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Rose Iqallijuq tells her intrauterine memories, and even before, when she was her eponymous grandfather, Savviurtalik, in his grave made of snow blocks. At that moment, Savviurtalik wanted to be reincarnated in the family of their daughter. They tell us that they were nothing but a soul with the appearance of an old man, that they went out of their grave and walked towards the igloo where lived their daughter Nuvvijaq with her family. In this film Rose Iqallijuq recounts all she remembers from her birth, her childhood as a transvestite, until she wore woman's clothes for the first time.


Recollections of an Inuit name-soul; Iqallijuq is telling in Inuktitut of her intra-uterine memories.

16mm colour movie with synchronous Inuktitut sound

13 minutes

Director: B. Saladin d‘Anglure.

Interviewer : Alexina Kublu.

Camera and sound : Philippe Legrand of audiovisual services at Université Laval

Shot in Igloolik, NU, summer 1973

Edited with the collaboration of Association Inuktsiutiit and audiovisual services at Université Laval

Drawings : Léah Idlout d’Argencourt after Iqallijuq’s descriptions.

Full transcript


Iqallijuq: At the time I was going to be conceived, I recall still being in the grave, which was very cold. These auviit were in place so I opened the eone at the end and went out. When I started looking around I saw my najannaaq.


Kublu: You opened what? Auviit?


Iqallijuq: I pushed it out. Auviit are placed together. Do you know what auviit are?


Iqallijuq: Yes. I pushed the snow out making a door which I went out through, and I saw my njaannaaq’s dwelling, my parents, my mother. As I was very thirsty, I went down there. I was a man wearing a qiqpaujaq parka, silapaak outer pants and miqquliik kamiik with hair. I felt as if I was alive going down there; and when I got to her, I stopped beside her. I said that I wanted a drink, but when she didn’t hear me, I said again that I came for a drink.


Kublu: Where was she?


Iqallijuq: She was where she would go to urinate, an igloo set for her to go and urinate. She was there urinating. I went to her, but she was not aware of me, which was no wonder, because I was dead. I thought maybe if I were to touch her unngiqsaq, the sinew tie for her pants, I would enter inside of her. So when I touched it, I entered her womb. I was not aware of how I entered, but when I touched her unngiqsaq, I entered her womb. She entered her igloo and slept for some nights. When she became aware of me by touching her belly, she said to her husband: "Husband, I am pregnant once again and yet again, this one will not live." And she started to cry.


Kublu: Why was she crying?


Iqallijuq: She thought I was going to die as five before me had died while they were infants. She thought I was going to die too, and because she so very much wanted a child, she started crying. My father said to her: "This one could probably be made to live." So I was a fetus inside her womb. It was my thought that she should go out early and she did go out early in the morning when she would wake up. I could see the igloo; I considered her womb to be a igloo; I was in an igloo.


Kublu: It seemed to be an igloo?


Iqallijuq: It seemed to be an igloo that was very snug. It felt very crowded and there would be this dog with its mouth slit upright that would come to the entrance. It turns out that it came to the entrance when he (my father) was having sex with his wife. I thought that his penis was a dog. The dog would vomit just as it was about to exit, and I would eat what it vomited; and therefore, I grew.


Kublu: What was vomited was making you grow?


Iqallijuq: It seemed that way. I thought that what turned out to be his penis was a dog that would come to the entrance. So it became very crowded in my little igloo, and the sides started dripping, fluid started pouring from her uterus. I could see the entrance as I was considering getting out. At this point, I no longer was just lying there. Because though at first I had been on the bed, there was no longer a bed and I would totally just fit in the little igloo by then. I couldn’t quite reach the entrance. But I reached for the male implements that were on the left-hand side of the entrance, and I grabbed them. Then I thought if I were to be using these, I would experience being cold. So I put them down, and having grabbed a woman’s little qulliq and a little ulu, I attempted to get out.


Kublu: Because you wanted to be female instead, you took these implements?


Iqallijuq: Because my atiq Savviuqtalik had wanted to be female. I went out; I was born. When I came out, I opened my eyes, but all I saw was smoke, like smoke coming out of a pipe, but much larger.


Kublu: Why was it all blurry?


Iqallijuq: When I just came out, steam emanated from me, from me being delivered, and so…


Kublu: Was this all that you could see?


