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Editing lnuit Uterature: Leaving the Teeth in the Gently Smiling Jaws by Robin McGrath A quick glance around any Canadian children's library or bookstore wM reveal a proliferation of books by and about native North Americans. This wealth of native material is the result of a realization by parents and educators that native songs and legends "reflect archetypes of world mythology adapted to the Canadian environment" (Whitaker 162). The works help to put non-native chldren into harmony with the country of their bkth or adoption in a way that stories rooted in Europe, Asia or Africa cannot, and they also help to keep native children In touch with their culture. The use of native oral Uterature in books involves a number of complex processes, including transmission, translation, adaptation and editing, processes which should be undertaken with caution and care if the integrity of the original material is to be retained. This paper wi look at problems of adapting and editing lnuit literature and will compare several original manuscripts with the English texts that eventually reached the pubHc. It is important in talking about editing lnuit Uterature to draw a clear dfstinctfon between Rterature about lnuit and literature by lnuit. An excellent example of an adaptation of lnuit legend, Rterature about lnuit, is Elizabeth Cleaver's The Enchanted Caribou. Another is James Houston's TTkta'Utak. Houston based his story on a real incident, but as he teHs us: The year after Tkta'Uktak returned he and his wife starved to death; he was gone. I never used that in the book because I think it sounds depressing that, after having fought through an that to save himself, he should have died in such an ordinary way as starvation, (qtd. in Stott 7-8) Houston's story is his own, and he is free to change or omit the endng. The problem arises when editors change lnuit writers' stories. A photographic version of the Taqalktaq story can be found in Peter Pitseolak's People From Our Side. The sub-title is A Ufe Story With Photographs bv Peter PHseotak and Oral Biography bv Dorothy Eber, the translator of the manuscript section is named, the six interpreters who worked on the interviews are lsted, a page of the syRabic manuscript is reproduced on the inside of the cover, and a distinction is made between the original manuscript and later insertions from interviews by the use of Hales. I. NuRdak. edited by MaJurice Metayer, Is similarly documented and includes a sample of the original lnuktitut with both a Itérai translation and the final interpretation so that readers can judge how the work has been altered by the edHor. In contrast, EIBc and Other Stories of the MacKenzie Eskimos is an example of a book that may appear to be by lnuit but is not. Herbert T. Schwarz devotes almost half of this book to photographs and profites of the storytellers he met in the Mackenzie Delta, but a careful readng reveals that Schwarz speaks no lnuktitut, several of the storytellers spoke very lttie English, the stories were never tape-recorded, and an interpreter was used for only one of the tales. Schwarz's comment that one story-teier was such a superb actor that "there were times that I did not need to understand Eskimo to comprehend his tale" (69) should be received with some skepticism. EJj Is an adapted work but gives the incorrect impression that it has simply been edited. Authentic Rterature by lnuit is usualy fairly easy to recognize. The storytefiers or poets are Identified by name or at least by tribal affiliation; the translators are lsted; any interim languages such as Danish or French are noted; additions are identified as such either through footnotes or the use of Kales; and finely, it does no harm If a certain number of inconsistencies of language or narrative development are retained. If, as an English reader, you understand everything in the work, then it is probably not the product of an lnuit writer. Sometimes the changes editors make are so subtle that it Is difficult to know If the editor was making a deliberate decision or was just inadvertently...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-1201
Print ISSN
0885-0429
Pages
pp. 31-35
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
N

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