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Book review: Life Among the Qallunaat, by Mini Aodla Freeman

cover-lifeReviewed by Marilyn Herbert

Today I’d like to highlight an Inuit author who has seen a lifetime of change in her own family and in Canada’s Inuit north. If you are not familiar with the Inuit word “qallunaat,” it literally translates as “those who pamper their eyebrows,” but figuratively refers to those who live in the south or in non-Inuit environments.

I have met and come to know many Qallunaat … and learned to be cautious with them. Some are nice and kind, but none want to see or understand my Native culture. Some don’t want to know, some don’t have time, some try but find it too deep to understand or accept. They all want to cover it up with their own ways. They always want me to be different, a novelty, and they refuse to see that I am a plain human being with feelings, aches, hatred, the desire to cheat, lie, love, adore, understanding, kindness, humanity, pain, joy, happiness, gratitude, and all the other things that every other being was capable of having, doing, thinking and acting. (p.219, 220)

Mini Aodla Freeman was born in 1936 in Canada’s north, in James Bay. Her memoir Life Among the Qallunaat, first published in 1978, is a glimpse into her life as an Inuk child within a hunting family. But it is bigger than that: It compares and contrasts her rural life with the urban life of Canada’s south.

Aodla Freeman and her family lived on the land, hunting and fishing and moving from winter lands to their summer lands. They were familiar with the Native Cree tribes and dealt with the Hudson’s Bay Company. She grew up in tents and was in for a major culture shock when she came to southern Ontario for the first time.

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