Qiviuq Spits on the Evil Woman, by Janet Kigusiuq
A Long Way from Home
Here's the way Kiviuq's story begins, as told by Annie Peterloosie in Pond Inlet.
At the beginning of the legend as I have heard it told, there was an individual in the ancient time who was a part of a summer settlement or camp. This probably had been the location of their camp since spring.
There was an orphan boy in that same camp who lived alone with his grandmother. Legends often refer to orphans who reside with their grandmothers. This legend it starts in the same manner as its predecessors. In this legend the orphan boy lived with his paternal grandmother or perhaps it was his maternal grandmother.
When many people were gathered in one area they would celebrate by holding competitions, playing games like catch ball. The people of the camp would compete with each other for the ball.
The little orphan boy who lived with his paternal or maternal grandmother would go to the ball competitions to participate and be an observer. Whenever he attended the games, individuals would approach him and ridicule him even to the point of catching the pointed part of his hood with their teeth, twirling him around, making a rips and holes in it. Probably not only his hood had tears, it could very well have been that his clothing also got affected.
The torn hood point was a regular occurrence. When he returned home in the evening or perhaps not always in the evening his grandmother would mend the torn clothing and reattach the hood point.
Whenever the child would leave the dwelling house his grandmother would caution him to say to his tormentors, “There is no more skin available to mend my torn hood point or the rips in my hood point again.” He would attend the games and the same thing occurred again. He recited the words his grandmother had told him to say. The youth would recite the words of his grandmother to no avail.
When the ridiculing and bullying did not diminish and when there were no more skins to patch his hood, his grandmother told the child to work his way along the beach and look for discarded skins to mend his hood point. Since there were seagulls screaming in that general area she thought he would find a beached mammal. She told him to bring it home. He went as instructed and looked for a patch for his hood point. He came across a baby seal’s facial skin – the only skin of any use to his quest. The front facial part of the seal, partly eaten by seagulls, that was the only thing available, so he took it home.
The grandmother dried the skin. Once it was dry she chewed it with her teeth to soften it. All day she sang a song, she chanted a song, and as she sang the skin got bigger. As she softened the skin and it began to stretch it she would try it on the child and used its head by his to make sure it was the right length. She would have the child put it on and she would do this in such a way that if it was too small or tight she could start to soften in order to stretch it to the maximum. As she softened the skin it stretched so it fit perfectly. Once he was able to put the hood on, she tightened the string around the facial area and asked if he would be afraid to be hoisted by his hood.
There was a puddle on the floor. There used to be puddles in the floors of sod houses which accumulated as the snow melted. The houses had supports made of sod and stones along the sides to ensure that neither bedding nor people would fall off the platform. They also had flat stones as flooring. Water would run along the groves and collided into puddles. Since there were puddles in all sod huts, the water the needed to be removed and thrown outside as it collected. The grandmother dunked the child into the puddle.
She asked him if he was afraid to attempt this and he answered, “No, I will not be afraid.” He consented to her request.
She proceeded to dunk him into the pool, all the while informing him of what he was to do. Yes, as I said she was advising him what to do once he reached the floe edge.
“Once you are past the ball players you will appear as a yearling seal. I want you to make your presence known by showing your self among them. Once your presence is known they will all go hunting and each one will try to make the first kill. When they try catch you, submerge and go to another area where it will be difficult for them to harpoon you. Keep doing this as they come after you so that you will not be caught, and take them further out to sea. Once you have taken them far out. I want you to chant, `Silaga nauk! Ungaa! Where is my weather?’ I want you to chant in that manner.”
He did as he was told by his grandmother. She put him into the water collected in her sod house. Once she put him into water he went close to where they were playing ball. When the men saw the yearling seal all of them rushed to be the first to kill him. They went and got their qayaqs in order to be better equipped to catch him. There were a lot of men who wanted to get the seal first and they were rejoicing at the thought of catching him. His grandmother told him to go where the men would find it hard to catch him. She had informed him to go where the men would find it hard to catch him. She wanted him to entice them so that they would follow him wherever he went. He did as his grandmother told him and went further out. Every time he showed himself, the men followed him way out to the open sea ice.
The orphan boy was missing some fingers on his right hand. He chanted and showed his deformed hand to entice the men. Since everyone recognized the orphan’s hand when they saw it, they would know who was luring them to their death.
He was chanting “Uungaa, ungaa, where is my weather?” He cried “Ungaa,” because babies cry like that. It was to let the people know that it was a chld who was like a seal. It was also a way of informing listeners that the legend is about a child. After the boy finished his chanting, a gale rose out of the ocean. The orphan boy who had turned into a yearling seal was nowhere to be seen.
