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The Christmas Drop

Growing up in Postville, Samantha Jacque heard stories of the Christmas Drop, when a large plane packed with toys for the children of Labrador’s North Coast would fly in low and parachute crates of presents to the communities around Christmas each year. It was these stories that inspired her to write “Christmas at Nutak.” The story was selected to be the first published as part of the InukBook Children’s Literature series.

“It sounded like something right out of a storybook,” says Jacque, “little kids in isolated communities on the North Coast of Labrador who had very little, and these big planes come close to Christmas and drop parachutes with toys in them. It sounded magical and I thought it was just perfect for a children’s book.”

Jacque’s story, which will be published sometime next year, will tell the story of a little girl in the now relocated community of Nutak, waking up on the morning of the drop, excited for the chance for a new gift to be parachuted in from above.

Accompanying Jacque’s story will be an account told in Inuktitut from Makkovik Elder, Aunt Nellie Winters. Growing up, she remembers the Christmas drop as being one of the highlights of the season. “There didn’t used to be much toys and stuff in them days,” says Winters. “There used to be food and stuff in the stores but that’s it, so you’d get real excited when they’d do the drop. Everybody would be out and the plane would be flying so low and the boxes on the parachutes would be going all over the place on the side of the hill [near Nutak].”

Jacque says that her story was inspired by “Aunt Nellie,” who is the grandmother of Jacques husband Jason. “Aunt Nellie’s story was so funny because her and her friends had run out to the parachute that was landing. And when it hit the ground some juice busted open and they were covered with juice,” says Jacque with a chuckle, “and I thought that was so funny I had to include it in my story. Her story took place in Nutak so I thought I’d use that as the setting.”

The goal of Inukbook is to provide children’s stories by and for Labrador Inuit. Jacque’s portion will be written in English and Winters’ will be in Inuktitut. It was thought that translating a story from English to Inuktitut might take away from the original story. So the InukBook team came up with the idea of writing each complementing story directly in the language it was conceived. The stories will offer a peek into an interesting part of Nunatsiavut’s past.

“I think there’s a great need for that,” explains Jacque. “I think there’s so much children can learn about the way people used to live compared to how they’re living now. It’s a completely different way of life, so if you tell some stories based on the past - InukBook doesn’t have to be just based on the past - but I think it’s so interesting and children can learn so much from that.”

As is common with her generation, Winters is quite modest about her experiences. However she laments that young people today are less familiar with the ways of her youth. “There’s a lot of things of younger people today don’t know about, like going off on the land,” laments Winters whose family had seasonal homesteads in and around the Nutak area. “We mostly lived on food from the land, we’d go to the store when we needed other things - go to Nutak they had a store there.”

While the store provided them with the basics, Winters says her father always made sure to have a few treats for the children at Christmas, but mainly they made their own gifts for each other. “We mostly found made things [for Christmas], the boys would find snowshoes and the girls would find other things like sewing,” says Winters as if it were yesterday. “Our parents, they’d have a few candies and stuff, they’d always have a few candy kisses and assorted hard candies and gum and stuff like that at Christmas.”

Jacque says that she can’t wait to hold the finished copy in her hands and give it out to her loved ones so that they can learn what Christmas used to be like on the Labrador North Coast. “I’d be very excited to give a copy of my story to my little niece in Nain, Morgan, or my nephew Seth in Goose Bay, I’d be so proud,” she says with excitement.

Now that the stories have been selected the InukBook team will work with Winters and Jacque to get everything ready for publication in 2017. In the meantime a call out will be issued for Nunatsiavut Illustrators in the New Year to bring the words to life.

Stay tuned to Inukbook on Facebook and the Tradition & Transition Website to follow Jacque on her journey publishing the book and the call for illustrators in the New Year.