Thunder on the Tundra
Reviewed: October 14, 2002
By: Natasha Thorpe, Naikak Hakongak,
Sandra Eyegetok and the Kitikmeot Elders
Publisher: Tuktu and Nogak Project
208 pages, $42.00
not often that the result of a community based social and demographic study
gets to a readership wider than the somewhat rarefied academic audience which
tends to generate such documents.
Thunder on the Tundra doesn't look look like that sort of book
when it comes out of the package, but a quick flip through the pages quickly
brings to mind the similar volumes which contained the MacKenzie Valley and
Alaska Highway pipeline reports back in the late 1970s.
book was generated from the oral responses to a series of 96 guiding questions which are grouped into
such categories as community use, caribou, migration, hunting and a dozen
others. The list is reproduced in the back of the book, along with a
considerable amount of bibliographical material, interview citations, glossaries
and place names.
Tuktu study was, according to the
introduction, undertaken with some trepidation. On the one hand there was a
need to collect oral history from the elders and preserve it. On the other
hand, oral and written language are not precisely the same thing, a fact that
was further complicated by the need to translate from Inuinnaqtun to English
for the book.
result is a compendium of Inuit
Qaujimajatuqangit, "what has always been known", and there is
a concern that taking it into this format will change it, altering its original
as another collector of Inuit lore once wrote, words can get lost in the air
while "paper stays put."
Thunder on the Tundra, then, is
collection of traditional knowledge of about the relationship between the Inuit
and the Bathurst caribou , a relationship which will have some similarities and
some distinct differences to the relationship between the Gwich'in people of
Old Crow and the Porcupine caribou they hunt.
book contains summaries of what has been learned, but it is also rich with quotations from the participating
elders, as well as sketches from the young, drawings of traditional events,
maps and many duotone photographs of real life among these people. There is
also a selection of beautiful colour photographs by Whitehorse's Paul Nicklen.
Tuktu project appears to have generated a lot of what sociologists like to call
"rich material", and it has been presented here in a very accessible
format. Thunder on the Tundra is available from Yukonbooks.com--Click here for more.