The men who were in their qayaqs tipped over and drowned. Now there were only two men still alive out of many. These two had not taken part in tormenting the child. Those who had torn his hood were all drowned. The two men were trying to find a place where the wind was not too strong and they found it beside an iceberg. But now the second survivor’s qayaq tipped over and he drowned as well. It happens that he had ridiculed the child on just one occasion and that is why he drowned last.
Kiviuq was the sole survivor among the hunters. He had never ridiculed the orphan in any way, neither verbally nor physically. He was the sole survivor and he realized the land was no longer close. Kiviuq was on the ocean with no land in sight.
There were times he thought he saw land but it was only dark water which seemed to be land. He called out “Nuna tauwa, iqqaq tauwa. There’s the land, there’s the bottom under shallow water.” He traveled for many days. Once the storm subsided he knew it was not land he had been seeing but darkening in the water.
A small bird was resting on front of Kiviuq’s qayaq. Kiviuq was a shaman and the small bird, a sandpiper, was his helping spirit. The small bird was there to give him a helping hand.
While he was in the water, the waves would rise and fall, rise and fall at regular intervals. He saw land when the rise took him up. Finally he saw land as thin as a rope. He thought it would be lost again but at last he realized that it was indeed land he was looking at.
He approached the land and beached his qayaq. He emptied the water from the qayaq and took it further up the shore. He took his wet clothes off and proceeded to dry them on the top of large rocks. He put out his kamiik (boots) to dry out and lay down to sleep.
After a while someone woke him, saying that he should turn his boots or they would dry too much on one side. It was a female voice he heard. Once he woke up he looked to see where the voice was coming from, but did not see nor find anyone. He turned his kamiik and fell back to sleep.
After a while he was woken up again with someone telling him his qayaq had come loose from its mooring and the tide was coming in. Again he looked to see if anyone was around, to his dismay did not see anyone. He dragged the qayaq further up the shore and went back to sleep.
Once again someone woke him telling him to come and sleep further up where there was a dwelling. He woke up again looking for the owner of the voice, but there was no one. Then again he was awoken. He decided to turn quickly to where the voice was coming from. This time he saw that it was a woman.
When she found out she took his clothing and went to her qarmaq. She put his clothing up on her drying rack. Kiviuq also went into the sod house, made himself comfortable and fell asleep. It seems the woman was the human form of a sandy area. Where sea meets and folds over the land and it is sandy, that is called an ikpik. The land has an entity that lives there.
When he woke up after his long slumber, the woman was not around.He found her in the porch building a fire for cooking.
Kiviuq looked for his kamiik and found them hanging on top of a drying rack above the qulliq. Whenever he tried to grab his boots the drying rack would rise out of his reach. This went on for awhile, he could not get his kamiik because the drying rack was preventing him. He informed the woman of what was happening and she answered, “I put them up to dry, you get them down!”
He kept requesting but she gave the same answer over and over again. Whenever he tried to take his boots a pair of tongs would show themselves just below the bed. They were made of caribou hind legs they were made into skewers, to take our cooked food from the pot. They were trying to prevent him from getting his kamiik.
All the while the drying rack was going out of reach. Kiviuq too was a shaman and he had a helping spirit, the polar bear. He had the polar bear come up from behind the woman and it roared. The woman came running inside and took his kamiik, stockings, and outer wear and gave them to Kiviuq. She left again once she had given him his things. He tried to leave the dwelling once he had his kamiik on but the doorway kept becoming narrower so he could not pass. He called out to his helping spirit, the polar bear, and told it to come and be with that woman.
Now the door opened and he could leave. He ran down to shore, took his qayaq and left the beach where the woman lived. She came out of the qarmaq with her ulu and shouted a threat at Kiviuq. The sea became rough.
She used her ulu to make him tip over and he almost did but righted the qayaq. She took her ulu and said, “I could have sliced you with this," and gestured towards him.
And he made a motion as if to throw his harpoon, saying, “I could have harpooned you!” The woman almost fell over. He uttered threats at the woman with his harpoon and she keeled over. When she keeled over she dropped her ulu and it shattered with a tinkling sound. That caused ice to form on the water.
The Boy and his Grandmother Trick the Mean People, by Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuruk
Here's the way the same story is told by Niviuvak Marqniq
I have heard two different stories of Kiviuq, one is of when he was a child and living with his mother, the other of when he was of marrying age. He once had a fox for a wife.
Kiviuq was a young boy when his father was murdered. He had been killed by members of his own community. Kiviuq’s grandmother took him in and raised him. At that time, many people had gathered in a place where the caribou crossed the river.
Young seals have beautifully shiny skin and were often prized by hunters of that day. This particular type of sealskin is called Qiviuq in our dialect. The grandmother made clothing out of Qiviuq skin for Kiviuq, whose name is derived from Qiviuq.
