May 29, 2017

The People of the Sea

Told by Donald Uluadluak
Illustrated by Mike Motz
Inhabit Media
28 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2017

The supernatural can be frightening but all the more when based in a true story.  This is a true story.  It is the story that was told by Nunavut Elder Donald Uluadluak of a childhood encounter that revealed a bridge between the world of his Inuit life and the myths of his people.
From The People of the Sea 
told by Donald Uluadluak 
illus. by Mike Motz
Donald Uluadluak recalled playing with two friends on the beach and in the water near Arviat, Nunavut in 1940.  When a woman with long dark hair like seaweed and pale skin appeared in the water, watching the trio but never speaking, the boys ran away, back to their camp.  It wasn’t until much later that they shared with their families what they’d seen and were told they’d seen an arnajuinnaq, one of the sea-dwellers of Inuit myths.
From The People of the Sea 
told by Donald Uluadluak 
illus. by Mike Motz
Imagine seeing a supernatural creature. Donald Uluadluak and his friends must have been stunned to learn what they had seen.  Startlingly, he reveals that “Our parents told us that, in the past, people of the sea were easy to spot.  But by the time I was a boy, they had become rare and were not often seen.” (pg. 26) I don’t know why these creatures revealed themselves to the Inuit and specifically to Donald Uluadluak and his friends but The People of the Sea gives us a first-hand account like no other.  Whether the reader believes Donald Uluadluak's account or not, there is an honesty to his story, perhaps because of the playful innocence of the children and the earnestness with which they share the story with their families.  Still Mike Motz's illustrations convey a cool creepiness to the story and makes the reader think about the possibility that a supernatural creature visited three boys that day.

Inhabit Media co-founder Neil Christopher provides notes about his interactions and work with storyteller Donald Uluadluak, having helped put the Elder's stories, including Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story (Inhabit Media, 2012), to paper so that all might share in their knowledge and cultural importance.  Though Donald Uluadluak passed in 2014, his daughter Elizabeth Issakiark ensured his tales would not be lost.  Like Neil Christopher does in his introduction, I would like to thank Elizabeth Issakiark for her dedication to helping share her father’s stories and to Donald Uluadluak for revealing so much personal history and heritage for those of us ignorant of much but interested in learning.  I hope that The People of the Sea is but the first of more Donald Uluadluak’s stories that will be shared with the world.
Donald Uluadluak and daughter Elizabeth Issakiark 
from preface to The People of the Sea

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