________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 18 . . . . May 12, 2000

Journey to Nunavut.

Ole Gjerstad & Martin Kreelak(Directors). Lucie Pageau, Malcolm Guy, Janice Epp, Ole Gjerstad and for the NFB, Joe MacDonald (Producers).

Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.


Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song.
75 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 133.

Subject Headings:
Inuit-Social life and customs-Video recording.
Nanavut-Video recordings.

**1/2 / 4

Journey to Nunavut: The Kreelak Story.
48 min., VHS, $39.95
Order Number: C9198 134.

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

*** / 4

On April 1, 2000, the territory of Nunavut will celebrate its first anniversary as a political entity. Nevertheless, it is a land with a long-established history, re-told down generations through story and song. Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song offers the stories of three generations of Inuit: traditional hunters, 80 year-old Amarok and his wife, Elizabeth; Martin Kreelak, a contemporary Inuk working for Inuit television, who joins his brother, Morris, every spring, to hunt caribou; and the teens and young adults from Baker Lake who have grown up in government-created settlements, complete with satellite television.

These three generations are members of three different cultures: the traditional hunting culture of the tundra, contemporary commercial and video culture, and the divided world of Martin Kreelak's generation who lived a traditional life until re-settlement programs and residential schools wrenched them into a world of twentieth-century amenities. Telling such diverse stories is an ambitious undertaking, and in trying to meld all of these elements, the video attempts too much. The abuses of the residential school system and in particular, the Roman Catholic Church, the paternalism of government-sponsored programs (including footage from an early NFB film, People of the Rock, which patronizingly depicts the maladjustment of Inuit to their jobs as mine workers in Rankin Inlet), lead to dependency and substance abuse. Also included are short videos, shot by students and young people of the Baker Lake area. Although they are the voice of the new Nunavut, their stories do not fit smoothly into the rest of the narrative, and not just because of the MTV-style videography. Still, there are bright moments in this video: the extraordinary beauty of the northern landscape, falsely described as "barren lands," the power of hockey ("the best thing white people brought north") to bridge geography and race, and the continuity of traditional skills of hunting and fishing. Towards the end of the video, Martin Kreelak worries about his children's future in the new territory of Nunavut; where will the jobs come from? Will past traditions survive? The video ends with Amarok recounting a very bawdy story and stating that, although he is old and frail, the power of modern media will ensure that his story will continue to be told, just as the ancient story of Kiviuq has been re-told for generations.

As a classroom or library resource, Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song might best be used in segments; students of Canadian studies, geography, and history will find some provocative aspects of government policy depicted in the video. And classroom teachers should view the entire video before showing it. Some students might be upset to see the butchering of a caribou. Teachers should listen to all of Amarok's story, told in the final minutes of the video, and decide whether they want their classes to hear it - some listeners might find it offensive.

A story can be told in many ways, and sometimes, changing how it is told makes it more effective. Journey to Nunavut: The Kreelak Story contains much of the content from Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song, but in a different order and with a different focus. Rather than trying to tell the story of three generations of Inuit, the focus is primarily on Martin Kreelak, and the result is a more powerful video. A member of the Caribou Inuit, Kreelak was born in an igloo on the coast of Hudson Bay in 1954; years later, the family was re-located, Martin attended school in Chesterfield Inlet, and, in 1985, he joined the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. A man who has experienced both southern and traditional Inuit culture, he is keenly aware of the tensions of that experience and the negative impact it has had on members of his generation. But, family ties and maintaining connection with the hunting culture of his brother, Morris, "a traditional Inuk," offer Martin perspective on both the future of Nunavut territory and terrible legacies of the past. As a classroom resource, Journey to Nunavut: The Kreelak Story, is much more effective than Amarok's Song. All the best elements of Journey to Nunavut: Amarok's Song, are maintained: the stunning photography of the landscape, the throat-singing, the stories of hunting prowess and courage, hunting caribou using both modern technology and traditional skill, clips of modern life in Baker Lake, and a "suitable-for-classroom" version of the legend of Kiviuq. Missing are the student videos from Baker Lake, and their exclusion makes for a tighter story. A useful resource for Canadian studies programs, geography, and history.

Recommended with Reservations (Amarok's Song).
Recommended (The Kreelak Story).

Joanne Peters is the teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364