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These pages are an archive of an exhibition the Spirit Wrestler Gallery held in 2005.
If an item is not marked as "sold" then it may still be available. Please contact the gallery to inquire.
LEGENDS from ARCTIC QUEBEC
he Legends from Arctic Quebec exhibition illustrates the descriptive narrative style that embodies the carvings of Nunavik (Arctic Quebec). Where possible, the story that accompanied the particular work from the artist has been included, or will have a version of the story that is generally accepted. We invite you to enjoy the fusing of myth and carving in this delightful exhibition of smaller-scale work.
1 Raven Hunter sold
The Legend Of The Blind Boy sold
Story by Aisa Qupiqrualuk
"These people—a woman with a son who is blind and also a daughter—these are being come upon by a bear. When the bear peeps through where the window used to be (the heavy ice pane having melted and fallen in), the mother of the blind boy is telling him to shoot it with a bow and arrow. Though blind, he is strong enough; so he shoots. And his mother is lying already, saying, since they had a dog called Uuka, "You shot Uuka." She lies, but the blind boy hears the animal hit by his shooting and says, "It sounds as if I shot some beast." His mother still replies, "No, no. You shot Uuka." Since the bear dies afar off, his mother and sister will leave him behind because they want the food all to themselves. When it is almost spring, they leave the blind boy behind in the old snowhouse. His sister will save him by stealing.
Thus the boy is left in the old abandoned snowhouse. Having shot the bear, he is being forsaken by his mother because he is blind. But he is fed by his sister. Loving her blind brother, she used to bring him some of her food inside her parka. She was feeding her brother with stolen food without getting found out by her mother. He was now in an old snowhouse without a roof (the Spring warmth having melted and collapsed the dome). "My brother, good dog meat," she always said. Wanting to regain his sight, he will have his eyes opened since he wants them opened.
Blind, abandoned by his mother and left behind in the old snowhouse, he is continually seeking to be given sight. So, since he is in an old snowhouse without a roof, he calls to the loon, and the loon comes. The loon wants to lead him to the water, and the boy is led there. When they arrive, the loon says "Dive down. When you are dying, suffocating and dying, I will bring you up to the surface." And so he dives underwater. When he moves because he is choking from lack of breath, he is brought up. Then the loon says, "What do you see?" The boy says, "I see light." The loon speaks again, "But indeed! Move only when you are suffocating and dying," and he makes him dive for a second time. The boy moves again because he is choking, and when he is brought up the loon asks again, "What do you see?" The boy answers, "I see land, but not very clearly." The loon says again, "But indeed! Move only when you are dying of suffocation," and makes him dive a third time. Because he is dying of suffocation, the boy moves once more, and when he is brought up, the loon asks again, "What do you see?" The boy says, "Far away on the side of the hill I see a lemming going into its hole." Thus the boy is made to see by the loon and is now back to normal.
Then, since he had regained his sight, he was
providing for his mother and sister with game, with tomcods and sculpins.
As he was doing so, there were some white whales in close beside the land,
and he wanted to harpoon them. To brace against the line, he says to his
mother, "When I harpoon, we
will brace against the line together. You will be behind me, so tie the line
around your waist when I harpoon." And then when he harpoons, just as
he is about to pull back against the line, he lets go of it without pulling
at all. Hence his mother, because she is tied around the middle, starts running
towards the water and plunges under. As she goes under, she says, "Lumaa,
lumaa, lumaa, lumaa, lumaa," and also, "If only I could squeeze the
water out of my skin on top of that hill, lumaa." These sounds were repeated
over and over again as she surfaced with the white whales. Here are the words
the boy spoke when his mother plunged underwater, "My mother's hood has
become a fish's tail, iya iyaa." So he said as his mother dove down."
3 Bear Shaman
Catching Fish sold
"This shaman is transforming into a polar bear. In the past it was common for shaman to do this."
4 Bear Transformation
"This polar bear ate human flesh and its face is transforming into his victim's face. He's also lost his teeth and is skinnier."
And Young sold
Story by Taivitialuk (Davidialuk) Alaasuaq Amittu
"The stories of the first people of long ago went like this: Some migrants were traveling this day leaving one lot of them behind. In the night, while it was dark, those who were left behind were entered upon by big Katyutayuuq. When it came in, the big Katyutayuuq said, "He is mine, he is mine, he is mine, he is mine" (i.e., mine to eat).
Big Brown, Big Stomach, Short Throat,
Big Daughter, Big Tail, and Big Ptarmigan—those are quite a few,
but I do not know the name of three - those ones were come in upon.
The big Katyutayuuq was scratched by the One-Who-Says-'Uriu' (the call
of the Ptarmigan). The One-Who-Says-'Uriu' scratched a long time, almost
all night long. Big Katyutayuuq's face was all mangled up. Because
it was mangled, it went outside during the night. Then they sat up
frightened all night long, not going out even when it became dawn.
Only when it was fully day did they go out, for they were afraid of
the big Katyutayuuq with its great big head and breasts on the cheeks,
two big ones. So the story goes. That's all; I stop."
