“Yeah Bro, I should say we do have Eskimo Lies”: the poetry of Inuit writer Norma Dunning


Eskimo Pie I


Found on Wikipedia under “Eskimo Pie”:

Eskimo Pies advertisement from 1921_Iowa, U.S.A.


My response to the ad:



I should say we do have


Not only in N. Canada and

Urban centers, but in


     tions of all flavors.

   Eskimo Lies is a


     conception of Northern


    Handled at Our


and by our general public





Buy Eskimo Lies – A Quality

Product of Canada


Inuit History


Eskimo Pie II

Eskimo pie 1

Oh give me a piece of that Eskimo Pie.


16 crushed chocolate wafers

4 tbsp of melted butter


An entire grouping of humanity

Secured in residential school, left to die

Eskimo pie 2

Let me see that chubby little brown face

Filled with 32 marshmallows


1/2 cup milk

1/8 tsp m.s.g.

Smiling inside a padlocked fur-ringed space

Eskimo pie 3

Include 1 tbsp of vanilla and

1 cup of heavy cream – whipped,

Beat the little heathens

Put them in their place

Eskimo pie 4

Melt the marshmallows,

Along with their mother tongues

Whiten with milk,


Add the salt

To the wounds


And vanilla in a double-boiler

Turn the heat on high

Eskimo pie 5

Bring to a boil

Simmer and strain

Removing all their relatives

Eskimo pie 6

Cool the filling

Fold in the whipped cream

Pour into a pie plate


Slice and Assimilate



To the Eskimos of Canada


We came here to make them better

Teaching them church and knitting sweaters


Changed their names and made them right

These dirty little animals full of fight


Taught them how to wash their hands

Took them off their hostile lands


Bringing them to our enlightened age

Gave them names on a page


They’re happier than they’ve ever been

A better side of life they have finally seen


Our mission is soon complete

They will no longer eat raw meat


We’ll soldier on in our god’s name

These lowly people we will tame


They will thank us for this soon one day

And on their land we will forever stay


The Necklace

(Or Forms of 20th Century Shackling – The Eskimo Identification Canada System 1941-1978)

RCMP logo

I gave you a necklace made out of sting

Such a pretty thing, such a pretty thing

I told you to wear forever and always

Such a pretty thing, such a pretty thing

I had a number put on it

Just for me!

I told you to remember it always

I did oh I did and oh I still do!

Woman Holding Ulu by Annie Pitsiulak_2001

I said it was better than your name

It is oh it is and oh it still is!

If you didn’t have it I won’t be yours

Oh please, no threats, I’m yours always

Without it there would be no happy ever after

Oh please, no threats, no threats


I told you to write it on all pieces of paper

I will and I have and I must and I do!

If it gets lost – we’re over!

I won’t and I haven’t and I must say I do!

This necklace is the best thing that’s ever

Happened to you

I seem to be lacking air or is

it hair or do I

dare say,

I’m turning blue”?





ZP_Norma in Inuktitut

(Norma – in Inuktitut)


There is more to this lamp than the lighting

of it. Shared in its shadows are laughter,

crying and the tears of so long ago.

The tears of a sickness changing us for

ever. Echoes of tuberculosis.

Once we were well and we gathered manniq. (wick of moss)

We slept in peace under spring stars hearing

Our giggles and sighs mixed only with the

sounds of the earth. Disease took us from

home and away, far away to stay locked

in the prison of white walls. To cough up

blood of my puvak and long for home. (lung)

No more the qulliq to warm our spirits (stone lamp)

Warm our hearts, heat our lives, feed our stomachs.

Our revolution came in Quallnaat

Bacteria and the light of the

qulliq grew dim. Black wisps answered our cries

blowing out the wick of what we once were.


For Mini Aodla-Freeman, the last living Inuit woman in Canada who knows the traditional uses of the Qulliq. She is the last keeper of this traditional Inuit flame.

.     .     .     .     .

In the poet’s words:

My name is Norma Dunning. I am a Beneficiary of Nunavut and a first-year M.A. Student at the University of Alberta with the inaugural class of M.A. Students in the Faculty of Native Studies. I am an urban Inuit writer. My M.A. Thesis is based on the Eskimo Identification Canada System which ran in Canada from 1941 to 1978. It is a system, simply put, that replaced Inuit names with numbers. The University of Alberta has been very kind towards my writing and I have been awarded the James Patrick Follinsbee Prize for Creative Prose (2011) and the Stephen Kapalka Memorial Prize for Prose (2012). My creative work, both prose and poetry, has never been published in hard copy. This does not stop me from writing and I would encourage all writers to remember that we write because of what is inside of us needing to get out onto a page.

Matna – Norma