Ivujivik students win award for adapting traditional story into book

Students at Nuvviti school create ‘L’inugagullirq’ about a small, mythical creature that wears sealskin

The class of students at the Nuvviti school in Ivujivik, along with visiting elders, hold copies of their book L’inugagullirq. (File photo courtesy of Nelly Duvicq)

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This story was updated on Thursday, May 4, 2023, at 1:15 p.m. ET.

A powerful bolt of lightning pierces the sky, illuminating a strange shadow — an inugagullirq.

This is one scene from L’inugagullirq, an award-winning book created by seven students at Nuvviti school in Ivujivik, a Nunavik village of approximately 415 residents.

The story is about a mythical creature called an inugagullirq. Small and usually wearing sealskin, it lives under rocks and disappears as soon as it is seen. However, if bothered, it uses magical powers to induce deep sleep on the ones who disturbed it.

In the story, a father staying with his family at a lakeside camp in spring sees an inugagullirq one night during a thunderstorm. He keeps the secret from his family, but his dreams become haunted by the creature. Finally, he tells his wife everything.

Now, this story is told by elders, so that if you see an inugagullirq you won’t be scared and won’t have nightmares like the man had.

The students started work on the book in October and received the final product in March.

To spark interest in the project, teacher Nelly Duvicq brought two elders to the school, Qumaq Mangiuk Iyaituk and Passa Mangiuk. Both told traditional stories to the kids for inspiration.

“Bringing the elders to the class really motivated the students, because it gave them tangible tools to start making their book,” Duvicq said.

Her Grade 5 and 6 class wrote the story down in French and the Grade 7 class translated it into Inuktitut. All three grades participated in creating the illustrations.

Elder Qumaq Ayaituk shows drawings to the students, who themselves are ready to sketch out ideas. (File photo courtesy of Nelly Duvicq)

After a few weeks, L’inugagullirq was ready to be sent to Montreal to be printed.

The children did not see the fruit of the efforts for several months.

“Once a week, I was asked, ‘Where is the book, when are we going to see it?’” Duvicq said. “They never forgot.”

Suspense held right up until they were able to hold the book in their hands. As soon as they opened it, they started to proudly point out which parts they created, Duvicq said.

“Stars lit up in their eyes,” she said.

“It became reality, and they were extremely proud.”

Next, Duvicq and the students organized a book launch.

Most of the town gathered at the school’s gymnasium, awaiting the final result. Duvicq said “this was the first event where we had this many people since we were able to open the school to the public.”

At first, L’inugagullirq was not meant to be distributed. But demand in Ivujivik was so high, they needed to print more copies.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Daniel Chartier, the book’s publisher.

Chartier works with the Laboratory on the images of the North, a centre he founded at the University of Quebec in Montreal that partners with numerous northern countries to research the North.

Duvicq, a graduate of the University of Quebec in Montreal, worked with Chartier and University of Quebec in Montreal’s Un Livre à la fois project, an initiative that brings together elementary and university students, to create the book.

Through funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, they were able to send their team to Ivujivik to help Duvicq complete the project.

The cover page of L’inugagullirq, which was written, drawn and translated by students in Ivujivik. (Photo courtesy of the Laboratory on the images of the North, winter, cold and the Arctic)

Chartier printed 120 copies for the people in Ivujivik, enough for nearly half of the community’s population.

But the recognition didn’t end there. L’inugagullirq was chosen to receive one of the Quebec government’s Reading Recognition Awards. Duvicq hasn’t been told which award, and will travel alongside three students to a ceremony in Quebec City on May 26 to find that out.

Chartier said the process of creating books can become an influential educational tool.

“It creates an attachment to school,” he said.

“It gives literature a social role, as it now has an extremely positive impact on students that may not always put school as a priority.”

Duvicq said she is planning another rendition of this initiative next year, with a new set of students and a new story told by the youth of Ivujivik.

Both the book and the audiobook voiced by the students can be found online on the Un Livre à la fois website.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct who participated in creating the illustrations for the book.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Thomassie Mangiok on

    They deserve the recognition and award, they worked hard and put their heart into it!


  2. Posted by Carol Rowan on

    Congratulations to the students, teacher Elders and community on your new book!

  3. Posted by Phil Lange on

    What a wonderful project, I’m happy the students got to see their work in print.
    But I’m puzzled why the staff had the students write it first in French and then translate it into it’s original language? Seems backwards… a more Inuktitut-based approach would have been to write it in Inuktitut based on what the elders told them, and this would capture the vigor and special language abilities of the elders. Then translate it into French.
    To keep the francophone teachers in-the-loop during the initial Inuktitut phase, students and Inuit staff could have helped with on-the-spot translations.

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