This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About ANKN Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Cheryl Jerabek

NAME OF BOOK: Winter Walk
AUTHOR: Loretta Outwater Cox
ILLUSTRATOR: Bob Crofut (cover illustration)
WHAT IS THE SETTING OF THE BOOK (TIME AND PLACE)? 1892, Alaska's Seward Penninsula area. In an area upriver from their home village of Chaqtuliq (present day Shaktoolik) on the Bering Sea coast.

The author is the great-granddaughter of Qutuuq and retells the family's oral history. Cox is Inupiaq born in Nome and raised in various villages on the Seward Penninsula. She has a BA in education and masters in education administration. She has taught school in western Alaska for 23 years and how lives in Fairbanks. She thanked those who told her the story and helped with the editing. Her mother first told her the story when Cox was pregnant and said that it had been handed down for generations and that now it was time to share with her. With her family's permission and support she is now telling the story to the public. Loretta Outwater Cox was honored by HAIL at the 2004 BMEEC in Anchorage.

The prologue of the book talks about the author's great grandmother in later life and sets stage for her memories of the story. On the book cover review by Velma Wallis, she said that she couldn't put it down, and it was a story told with pride and love.

The story's main charcters are Qutuuq, the author's great grandmother; Kipmalook, her husband; Savokgenaq, her nine year old son; and Keenaq, her seven year old daughter.

The book includes Inupiat words such as:
Ugruk-bearded seal
Akutuk-Eskimo ice cream
Qumaq-bug from a duck
Serra-willow greens were preserved in seal oil
Siqlaq-digging stick for roots
Qutuuq also often sang to daughter in Inupiat.

There were also a few generic terms used such as kuspuk (which is spelled incorrectly) and mukluks. The author also uses the term Eskimo rather than Inupiaq. The few generic terms and the use of Eskimo, rather than Inupiaq are the only criticisms I have of the book.

The book begins at the point Kipmalook dies, but we learn what the family's life was like as Qutuuq thinks back. She describes how they traveled to their winter camp, how she taught her daughter by having her watch, which was the way her mother taught her. They plucked ducks together and she described chewing on ugruk soles, and how to sew various garments. We also learn how they built their sod house and meat cache at winter camp, used hot rocks in a birch bark basket to heat water, made rain gear from ugruk intestines, used sinew net for fish, how the oil lamp was used, how to tell the weather, gathering roots and other plants, making akuquk, smoldering birch fungus to keep bugs away, willow and stinkweed for medicine, the sewing of squirrel skin under garments, and how Kipmalook took his soon out on the trap line and worked with skins. Food preparation and eating is also described. The hunter was always provided with the best parts, such as the breast of the geese, and the son got legs and head to make him a good hunter. Moose hunting and the cutting and drying the meat was described and it was interesting to note that they said they didn't eat moose stomach contents, but did eat caribou stomach contents.

At the winter camp Qutuuq and her husband worked together skinning and stretching furs. They worked as a team and Qutuuq's expert sewing kept her family well clothed.Qutuuq was very proud of the two blue beads that her father had traded for and she said that they were a sign of status and made the wife want to be the best she could at taking care of her family. They meant you could have a good life because you can provide everything.

There was also a lot of traditional spirituality in the book. As they taught their children, Qutuuq and Kipmalook talked about the spirit of the berries and that everything had a spirit and was important to leave behind a little of what they were hunting or gathering to say thank you. It was also important to use the right arrows for each animal to honor their spirit. Qutuuq also talked to spirit of rabbit while she was cooking it. Kipmalook's father was a shaman and so the book also described some of his powers and healing methods. Qutuuq didn't believe in shamanism but was still respectful. The family also sang and danced in the evenings and was working on a new song telling about their winter trapping.

This book is excellent in showing the love and cooperation between the Inupiat family. The father is portrayed as a kind and loving father and husband who was a good provider. The marriage was arranged but was a very good match. Kipmalook took his son out and showed him how to trap to teach him to become a good hunter and trapper and about respect and spirit of the animals. He also described how he planned to trap and then stop for a year to give animals a chance to rest and to not be greedy.

Traditional discipline was also illustrated. Small children were distracted when they misbehaved; for older children, a lot of time was spent with them, observing how things were done and telling them what was right and wrong; for teenagers, an uncle would teach them how to hunt, or in the case of this family out at winter camp, the father taught his son. Children were taught with love and respect to become useful members of society. The family unit was very important. Qutuuq also described going out trading with her family when she was little.

The last third of the book describes the very difficult journey from their winter camp to their village after Kipmalook died. He had a growth on his neck (probably cancer) and died when they were in winter camp. Qutuuq was pregnant at the time, but they were out of food and she asked her son if they should stay there and die or try to live. When he said that he wanted to live she decided the only way they would survive was to walk back with her two young children.

The family walked on the frozen river, made camp at night with furs on bottom and over the top of willows. They chewed on willows for food. The time comes for Qutuuq to give birth and she has to go away from her children to give birth alone. Even when they were in their village women delivered their own baby. She had to go away from her son to have the baby so it wouldn't affect his future hunting.

She delivered the male baby by herself, catching it, and cut the cord with her teeth. Qutuuq realized she could not feed the baby as they were all starving and she knew she could not produce any milk. She made the very difficult decision to smother him and buried him in the snow. On her way back to her children she found rabbit droppings which she made into a broth by heating her smooth cooking stones which were used to heat water in her birch basket pot, and added in the droppings to cook. They also stopped and ate snow.

A day later her son, Savokgenaq shot a rabbit which probably saved their lives. Qutuuq took that one rabbit and divided it into four meals for the three of them.

As they go on Qutuuq tells her children that when a son dies, everything is given to his parents and that the furs they were carrying would have to go to their father's parents out of respect and that they would have to live with her mother or others when they got back to the village. She also tells her children that she expects them to treat their relatives with respect. Since children are named for relatives, if they did anything that was disrespectful, their spirits would leave them and life would be hard with no helping spirit, so she expected her children to behave and be respectful.

When they are near the village, hunters find them, as the village had seen their fire the night before. Eventually Qutuuq explains the terrible thing she has done. Her act is especially bad because she killed a male baby. Girl babies were sometimes killed because of certain circumstances but boy babies were not killed, as they were the future providers. When Qutuuq told her story to the family they were staying with, they were very concerned. After her relatives heard the whole story they felt that Qutuuq truly felt that she could not feed or take care of the baby in the circumstances they were in. They knew that some people might look down on her but that most would understand. She took on the job of seamstress for the family and later remarried, which gave her status in the village again. Later she lost her daughter and her daughter's son and husband to TB.

Qutuuq's son who was renamed John in the Covenant church took on his Inupiaq name for his last name, Savokgenaq, which was shortened to Savok. The family's adoption of the Covenant religion also helped Qutuuq deal with her guilt and ask for forgiveness. She died in 1934.

Several times Qutuuq talked about how her inlaws were shamans and how she didn't believe in it and didn't want them to pass on their powers to her son. Later in life her son became a member of the Covenant Church and rejected shamanism. Being a member of the Church also helped Qutuuq to deal with her guilt.

The book ends with real photographs of Qutuuq as an elder, her children and their families, as well as Loretta Outwater Cox and her family.

This was an excellent book and can be used as a good text even at the high school level. It is useful in studying the Inupiat of the Shaktoolik region around the turn of the century. The use of this book could also lead to interesting student discussions on traditional spirituality, child rearing, and how the family worked together during subsistence activities. Students could also be inspired to research their own family histories. It is an excellent book written by a Native author who tells her own family story.

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.






Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 14, 2006