Iliarjuk: An Inuit Memoir

a memoir by Dracc Dreque

Prologue

When I first read the Dracc Dreque manuscript I was immediately struck by its unflinching honesty and its uniqueness. As far as I knew, it was the only memoir ever written by an Inuit and it cut sharply across our ideas about the Arctic. Most of what we've seen, in movies and on TV, represents Inuit culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since then, the foreign rule of a white colonial government and invasive global "realities" have brought drastic changes to that way of life.

Iliarjuk documents the impact those changes have had on individual lives with a vivid, gritty picture of what it is like to grow up as an orphan in Iqaluit, a place that is distant, exotic, but shockingly familiar. There are impressive descriptions of the tundra, the ocean, hunting for seals and polar bears and caribou, but there are also scenes of an intensely personal nature, sexual and physical abuse, scavenging for food at the town dump, sniffing Plastic Wood, nail polish and spray paint, breaking and entering, being chased then arrested by the Police, fist fights, hockey, rock and roll, foster homes, a haunted house, bicycles, jails and department stores.

It's an absorbing read and I've never seen or worked on anything that is quite like it.

– George Amabile, Editor

Synopsis

Iliarjuk is a first-hand account of contemporary life in a small Inuit community on Baffin Island and it paints a picture that is vastly different from what one might expect. It is a raw, painful, disturbing, hilarious, lyrical, provocative and eye-opening testimony to the courage and sheer determination of its author – a must-read for anyone interested in the Inuit or the Arctic. It is also a tale of astonishing hardship and hope.

"It is a raw, painful, disturbing, hilarious, lyrical, provocative and eye-opening testimony to the courage and sheer determination of its author..."
– George Amabile

About the Author

Dracc Dreque is the pen name of Gideon Enutsia Etorolopiaq who was born on January 14, 1964 in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Nunavut, to a large extended family with numerous brothers, sisters, stepbrothers and stepsisters. He was orphaned at an early age when both his parents died after eating spoiled seal meat and he left school after grade four.

Although he spent time in prison as an adolescent and young adult, he has not been incarcerated since 1983 when he was released from Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Dracc began writing his autobiography in 1998 and he now lives in Winnipeg where he works at a variety of jobs, reads books and adds to his memoirs.

Praise

"Having traversed most of the Arctic in my travels, including Nunavut and the western Arctic (Coppermine and Holman Island, Minto Inlet on Victoria Island, the other territories and Alaska) and having worked a very long time in maximum-security and super-maximum security corrections, I can report that Iliarjuk is one of the most authentic records of Inuit experience – and of aboriginal experience generally – I have read.

I once wrote, "The experience of prison is tragic. But not serious." Dracc Dreque shows us why. The glue-sniffing, gasoline sniffing, abuse with and without assault, suicides, murders and crimes in every far northern village I know of are poignant social issues. The data on death and injury aren't nice, and we should think of this nonsense before we go to war (that larger tragic but not serious experience). I would go so far as to say this book is the funniest, most tragic, least serious book ever to come out of the high Arctic.

I thank Dracc Dreque for the lessons in mortality and rolling-on-the-floor entertainment. I'm glad he is still alive."

– J. Michael Yates