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Sharing Stories Today
Stories have been passed down from generation to generation for as long as Inuit can remember. Traditional stories told by grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers and fathers are still being told today. Over the years, artists have drawn from these stories and from the traditional Inuit way of life to create beautiful and meaningful artwork such as drawings, prints, wall hangings and stone carvings. More recently, contemporary media, such as film, broadcasting and the Internet, have tapped into this rich resource and stories are now published in various languages. Through these media, Inuit stories and traditions are transmitted and revived for the appreciation and education of the present generations.
Since the 1960s, Inuit stories have been told on radio and television. While these forms of communication do not replace the traditional ways of transmitting stories, songs and other Inuit traditions, they play an important role in their preservation. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) have recordings of Inuit Elders telling stories in Inuktitut or in English, as well as talking about how Inuit used to live on the land in igluit in winter and tents in summer.
Film is another medium that allows audiences to experience Inuit stories and customs of times past. Zacharias Kunuk, best known for his internationally acclaimed movie Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner, also co-directed The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. This latter film is based on the journals of the famous ethnographer and offers a striking view of early 20th-century Inuit and the world in which they lived. At the same time, Kunuk underlines the conflict between the traditional spiritual beliefs of the Inuit and Christian practices of the time.
Literature also plays an important role in the continuity of storytelling. Traditional stories are being published and new ones are being created. Although new tales are often based on traditional or contemporary Inuit living, sometimes they combine both past and present. For example, in his colourful books for children, author Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, tells tales inspired by traditional Inuit stories and the way of life he learned while growing up in Repulse Bay, Nunavut.
Modern-day Inuit literature features the sea goddess Sedna; Mahaha the Tickler; and legendary characters such as Kiviuq. Two examples are the contemporary text Half-Fish, by Taivitialuk Alaasuaq, and the story for adults entitled Summit with Sedna, the Mother of the Sea Beasts, which was written by Inuit author, editor and artist, Alootook Ipellie (1951-2007).
Inuit people have always excelled in adapting to different circumstances to survive. Keeping in mind the lessons and traditions of the past, they also introduce innovations better suited to modern living. The original stories and lessons are no less treasured because they form the foundation for Inuit life today.