Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity

By Norma Dunning

Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity
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"Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity" examines Dunning's lived history as an Inuk who was born, raised and continues to live south of sixty. Her writing takes into account the many assimilative practices that Inuit continue to face and the expectations of mainstream as to ... Read more


Overview

"Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity" examines Dunning's lived history as an Inuk who was born, raised and continues to live south of sixty. Her writing takes into account the many assimilative practices that Inuit continue to face and the expectations of mainstream as to what an Inuk person can and should be. Her words examine what it is like to feel the constant rejection of her work from non-Inuit people and how we must all in some way find the spirit to carry through with what we hold to be true demonstrating the importance of standing tall and close to our words as Indigenous Canadians. We are the guardians of our work regardless of the cost to ourselves as artists and as Inuit people, we matter.

Norma Dunning

Norma Dunning is an Inuit writer, scholar, professor and grandmother. She grew up beyond the tundra and lived mainly in smaller, northern communities across Canada. She will say that she grew up in the places that no one would ever think to drive to. She completed all three of her university degrees within 9.5 years. She won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award in 2018 for her short story collection "Annie Muktuk and Other Stories." In the same year, she won the Writers' Guild of Alberta's Howard O'Hagan Award for the short story "Elipsee", and was a shortlisted finalist for the City of Edmonton Book Award. She is the mother of three sons and grandmother to four children. Dunning writes in both poetry and prose, with poetry being her first go-to when it comes to creative work. Through the support of other Indigenous writers, Dunning came to realize that what she writes matters, although it remains difficult for her to share her work widely. She lives in Edmonton Alberta.

Excerpt

An Old Inuit WomanAn old Inuit woman ambles out onto the cool, morning Tundralittle girls on either side, holding hands as one. She is the Elder, they are the learners. She takes them to the crest of the small hillwhere the girls bend to gather twigs. It is a simple task. What they bring back will start the firesboiling the caribou. What they bring back will feed the emberson the damp spring nights while others sleep. The girls run about the hill making tiny piles of sticksbringing them back to the old woman whose wrinkled brown hands feel the lengthand snap the small willows to an even size. She feels for how dry they are and wraps them one by one into a piece of caribou hide. The little one scamper on either side of the hillat the end of their task, the Elder slaps the ground hard. Two heads turn towards the sound of the shudder. The girls rush to gather the old womanhelping her stand, one on each side. The old woman keeps the bundle of willows tying it around her crooked back. She takes a hand from each little girl And they guide the Elder back to camp. The old woman is blind and the girls are deaf. Together they complete a worthy task. It is how they maintain their importance to the group. It is how they keep themselves alive. Mamaqtuq (good tasting or smelling)Roll out of my hidesto smell the winds. Looking every wayfor the shadows toshow. Women gathertwigs and moss, killkuutsiuti, the smaller keepers ofsmall life. Ilnautuq. Crawling, sliding alongTaalu, smelling the winds. An Eskimo ProclamationWe came here to make you betterTeaching you church and how to knit sweatersChanged your names and made them rightYou dirty little animals full of fightTaught you how to wash your handsTook you off your hostile landsBrought you into our enlightened ageGave you names on a census pageYou're happier than you've ever beenA better side of life you have finally seenOur mission is soon completeYou will no longer eat raw meatYou'll soldier on in our god's nameYou lowly people we have tamedYou will thank us for this soon one dayAnd on your land, we will forever stay

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