April 03, 2018

Siuluk: The Last Tuniq

Written by Nadia Sammurtok
Illustrated by Rob Nix
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-178-2
28 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2018


The Inuit stories about the Tuniit are of a legendary people akin to friendly giants.  They were considered to be immensely strong, massive in size and gentle in demeanour. It was not surprising then that Siuluk, a very large man of considerable strength who lived quietly by himself, should be considered the last Tuniq by his Inuit neighbours. 
From Siuluk: The Last Tuniq by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Rob Nix
When several of the Inuit men taunt Siuluk about his size and strength, he knows they are being mean but he responds with a challenge for them to lift a sheet of rock.  Of course, none can lift the massive rock except Siuluk who lifts it with ease and leaves his legacy in a message he carves into the stone.
From Siuluk: The Last Tuniq by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Rob Nix
Though you can read about the Tuniit in Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley’s Tuniit: Mysterious Folk of the Arctic (Inhabit Media, 2015) and in How Things Came To Be: Inuit Stories of Creation (Inhabit Media, 2015),  Siuluk: The Last Tuniq takes a different perspective on the Tuniit.  Nadia Sammurtok tells a very simple story about teasing and differences in which a man finds a straightforward but elegant response to dismiss his intimidators.  So while children will learn about Siuluk and his status as the last Tuniq, they will also learn that anyone can be ill-treated by others and still  handle that treatment with self-possession and poise.  Siuluk, who is given graphic life by American illustrator Rob Nix, could have hurt the men who teased him about his size and strength but instead he demonstrated his brawn in a quiet but impactful manner, and even left a message for generations to come.
From Siuluk: The Last Tuniq by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Rob Nix

The best part of this story is revealed in Nadia Sammurtok’s afterword in which she reveals that her father had been told as a child a story about a man purported to be the last of the Tuniit who'd allegedly lived close to Chesterfield Inlet in Nunavut.  In fact, there’s a photo of her father, Tom Sammurtok, with Siuluk’s rock.  So it seems that Siuluk: The Last Tuniq, which is also available in Inuktitut, may be a traditional story about the last remaining Tuniq from the oldest community in Nunavut but it’s all the more special for the evidence of its veracity and the life lessons it encompasses.

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