Iqallijuq: When the blurriness ended, I could see well. I saw my mother and her mouth was moving. When I smiled at her, her mouth moved once again. There were those two people at the door who were qilajuuk. It turns out they were qilajuuk. I looked at them and smiled at them, and probably one of them was talking because his/her mouth was also moving. While I was still inside (the womb), I could hear very well; when I was born, I couldn’t hear anymore.


Kublu: What made these people qilajut?


Iqallijuq: Because they wanted me to be born sooner. It was taking a long time for me to be born; my trying to take the knife and the harpoon had prolonged my birth. So I then ended up in the birthing tent which I could then see very well. As I was cold (and thirsty), I tried to say "let me drink », but ended up only saying "ungaa, ungaa, ungaa". My mother put me in the front of her amauti, where Uviluq placed me after cleaning me up. Uviluq cut my umbilical cord and gave it to my mother. We were here for a short while… The place that she was staying at during the time of postnatal bleeding was right next door; and it was a small tent larger than the one I was born in and had a qulliq. So when my mother entered, it she started cooking some meat.


Kublu: The place where you were given birth was just a little tent?


Iqallijuq: All was discarded: my placenta, the skin that I was born on and the little tent were thrown away. My caregiver, our caregiver Uviluq, cooked meat. When she started to eat… I was very hungry, although I would drink, drink from my mother. I was in her amauti when she took from her mouth a very small piece of meat which she put in mine. After having eaten, she scooped up some broth and gave me some. It turns out that she had only touched my mouth with the meat, but I thought that I had been given a bite and a sip. When she poured a tiny amount of broth into my mouth, I thought I became satisfied.


Kublu: What did she do of the small piece of meat she touched your mouth with?


Iqallijuq: She placed it in a… [Minguliqtiqutiqarvik] What was it called? Anyway, into a special.


Kublu: There was a special place for it?


Iqallijuq: Yes, there was a special place for it, but I’ve forgotten what it was called. It’s alright that I’ve forgotten it. I can clearly picture it. After I ate the piece of meat, I became full then I fell asleep; it turns out that I was dying.


Kublu: Did you seem to be asleep when (actually) you died?


Iqallijuq: Yes, and my father yelled. They said that he was sakajuq, that he wanted Savviuqtalik to live; and I was very aware of Savviuqtalik . I was with my najannaaq , and I was going live. And once again, later on, although I don’t know what was wrong with me, I fell asleep again. I fell asleep for I was very sleepy and I then became wide awake again to Arnaqtaat talking. "I am tired of hearing Arnaqtaat


Kublu: As though she were locking you in?


Iqallijuq: She would lock me in. I don’t know what she wanted to use to lock me in, but she wanted me to have a life to live. As she was a very old woman, it was as though she was splicing our lives to each other; that my life was locked to hers so that I could live longer. I was now well and alive. I would see them enter and knew them well, my father and even Uviluq. I recognized him and continued to know my father. We went to the tent my father was in, and my parents were once more sharing the bed. She was now going to make a minguttinnaaq for me; it turns out to be for a girl…


Kublu: When you were a young child?


Iqallijuq: No, when I was a young adult and started my menses, because Savviuqtalik had not wanted to be male, but wanted to be female instead. He had no longer wanted to go hunting, because he had got tired of hunting as it was exhausting. He got tired of being cold, so my body went through the sipiniq process; I had had a penis then I ended up with a vagina. That is how they would sipijuq.


Kublu: You had started out as a boy but you became a girl?


Iqallijuq: Yes. When they start out with a penis and end up with a vagina, the term is "sipijuq". So in that manner, I was a boy then I became a girl.


Kublu: You were dressed as a boy?


Iqallijuq: Yes, I was always dressed in boys’ clothing until I started menstruating. I used to accompany my ataatakuluk. My ataata, my biological father, he died from drowning in the fall that I was born. I was born in June. So I was always dressed as a boy and therefore I never considered myself to be a girl. So When I grew up and started menstruating, my anaana made me a minguttinnaaqtuq atigi, and made qarliik for me as well. When she made the atigi for me, she started crying because she considered me as her father for I was named after him. She did not want to clothe her father as such, and I was her father; which is why she was crying. Then I became female, though I never thought of myself as female, until I started my menses. There is still more, but I’ve forgotten it, though I know this part.


Kublu: Up to now?


Iqallijuq: Yes, up to now…



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