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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Indigenous Education Worldwide

Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Martha Stackhouse

Book Review for Caribou Girl
By Claire Rudolf Murphy
Illustrated by Linda Russell

The author, Claire Rudolf Murphy, lived in Alaska for little over twenty years and now lives in Spokan Washington. She is an author of several books for children and young adults. She is well known for A Child's Alaska, a book of many photographs of Alaskan children with Charles Mason as a photographer. I couldn't find anything about the illustrator, Linda Russell.

The author and illustrator thanked Jana Harcharek and Mary Lockwood for verifying the cultural aspects of the story; Dr. David Klein and Debbie Miller for their information on the caribou, and to James Nageak for reviewing the story. This book was simultaneously published both in English and in Inupiaq translation which was translated by Jana Harcharek in 1998. Jana Harcharek also wrote a forward for the book where she explained that the Inupiaq people believe that the Moon Man (Tatqiq), who controls the game animals. Also, not as well known is Pakimna, the mistress of the caribou. Personally, I had heard about the Moon Man as a person you had to appease so that he would release the animals; but I had not heard about Pakimna. I wondered how the author came to know the story as there were no credits given to any Inupiaq people.

Caribou Girl had a good story. There are many stories where human beings transform into animals or vice versa. It was about a girl who was able to run very fast. When her people started to starve, she was given an amulet by her grandfather who explained that it used to belong to her great grandmother, Pakimna, who was a shaman before she died. She would seek Tatqiq to release the animals when they became scarce. Caribou girl had the same qualities so the grandfather encouraged Caribou girl to go see Tatqiq. Tatqiq did not want to release the caribou unless she transformed herself to become part of the herd first and live among them. She was able to dodge from the wolves and migrated with the herd in search of food. Finally, she went back to the place where her family lived. She told them that in order to survive, the people must migrate like the caribou. She was given the name Pakimna, as she had earned the name to carry on with her great grandmother's gifts.

On the first page, the story talks about the people starving but in the background of that picture, there are many hindquarters hanging on the meat racks. The maklaks show no crimps on their soles. About page 5 & 6, there are some white birds flying that look like doves. There are no doves in the Arctic. Perhaps if they were ptarmigans, it would have made more sense. The caribou look more like southern deer. In fact in the back of the book, the author and illustrator had their picture taken with a reindeer with some trees in the back ground. They must have used those as examples.

The Inupiaq translation by Jana Harcharek was very good.

I would recommend that the book remain in the school libraries.

The book reviews are a result of students enrolling in special topics course Ed 493 Examining Alaska Children's Literature taught by Esther A. Ilutsik in the Spring of 2004.

The book reviews are written by the students and are a reflection of their own analysis of the books and have not been altered in any way. The reviewers have given permission to share the book reviews on the HAIL website.






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Last modified August 14, 2006