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Inuit Cape Dorset 1929


Memories of the Past

Emile Imaruittuq
I have always lived around Iglulik. I lived in Aggu with my in-laws after I was married. My grandfather, Ittuksaarjuat, used to be the leader of the camp. A lot of the people in outlying camps used to ungagi3 him. We always lived with my grandfather. That’s how it was. When things were good, families stayed together. It was only when, for example, they lost their father that they moved elsewhere. They moved where they wanted to live. That’s what happened to my father’s family. When they lost their father it was as if they became afloat and started moving. When my grandfather died they were still very capable of going to various places as they were taught well. When my grandfather was alive, the whole camp was very well organized. In those days they depended on wildlife for clothing and for food. Some family members were sent out caribou hunting in the summer for clothing while others were sent out to catch sea mammals for dog food and for fuel. This is what I remember when I was a boy. (Page 74)
Emile Immaruituq
Life stories provide an excellent start to a course on interviewing elders.
Students pose questions about various aspects of life in the past such as
starvation in the camps, first contacts with qallunaat, or pre-arranged
marriages. In this way, elders and students get to know each other.

In the interviews with the elders about various topics relating to traditional law, the
students could connect their questions to the experiences mentioned by the
elders in their life stories. The elders do not just present an autobiography, they
explain what was meaningful to them and how it affected their lives. In the life
stories, important values such as sharing were articulated. Imaruittuq relates,
“I didn’t believe my mother out of ignorance because I thought what she was
telling me was useless, but it turned out to be very valuable. Long after she
died her words would come back to me after an incident had happened that
would make me recall her words. At that time I would realize how true her
words were. I didn’t want to listen. I really recall one of the lectures she gave
me before I got married. She told me, “As a woman, asking for food can be
very intimidating.” She told me never to be intimidating, to be approachable
for food and never to be stingy about food with my wife. That’s the advice she
gave me. If food was finished while I was away I was not to ask after it.” In this
way the value of the words of the elders as well as the value of sharing were
clearly expressed in the life story.