________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999

Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song.

Ole Gjerstad & Martin Kreelak (Directors). Lucie Pageau, Malcolm Guy, Janice Epp & Ole Gjerstad (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: The National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
75 min., 11 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 133

Subject Heading:
Inuit-Northwest Territories-Nanuvut-Social conditions.

Grades 6 - 12 / Ages 11 - 17.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4

This is a video about the three generations of Inuit that are part of the building process of Nunavut, Canada's newest territory. It chronicles the history of the last remaining nomads who followed the caribou, their experiences in settlements today and their hopes for the future. The stories told by the oldest generation are tough to hear and very humbling. Amorak, an 80- year-old year old elder, recalls the spirit universe that guided his world. Martin Kreelak, one of the filmmakers, narrates the film and also tells his own stories as part of the generation that bridged both worlds. The hardships the Inuit experienced in the natural environment were nothing compared to the deprivation and humiliation they experienced at the hands of the Canadian government. Forced moves resulted in starvation that had repercussions for their children and grandchildren. Lack of a food supply and lack of purpose in life caused loss of pride, alcoholism, neglect of children and cultural destruction for the Inuit. Religion played an important part in the effort to denigrate and virtually eliminate the Inuit culture. Children were taken away from their parents and put into church-run residential schools. Their lives were turned upside down. Their language was forbidden, their traditions were denied, and they were taught to be "little white men." Some of the nuns and priests who taught them also committed many acts of sexual abuse that marred them and turned many into addicts as adults. The cultural pressures on the children inhibited their relations with their parents and created problems as these children, in turn, grew up to be parents. The stories of the current generation are told by the kids, themselves, who demonstrate how life has changed for the Inuit. They made their own videos about their love of shopping and their efforts to overcome their problems, but also about their efforts to learn traditional ways. Some of their stories are success stories, such as the stories of those who became soap stone carvers and artists when they were herded into settlements. Most are stories of endurance and survival. Old historical footage, including condescending NFB films from the '50's and '60's, serves as testament to the patronizing attitude held by the Canadian government while the Inuit suffered. Elders recount legends, most of which are interesting anecdotes. Though many of the people suffered at the hands of the missionaries, nevertheless, they received some education, and it is they and their children who will be the leaders of Nunavut. The future is unknown, but those involved are concerned about doing a better job than the federal government did in governing Canada's North, and they intend to teach the younger generation the traditions and values of the old.
     The video is 75 minutes long, and, for classroom use, might be shown in parts after which discussion can be held. It is a very good depiction of life in Nunavut, told by the people, themselves. Teachers, however, should review this video before showing it as one story told in the last 10 minutes may not be considered acceptable for younger students.
     This title is also available in a shorter version (48 min.) entitled "Journey to Nunavut: The Kreelok Story."

Highly recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364