________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 35. . . .May 15, 2015


Tuniit: Mysterious Folk of the Arctic..

Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley. Illustrated by Sean Bigham.
Iqaluit, NU: Inhabit Media, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-927095-76-8.

Subject Headings:
Inuit-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Canada, Northern-Antiquities-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.

**** /4


Some elders have used the expression “Nanaup Sanngininga” to describe the power running through the Land. It means the “Strength of the Land.” In this case, Land means the entire world, including its unseen corners. This power was tapped into by shamans and sometimes by ordinary people. But it was not spiritual, nor was it worshipped. Instead, it was like an alternative science, activated by willpower and words – including songs that were passed down through generations. So, shamans were not really priests or wizards. They were important to ancient Inuit – and especially to Tuniit, it seems – in the same way that scientists, technicians, and doctors are important to modern cultures.


This is a beautiful and important book that you will want for your library. Tuniit: Mysterious Folk of the Arctic fills a gap in your collection that you might not have realized existed.

     Before the Inuit moved into Arctic Canada, this land was occupied by the Tuniit. Tuniit: Mysterious Folk of the Arctic claims to be the first full-length book about the early inhabitants.

     Since Tuniit became extinct as a distinct culture around 1900, the memories of those who grew up hearing stories about them from their parents and grandparents are priceless. Fortunately for us, and for future generations, authors Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley have created a record of the stories and facts about the Tuniit as remembered by living Inuit elders.

     Illustrator Sean Bigham has captured the mythology around the Tuniit as well as the known facts about the way they lived. Bigham’s illustrations are mostly drawn in shades of brown, blue, and white which perfectly portrays the life of these ancient people in all seasons in the north.

     The text blends the mythology about the Tuniit and the Inuit with the historical evidence. It is sometimes a little difficult to distinguish the two, but, given that the source materials are memories, it is understandable.

We must not remember simple myths, however. We must remember the Tuniit as those who inspired myths, but who were real humans. All of our evidence, whether science or story, tells us that these strange Arctic people loved their families. Their ways of life. Their homes.

     Because of the importance and the uniqueness of this book, I highly recommend it, but you are going to have to do a little work to make sure it doesn’t sit on your library shelf. There is a detailed Table of Contents and sources for further reading, but no index so it will be hard for young researchers to locate specific information.

     I also would have preferred a little more help with the pronunciation of the Inuit words. For example, “nalunaqtuq” and “Ikuutarjuit” and “qajaq” are explained in the context of the book, but a glossary and pronunciation guide would have been a nice feature to add for those of us who don’t speak Inuktitut. One of the “Further Reading” suggestions is Inuktitut: A Multi-Dialectal Outline Dictionary, by Alex Spalding, but not every library that purchases this book is going to have access to this dictionary.

     For fun, you may want to look at an on-line copy of Tuniit: Mysterious Folk of the Arctic in Inuktitut at http://nbes.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/tuniit_in_web.pdf

     Despite these small quibbles, I highly recommend that you purchase this unique collection of facts and folklore about this extinct culture.

Highly Recommended.

Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.

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

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