From Sanaaq. Published by University of Manitoba Press in 2014.

The airplane came again, with a nurse aboard. She brought her devices for diagnosing illnesses. The plane would stay two nights and the nurse would attend to the health problems of the Inuit. It was the first time that the Inuit met an aanniasiurti. The nurse used the missionary as an interpreter. That evening, the Inuit were invited to come. They heard for the first time that they would be examined. That same day, in the evening, they underwent blood tests. Maatiusi was the first to have a sample of his blood taken.

“Aatataa! That hurts!”

It was then the children’s turn.

“No, I don’t want to!” said Irsutuq, “because Maatiusi has just been hurt!”

Qumaq and Aanikallak ran off for fear of being hurt. Although they slipped away, they were still made to take a blood test. Qumaq’s blood was too weak. As was Aanikallak’s. They were told so.

“Sanaaq! Qumaq’s blood is too weak and the same is true for Aanikallak’s. They’ll both have to go to hospital!”

That did not at all please Sanaaq and Aqiarulaaq. The two of them cried and cried. Their lungs were going to be X-rayed. The next day, they were ordered to strip to the waist. They felt very ashamed, because they had never undressed in this manner.

“Do it!” they were told.

After they had been tested, their lungs were found to be healthy. Taqriasuk, however, was advised to take it easy because he was very old. The same recommendation was given to Qumaq and Aanikallak because they would soon be leaving on the airplane to be among the Qallunaat. The nurse also questioned Arnatuinnaq.

“Are you often unwell?”


Their weights were measured: Arnatuinnaq, 122 pounds; Qumaq, 77; her little brother, 26; Sanaaq, 118; Qalingu, 141; Taqriasuk, 136; Aqiarulaaq, 112; Aanikallak, 76; Maatiusi, 101; Tajarak, 40; Irsutualuq, 215, and Angutikallak, 143. The last two were too fat.

Angutikallak was told that he was overweight.

“Angutikallak! You will not eat seal blubber too often. You’re too fat for someone as young as you!”

“Yes, yes! I’ll surely do as you say!”

“And you, Arnatuinnaq! You’re pregnant. Your baby will be born next month.”

On hearing this, she felt thoroughly ashamed, for she had no husband. Sanaaq, her family, and everyone in the camp were learning the news for the first time. They thought, “Could it be Maatiusi’s child or maybe Angutikallak’s?”

Once she had gone home, Arnatuinnaq told her older sister, Sanaaq, “It’s the chief factor’s child!”

Some of their camp mates were very astonished and displeased at what Arnatuinnaq had said. When the time came to leave, Qumaq and Aanikallak were weeping warm tears, as were their families. The Inuit realized for the first time that some unpleasant things were being done to them. Qumaq did not cry too much, however, because she had begun to listen to the teachings of the Church, and her thoughts were often on the Catholic faith.

“In truth, I won’t always be happy!”

There were many things they had not yet understood by the time of their departure. From then on, however, Aanikallak and Qumaq were constantly learning and understanding more and more.



Toby Sharpe


I don’t know where a person can go when they disappear, apart from underwater.


Young Earle Birney in Banff: September 1913¹

what a day!at the Basin2 dove from the tufa overhanginto the water, playing my trick ofseeming to drown, not coming up until I finish wrigglingthrough that underwater chimneyand burst into air. always startles the tourists.


Zamboni Driver’s Lament

i know hate, its line-mates. believe me. you kids have, i’m sure, wasted—all early morning anxious and weak-ankled—their first impatient shuffle-kicks and curses on me.