holloway: Lay down our—but sir—

Franklin: That’s an order!

The men reluctantly lay down their rifles, then Franklin greets Argiaq with a handshake.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Don’t touch him.

Franklin: Welcome— Too-naa-hoo-geet-check . . . ? [Welcome to you both?]

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Sounds like he said tunngahugittik—that we two should feel the ground beneath us. Yikes, does this mean he might push us over?

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) I think he is trying to say we should lie down to feel the ground, but I’m not sure why.

Argiaq returns the handshake in his fashion while Paningajak, still uncertain, stands back. Franklin points to himself.

Franklin: My name is John Franklin. I’m commander of this expedition. We consist of the HMS Erebus and Terror, and I am properly addressed as “sir.” This is Officer James Holloway, second in command.

Holloway is not keen on shaking hands.

Franklin points to Argiaq.

You, your name uh . . . hoo-now-root-tinhooo-vet?

Argiaq: Argiaq . . . (points to Paningajak) Paningajak.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Ask them if they happened to have seen two bears passing through here.

Franklin: (to Argiaq and Paningajak) . . . And what’s your business, Ud-yuck and Pah-nee-guy-yak . . . (to Holloway) How do you say “what’s your business”?

Holloway: I don’t know their words.

Argiaq: (to Franklin) Takugaluaqpigit nanuuk marruk tahamunngauruk? [Did you happen to see two bears passing through here?]

Franklin: I wish Morshead would get here—he picked up some of their language working with Parry in ’25 when they lost the Fury.

Crew #1 enters carrying a tray with a porcelain teapot, two cups, two saucers, and sugar. He pours a steaming cup of tea each for Franklin and Holloway. Crew #2 hauls in the bulky daguerreotype.

Holloway: Ah, tea—“Tea is the cup of life.”

Paningajak points to the Erebus in the distance.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Look at that big boat.

Argiaq: (to Franklin) Umiarruanaluk angirualuk pigiraqhi? [That big boat. Is it yours?]

Franklin points to the Erebus in the distance.

Franklin: I think that word “oom-yuck” means boat.

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) Maybe these men are the whale hunters my grandfather spoke about.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Ask him.

Carter: They seem keen on our ship.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Let’s go to that boat!

Argiaq: (to Franklin) You . . . Arviqhiuqti? [Are you a whaler?]

Crew #1: (to Franklin) Your tea, sir.

Franklin: Thank you. (to Argiaq) Pardon?

Argiaq: (to Franklin) You . . . Arviqhiuqti?

Franklin: (to Holloway) What’s he trying to say?

Crew #1: (to Franklin) Sugar, sir.

Holloway: He’s saying “you”—“you” as in “you.”

Franklin points to his teacup.

Franklin: (to Argiaq) Tea, gentlemen?

Argiaq: (to Franklin) You . . . (pointing to the Erebus in the distance) Arviqhiurutikaqhi? [Is that a whaling boat?]

Franklin: (to Argiaq) Will you have a cup of tea?

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) They don’t understand.

Holloway: (to Franklin) They don’t understand, sir.

Crew #1: I’ll get more cups and saucers.

Crew #1 exits.

Argiaq pantomimes a whale swimming with his hands and body.

Argiaq: (to Franklin) You.

Franklin: Me . . . my hands . . . swimming. Dear Lord—your hands swimming—

Carter: Fish.

Holloway: Fish, yes! I think he means fish, sir—wonders if we want to fish?

Franklin: No, Argiaq, my work is not fishing—my work is discovery and observation, for I am at heart a scientist.

Argiaq reaches out and points to Franklin’s Knight Commander badge that hangs around his neck as a collared chain.

Argiaq: (in Paningajak’s direction) This is shiny.

Holloway swats Argiaq’s hand away.

Holloway: Don’t touch!

Paningajak is inclined to take a swing at Holloway.

Franklin: No need for that—enough!

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) Angajuq, no no.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Don’t touch them.

Franklin: (to Argiaq) This is of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, a knighthood bestowed upon me in ’33—Carter, give these fellows some trinkets.

Carter: Here, fellas . . .

Carter takes a box from the trunk, flips it open, and holds it out to the two hunters.

. . . help yourselves.

Argiaq: (to Carter) Hungaurat. [Beads.]

Argiaq and Paningajak help themselves to the trinkets in the wooden box.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Let’s bag what we can! Stuff our pockets!

Carter: (to Paningajak) Hey—only one handful each!

Franklin: They are worthless trinkets, Carter.

Argiaq: (to Paningajak) Our wives will like these—they are like the shimmering surface of fish eggs.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Maybe they have a bowhead whale in their boat.

Franklin: Oom-yuck means boat, doesn’t it? (to Argiaq and Paningajak) Yes, that’s an oom-yuck—the Erebus—a Hecla-class bomb vessel built by the Royal Navy.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Let’s go to the boat and get harvested whale meat.

Argiaq and Paningajak start to leave.

Franklin: Yes, that’s our oom-yuck—370 tons, armed with two mortars and ten—Argiaq, where are you— (to Holloway) Where are they going?

Holloway: (to the hunters) Excuse me, sir.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) I’ll go get our sledge.

Carter: Whoa there, buddy— (stops Argiaq) Don’t walk away when Sir John Franklin is addressing you—

Paningajak spies the dead seal.

Paningajak: A seal!

Argiaq: Seal!

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Nukaq, this is freshly caught, very fresh.

The two hunters kneel beside the seal as Argiaq uses his small bone knife to expertly slit open the abdomen and cut out a choice part he hands to Paningajak, who eats it.

Franklin: A bear brought that to us as a . . . well, a gift—don’t mention that in your observations, Holloway—readers will think we’d a bit too much to drink.

Holloway: You’d think they’d have the decency to cook it first.

Argiaq offers the tastiest bits of the seal to everyone.

Wickers: No thank you.

Argiaq: (to Franklin) Tinguk mamaqtupanaluk. [The liver is very tasty.]

Bean: Thank you, no.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) How can he resist the tastiest part!

Franklin: Perhaps later.

Carter: I’ll pass.

Paningajak: (to Argiaq) Only fools refuse the most delectable part.

Paningajak uses a wound pin on the seal to prevent more bleeding.

Holloway: What—are they going to sew up the seal? Savages, sir—right ungodly savages.

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