When she finished making the suit she dressed Kiviuq in it. Then she started to keep Kiviuq under water, training him to hold his breath and learn to swim. Soon Kiviuq got used to it and was able to be under water for many hours. Some say the sun moved across the sky while he held his breath comfortably under water.
At the mouth of the river where the caribou cross, the men who had killed Kiviuq’s father were gathered waiting for caribou. She explained to her grandson, they will surely think that you are a young seal and want to be the one to catch you. Lure them to the open water like a seal would, then call to me. When the hunters noticed the young seal in the water, they rushed to their kayaks to catch it. Kiviuq swam out to sea, diving in and out of the water, weaving himself in between the kayaks, always on their awkward side, as his grandmother had instructed him. When the land became barely visible, he called to his grandmother. A great wind began blowing and made the waters very choppy causing most of the kayaks to capsize, drowning their operators.
Kiviuq took hold of a couple of kayaks, possibly his younger sibling’s one and another relative’s kayak. The three were the only survivors. They held the two kayaks together in the choppy water’s until their strength gave out. Kiviuq got into a kayak and during that time the other kayak capsized drowning both of Kiviuq’s companions.
Kiviuq paddled to shore and removed his clothing. Much later, he continued on his journey along the shore by kayak. He came across two inukshuks, standing side by side. “Beware the clams will get you!” “Beware the clams will get you!” they called. Sitting on his kayak, Kiviuq looked back to find two large clams chasing him, opening and closing themselves. Once they realized that Kiviuq had noticed them, the other one shouted up to the inukshuks, “Ihii, the old one is lying!” “Ihii, the old one is lying!” indicating that their chase was untrue and over.
Kivuq continued his journey.
He came to a roofless house with a window. Placing his kayak in a departure position below the house, he walked up to it. Because it had no roof he looked in from the top.
A large woman, fleshing a human skin, was sitting in the centre of the house. She did not notice Kiviuq. He spat down on her but she still did not notice him. He spat again, slowly the large woman looked up and said, “My roof usually never leaks, why is it leaking now?” As she looked up, her baggy eyelids covered her eyes.
Quickly she chopped each eyelid off with her large ulu and threw them into her cooking pot saying, “Ah a human!” Kiviuq was extremely surprised by her actions.
He entered the house to find a row of human skulls. Excitedly, one of them said, “We have company!” The large woman, whose name was Igutsaqjuaq, invited Kiviuq to rest among the skulls.
Igutsaqjuaq placed both of Kiviuq’s inner and outer footwear on her drying rack to dry over her qulliq. Then explaining that she was going out to gather heather and driftwood for firewood, she took her ulu, which had a handle made out of antler and went out.
Once she was gone, one of the skulls cried out to Kiviuq, “Leave now or else you’ll become like me!” Hurriedly he stood up to reach for his footwear, but the drying rack deliberately swayed back, slowing him down. Kiviuq ran out of the roofless house and barely escaped from Igutsaqjuaq’s grip, who, was in pursuit of him. He ran down to his kayak and pushing it out to the water, looked back to see a defeated look on Igutsaqjuaq’s face. Her other foot was immersed in the water.
Kiviuq sat comfortably in his kayak and paddled along the shore, he looked up to see Igutsaqjuaq, still following him on land. Giving up, she cried, “This is what I would have done to you!” She chopped a large boulder in half with her ulu.
Close by, there was a giant piece of drift ice, Kiviuq threw one of his harpoons towards it and split the iceberg in half. “And this is what I would have done to you as well!” (The kayaks used for hunting caribou were usually equipped with a harpoon on either side of the bow.)
Defeated, Igutsaqjuaq returned to her house saying, “Ihi!”
Continue the story: The Wolf Women.
What other Elders said about this part of the story:
Many of the elders told us about the orphan child's background. His father had been a Tuutalik, half man half seal, with great hunting power. During a bad winter he helped the hunters find seal breathing holes in the ice. He went down into one hole to call a seal but when he came back someone speared him and he died. The child was tormented because of the conflicts caused by this incident.
Vocabulary — Inuktitut words that appear in this part of the story.
Igutsaqjuaq – Big Bee Woman
Ikpik – Spirit of the sandy place where the water folds over the land. May appear in human form.
Inuksuk – Stone cairn used to help travellers find directions and also used by hunters to quide cariboo to the desired hunting area.
Kamiik – Boots. (This is the dual form, meaning there are two boots. A single boot would be kamik.)
Qarmaq – Sod house
Qayaq – Kayak
Qiviuq – Highly prized sealskin from a young seal. Netsilik dialect
Ulu – Crescent-shaped knife used by women
To learn more about kayaks, breathing hole hunting, igloos, clothing and more, click here.
Continue the story: The Wolf Women.