6 The Half-Fish
(Sedna On The Rocks)
Story by Taivitialuk (Davidialuk) Alaasuaq Amittu
A man was out hunting on foot looking for driftwood along the shore. Over in the distance, while still far off, he saw a creature, half-fish and half-human, on the shore waving at him. As it kept waving, he went over to it. And so when he arrived,
"Don't come close. Don't come close; just stay nearby," said
So then, looking for wood, he got some to try to push it out into the water. As it was really stuck fast in the rocks and as the half-fish was very heavy, he worked a long time. When at last he pushed it out into the water, the half-fish said to him,
"At dawn I will place here a gramophone, a gun, and a sewing machine."
And so the half-fish went off, far away out there in the water. The
man simply went home. Then when dawn came, the man returned to the shore
to the spot where he pushed the creature out to sea. And there on the
shore the half-fish had put a gramophone, a gun and a sewing machine.
But it was nowhere to be seen. The gramophone, the gun and the sewing
machine, just these were found. And so all the white men are learning
(to do as the half-fish did) we people are thinking. That the way the
story goes, I stop because it is finished.
7 Girl And
"This Falcon took the life of a young girl playing outside at night, while her family is inside the tent. She was picked up (and taken) very high up the mountain. The Falcon said, "I will keep her as a wife." The bird made a rope from skin, so as to be able to take her with him when he goes hunting."
8 The Old
Woman Who Killed A Bear sold
Story by Yuani Inuppaq
An old woman, a humble little old woman, once killed a bear with her walking stick. A family up from the big lake (Payne Lake) country was going to cross over some rocky terrain. This is the account of a family moving towards the sea. The mother could not walk except with a stick. She used to fall behind and would at night only when it was early dawn. They were very hungry, though the son had caches, and they chewed on caribou skins when there was no food. We, too, used to do the same when there was no food. Because they were in a hurry to reach the sea, they kept the caribou meat they ate to a minimum, never eating their full. They were very wise to do this.
Then when the old woman was walking with her walking stick as usual in the moonlight very light at night, she was caught up by a big male bear who was tracking her along her trail. Dodging him with the help of her stick, she could not be bitten. Tuning her mitts inside out, she put them on the end of her cane. When the bear came after her, she jabbed the stick in his mouth. The mitts stuck in his throat, and he just died.
Then she was arriving home without any mittens on. She was usually left behind because she was hungry (and weak and couldn't keep up). She was not allowed to go on the sled because she was the mother. Her little grandchild, expecting some food as usual, appeared to say "Hi grandma!"
"My dear grandchild, since I've killed an animal you'll be getting something," the grandmother said to him, joyously. They were already sleeping, but she woke them as she usually did.
When morning came, the son wanted to go over and fetch the bear with the old woman, his mother, as a guide.
"It's not here but farther away. It's far away on the other side of that distant hill."
When they got beyond the distant hill, she said "We've arrived" and he saw the enormous dead creature, which she had choked with her mittens. She was taken good care of, and they had her ride on the sled; it was a great happiness. Stories like this were told when none of us were yet born. In the tent of Iyautilik these listeners have heard it for the first time."
9 The One
Who Turned Into A Wolf
Story by Saali Arngnaituq
Then again there is the story about Qisaruatsiaq. The one who became a wolf is called by this name. It also is a story of a time long ago when there were no white men living in this country. This one tried to make a living only by fish. She was almost abandoned alone to herself although she had two sons. She had two sons who tried to support her, but she did not appreciate being looked after. She would always build a snowhouse for herself alone. They tried to have her in one house together with other people, but although an old woman, she always built a snowhouse to herself, deliberately trying to get herself abandoned and forsaken by the rest. Being very bad and stealing habitually, she would take people's fish when they were asleep. She used to go fishing and make a living by that, but if she did not catch any fish, she used to steal. Being like that, she was abandoned to herself, although her sons tried to keep her. She couldn't be made to stay in a house with others because she was causing herself to be forsaken.
One day while off on her daily fishing, she stopped coming back. Because she did not return anywhere, she was searched for at dawn. And so her fishing spot was reached, but there was nobody there. Directly away into the vast interior of her tracks led. The one who was searching began tracking her down. He tracked her for a long time, even when it was getting dark. Still tracking while it was getting dark, he went inland more and more. When it was just turning very dark, he was positive by the tracks that her feet were bare. They got smaller and smaller the longer he tracked her. As he really went on to find out, one of her feet became wolf while the other was human. As she was like that, the one who had tried to track her down turned back.
Hunting caribou, she used to have them for food. Afterwards, when people went after caribou, they were positive about her (being turned into a wolf). When they used to go up inland hunting caribou they were certain about her. She had taken off her other boot as well. In this way, having gotten herself abandoned, she had become a wolf. This too is a story; that is how its words go.
10 Bear Shaman
Hunting With Harpoon sold
"This polar bear has turned into a human. In the old days the polar bears used to turn into humans. So, this particular bear has turned into a human. Acting as a human, he strikes a harp seal with a harpoon, so he can eat. He is really happy pulling in the seal and getting to use his strength. Polar bears used to be human for long periods. The human-like polar bear is hunting for food during winter. He is hungry and his family living up in the mountains needs to eat as well. He needs to feed them though he is a polar bear—an animal. With his jaws wide open, he works very hard when a seal pops his head up in a breathing hole. He is shaking thinking that his catch will somehow try something. Now that he has eaten, he is now content. That is how polar bears used to be."
11 Sedna Birthing
Calling Walrus sold
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