• Feature

Hunting Caribou Through Inuktitut Poetry and Sculpture

Sculpting the Verse

Apr 23, 2021
by Napatsi Folger

ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐱᓪᓚᕆᐅᑎᒋᔪᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᖏᑦᑎᑐᑦ, ᑖᓐᓇ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖅ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑲᐅᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᔾᔨᖃᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᓂᒃ, ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᑦ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕐᓂᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ.

In recognition of storytelling as an integral part of Inuit art, this Portfolio features pairings of Inuktitut poems with stone sculptures, chosen to encapsulate the feeling of each poem.


ᐱᓯᖓ ᑎᒎᓪᓕᒐᐅᑉ
Untitled II
Attributed to Tegoodligak

ᐃᕝᕕᑦ, ᐃᕝᕕᑦ, ᑐᒃᑑ
ᐄ, ᐃᕝᕕᑦ
ᑲᓈᑯᑖᓕᒃ
ᐄ, ᐃᕝᕕᑦ
ᓯᐅᑎᐊᐱᒃ
ᐃᕝᕕᑦ ᕿᓕᖅᑎᓕᒃ—
ᐅᖓᓯᒃᑐᒥᒃ ᑯᒪᐅᔮᖅᐳᑎᑦ:
ᑲᖑᖅᑎᑐᑦ, ᐅᕙᓐᓄᒃ ᖃᐃᒋᑦ, ᓇᔾᔪᑎᑦ ᓄᓗᕋᕐᓗᑎᒃ
ᐸᖕᓂᕐᔪᐊᖅ
ᑐᒃᑐ−ᑑ−ᑑ
ᑐᒥᑎᑦ ᒪᐅᖓ ᓄᓇᒧᑦ ᑐᓪᓕᑦ—
ᒪᓐᓇ ᓄᓇ ᓇᔪᖅᑕᕋ
ᓂᕿᒃᓴᖃᑦᑎᐊᖅᐳᖅ ᐱᔪᒪᔭᕐᓂᒃ
ᑕᑯᒋᑦ ᑎᒍᒥᐊᖅᐳᖓ
ᓂᕿᕐᓂᒃ ᒪᒪᕆᔭᕐᓂᒃ—
ᒪᒪᖅᑐᖅ, ᓂᐊᒻ, ᓂᐊᒻ, ᓂᐊᒻ—
ᖃᐃᒋᑦ, ᑐᒃᑑ, ᖃᐃᒋᑦ
ᑲᐃᒋᑦ ᑲᓈᑯᑖᑦ ᑐᐊᕕᐊᓪᓚᒡᓕᑦ
ᑲᓈᑯᑖᑦ ᑐᑦᑕᕐᓗᑎᒃ
ᐅᕙᓐᓄᓪᓗ ᑐᓂᓚᐅᕆᑦ
ᒪᓃᑉᐳᖓ
ᐅᑕᖅᑭᕗᖓ
ᐃᓕᓐᓂᑐᐊᖅ
ᐃᕝᕕᑦ, ᐃᕝᕕᑦ, ᑐᒃᑐ
ᐊᓚᒃᑲᓚᐅᕆᑦ!
ᖃᐃᓚᐅᕆᑦ!

IpeeleeOshuitokCaribou

Osuitok Ipeelee
Caribou (c. 1976) Stone and antler 52.7 x 45.7 x 24.1 cm
REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS COURTESY WADDINGTON’S AUCTIONEERS AND APPRAISERS, TORONTO © OSUITOK IPEELEE ᐅᓱᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᐊᐃᐱᓕ ᑐᒃᑐᑦ (1976) ᐅᒃᑯᓯᒃᓴᖅ ᐊᒻᒪ ᓴᒡᔪᒃ 52.7 x 45.7 x 24.1 ᓴᓐᑕᒦᑕ ᓴᓇᔭᐅᒃᑲᓐᓂᖅᑐᖅ ᐊᐱᕆᓚᐅᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᑐᐊᓯᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᖃᕐᕕᐊᓂᒃ ᑐᓂᔭᐅᔪᖅ WADDINGTON’S AUCTIONEERS AND APPRAISERS, ᑐᕌᓐᑐ © ᐅᓱᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᐊᐃᐱᓕ

ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᒥᒃ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᕐᒥᑦ, ᑖᓐᓇ ᐃᖏᖅᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᖃᐃᖁᔨᕗᖅ ᑐᒃᑐᓂᒃ ᐊᖑᓇᓱᒃᑎᒧᑦ. ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐱᐅᓱᒋᔾᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᓂᒋᑦ ᓄᓇᒥᐅᑕᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐱᑕᖃᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᖏᑦ ᓂᕿᒃᓴᐃᑦ ᓄᓇᐃᑦ ᑯᑭᓕᕋᓛᓪᓗ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᓄᖓ ᑐᒃᑐᓄᑦ ᓂᕆᔭᐅᕙᒃᑐᑦ, ᐃᖏᖅᖢᓂᓗ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᒪᒪᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᖃᓕᒫᖅᑐᖅ ᐃᓱᒪᒃᓴᖅᓯᐅᖅᖢᓂ ᖃᓄᖅ ᐅᖃᕈᓂ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᓂᖓ ᐱᕈᖅᑐᓄᑦ ᖃᐃᖁᔨᓇᔭᕐᒪᖔᑦ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᓂᖓ ᓂᕐᔪᑎᓂᒃ. ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᑐᒃᑐᖑᐊᓂᒃ ᓴᓇᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ ᐃᓱᒪᓕᕋᖓᒪ, ᐅᓱᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᐊᐃᐱᓕᒃ (1923–2005), ᑖᓐᓇ ᐱᐅᒋᓂᖅᐹᕆᒐᒃᑯ ᑐᒃᑐᖑᐊᓂ ᓴᓇᓲᖑᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᖕᒪᑦ. ᐅᒥᓲᖏᑦᑐᓂᒃ ᐅᒃᑯᓯᒃᓴᓕᖕᓂᒃ ᓴᓇᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᑐᒃᑐᖑᐊᑦ ᐱᐅᔪᐊᓘᒐᓗᐊᖅᑎᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᑖᔅᓱᒪ ᓴᓇᔭᖏᑦ ᓴᓇᓯᒪᖕᒪᑕ ᐊᐃᐱᓕᐅᑉ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᖏᑦ ᓲᕐᓗ ᐃᖏᐅᓯᕐᒥᒃ ᐱᔭᐅᓯᒪᖕᒪᑕ. ᑐᒃᑐᐃᑦ—ᑕᑭᔪᔪᑦ, ᐊᐅᓚᓂᖃᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓲᕐᓗ ᖁᒃᔫᓪᓗᑎᒃ—ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖃᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᖅ ᑖᓱᒧᖓ ᑎᒍᑦᓕᕋᕐᒧᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒧᒥᖂᔨᓪᓗᓂ ᐃᖏᐅᓯᐊᓄᑦ.

Easily the most playful of the selected poems, this one is a song that invites caribou to come join the hunter on the land he inhabits. Boasting of the richness of the tundra and the plentiful moss and lichen for the caribou to eat, he sings of how delicious it is and the reader is left to wonder if he speaks of the flora he uses to lure or the fauna he is luring. 

When I think of caribou art, Osuitok Ipeelee, RCA (1923–2005), is my favourite creator that comes to mind. There are few stone caribou as elegant as his and this sculpture in particular is shaped as though Ipeelee’s inspiration came directly from the words in the poem. The caribou—long, lithe and swan-like—embodies every word of Tegoodligak’s description and he dances as though entranced by the words sung to him.


Find more poetry and sculpture pairings:

Michael Massie and Martha Nasook

Tegoodligak, Pierre Aupilardjuk and Leo Napayok



This Feature was first published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

ᐃᓕᓴᐱ ᖁᓚᐅᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᖓ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑐᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᔭᐃᐱᑎ ᐊᕐᓇᑲᒃᒧᑦ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᓱᖅᑕᐅᔪᑦ ᒪᓂᑲ ᐃᑦᑐᒃᓵᕐᔪᐊᕐᒧᑦ

Translation by Elizabeth Qulaut. Poems translated by Jaypeetee Arnakak. Translations edited by Monica Ittusardjuat.