Seal hunting. It’s an act that binds all Inuit cultures together.
These are the words of Nunavut youth Tuqqaasi Nuqingaq (from Arctic Canada):
They stand steadily together /
The past and the present /
Watching as the water /
Bubbled and churned /
Signalling the arrival /
One grabs his harpoon /
His quiet song lulls the seal asleep (to sleep) /
On top of the ice /
Beside the water that is its home.
The other readies his rifle /
His profile a stark contrast to the white,
pure land surrounding him /
His breath coming out in quiet pants /
As he, too, sings the seal to sleep.
They are one /
The old hunter and his harpoon /
The young man and his rifle /
But the seal does not know this / (that?)
The seal does not know that this very moment /
The moment of aiming /
Has happened before /
Will happen again.
The old hunter and his harpoon (is) no longer here /
But the man and his rifle is /
Their reasons for pulling out a weapon /
Are very much the same.
(The seal is all that and more).
Tuq performed this poem at the ‘AWG’s Got Talent’ night of the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, a huge biennial sporting and culture event for the youth of the circumpolar north. This young woman from Nunavut heard that some people avoided ‘them’ because they eat seal. So she wrote this poem to say that it’s a big thing for her culture both in the past and even today. It means so many things. Life and sustenance included.
I have heard the thoughts of this young woman from Iqaluit, Nunavut (ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ) echoed in conversations with many Greenlanders, but none have put it so eloquently I think. This is why I shared Tuq’s poem with you (with kind permissions from the talented author).
To hear Seal Hunting in the author’s own voice:
Related websites and articles
- Greenlandic Terducken from Hell: the real-bird seal meal (The Fourth Continent)
- So You Think Greenlandic Food Is Exotic?