what a glory feeling it is to sit in the sun by the oceanside

as tulugait and naujait sing circling above

and scrape skins with centuries of arnait guiding my ulu

an intimate relationship develops from skin to skin

an intergenerational transmission of traditional knowledge

an ideological shift in relations with the sila

the processes of pure ingenuity and the utmost respect for all

from birth to babe to the ultimate end


I imagine the journey of this particular seal

reaching for the last breath

and all the journeys before that

creation’s circle,

a life lived

an ending of sorts

a beginning of traditions

an innermost relationship blossoms

a deep appreciation of those before


I can feel the elation and gratitude from the young hunter

as the act of melting snow in one’s mouth

the first of many to come

from fresh imiq transferred mouth to mouth

a long-established tradition of giving the seal a last drink begins

keeping the survival of livelihood breathing crisp Arctic air


as I tend to my qisik

I pull my skin over the avvik

scraping off the future oil for my qulliq

I marvel at our ingenuity as Inuit

our ability to make use of anything and everything around us

my ulu guides a shedding of grief

a loss of language and relation to land in the midst of being discovered

a removal of sorrow

a rendering of warmth in the purest form

to saturate summer’s harvest of maniq and suputiit

fusing together a bright future


I am guided by centuries of arnait

my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother

generations of strong capable Inuit women who came before me

my body is remembering the strength within and the peace to know


a connection nurtured by empathic insight






tulugait | ravens

naujait | seagulls

arnait | women

ulu | crescent knife traditionally used by women

sila | weather

imiq | water

qisik | sealskin pelt

avvik | the board used to scrape fat and membrane off animal skins

qulliq | seal oil lamp

maniq | lamp moss – mixed with suputiit to use as wick for qulliq

suputiit | Arctic willow – mixed with maniq to use as wick for qulliq

Bibliographical info

Ashley Qilavaq-Savard's "Skins" from Sex &.Love & Copyright © 2022 by Ashley Qilavaq-Savard. Used with permission from Inhabit Books.

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