|"Many people swayed in time|
to the beating of the traditional drums."
Illustrations by Brookes, S.
Once upon a time, "in the far North, there lived a girl named Naya. She lived on the land with her grandfather, Ataatasiaq." Naya's parents, Aspak and Akittiq, lived close by in the litte town of Igloolik. Her sisters, Jochebed and Atagu, scorned Naya, who liked the old fashioned ways of her grandfather. They thought she was dirty for playing outdoors with the dogs, but "in wintertime, Naya could get from her grandfather's camp to Igloolik across the sea ice by dog sled." Her sisters were stuck in town. Every year, the community held a feast, and all the people came from miles around. It was the only chance the young men and women from neighboring villages had to meet one another and they all wore the best they had. But when Grandfather Ataatasiaq asked whether she would be going, she was glum. She knew that her sisters were going to fly to the seamstress in Yellowknife, and that they would have expensive dresses made. She and her grandfather had nothing but what came from the land. Now Ataatasiaq said, "You had better start work on your amauti as soon as possible. I will go in the morning to hunt the caribou so you will have hides to sew." So Naya knew that her grandfather would help her look beautiful, and she made preparations to scrape and stretch the hides he would bring back. Early that morning, he left, and Naya spent the day sorting her beads and planning the designs she would stitch onto the hide. That was the part that took many, many hours. Beadwork "required much time and patience" and fortunately, Naya's beloved grandmother had taught her this before she died. It took Naya many days to work her designs; meanwhile her sisters laughed and gossiped at the dressmakers with the other girls. They all agreed that Naya was hopelessly old fashioned, and spent too much time with dogs. The Community Feast drew near, and Naya worked every day. Her dress was nearly finished. It happened one day that Grandfather Ataatasiaq came to her igloo and told her that "his hunting partner had become very ill and could not hunt." Because Ataatasiaq had promised to bring meat to the feast, he was honor bound to do so. But how could he hunt with no partner? Although Naya knew that if she herself hunted with Ataatasiaq, they could bring enough seal and caribou meat for everyone. But then she would not have time enough to finish the beading on her amauti, and to wear it unfinished was not to be thought of. Nevertheless, she spoke. "Grandfather, I'll come with you. Together, we'll hunt for the meat." And this they did, for many days. At last, they had enough, and they headed for home. They got there the very day of the feast. While Grandfather delivered the meat to Igloolik, Naya stitched frantically on her gown. But she could not finish it in time. "She felt very sad; however, she decided to put on her unfinished amauti and wear it with great pride", at least as far as outside in the snow, beneath the starry sky. As the feast began over in town, Naya dressed and stepped outside. That's when she saw "the northern lights dancing in the sky". As she watched the kaleidoscope of "colours dancing in the dark of the evening" something happened. She felt "the colours come closer and closer and and [they] began to swirl around her body, then, just as quickly, they faded." To her utter amazement, Naya found that when she looked down at her dress, the beadwork was complete! "Could it be her grandmother watching over her?" Just then, "a team of seven white sled dogs appeared, all harnessed in gold and pulling a golden komatik." Naya jumped in, and they were off, dogs and sled skimming across the ice. When Naya got to the Community Hall she entered, feeling "beautiful and proud". Now she saw her haughty sisters in their fancy clothes. But they did not recognize the beautiful girl in the hand made amauti, and everyone "was swaying in time to the beating of traditional drums". As Naya stood watching, "her eyes met with those of the most handsome hunter she had ever seen. In an instant they were dancing together to the Inuit drums. Suddenly, Naya remembered that she had not told her grandfather that she was coming to the feast, after all. He would be frantic with worry. "Without even saying goodbye, she rushed out of the feast. As she pushed her way through the door, her amauti snagged on a sharp hook of caribou antler and a piece was torn from it." Naya did not pause, and ran for her dog sled. In a breath she was home again, and not a minute after she had "stepped off the sled, than suddenly, her light-filled amauti shattered into a million pieces." The seven dogs, and the komatik vanished. Meanwhile, the hunter was baffled. Why had the beautiful girl run away? Had he imagined the intricate beadwork on her gown? But no, he couldn't have, for he had found the small scrap stuck on the horn. Carefully, he carried the bit of soft hide around, showing it to everyone at the feast, asking who the girl who did this work might possibly be. But no one knew. At last, "one of the elders was shown the piece, and recognized the stitching as that of Naya." Now the hunter knew that he sought a girl who lived out on the land, on the ice with her grandfather. He soon found the path to her igloo, and before long, he was greeted by Ataatasiaq. Did the old man have a granddaughter by the name of Naya, asked the hunter? And before Ataatasiaq could answer, the girl appeared, and in one glance, they knew what would happen next. So the hunter asked permission to marry Naya, and Ataatasiaq gave it, and "they were soon married and lived a traditional life on the land, happily ever after.
From Naya, the Inuit Cinderella. (1999) Canada: Raven Rock Publishing.
Notes: Though published in 1999, this book was, apparently, written by Marceau-Chenkie at the age of 10. It is drawn from her experiences on the ice with her grandfather.
Montessori Connection: Geography/Astronomy/Northern Lights
1. Read this story, and think about the 10 year old girl who wrote it.
2. Learn about American Indians in Canada:The Canadian Inuit Dog: Canada's Heritage (2nd Edition) or Make Your Own Inuksuk (Wow Canada! Collection) or The Polar Bear's Gift (Northern Lights Books for Children)
3. Learn about the northern lights: Northern Lights: The Science, Myth, and Wonder of Aurora Borealis or Aurora: A Tale of the Northern Lights