on January 27, 2015
In this moving and informative book, Jean Craighead George follows the story of Julie, an Inuit girl. Julie, the sequel to Julie of the Wolves accurately shows how the Inuit changed with the presence of the Americans.
In the first book of the series, Julie ran away from a bad marriage and ran out of food on the tundra. Remembering what her father had told her about the ways of wolves, she got herself accepted into a wolf pack by Amaroq, the leader. Julie learned to love her new family and was devastated when Amaroq was killed by a plane pilot. Julie made her way back to her father, Kapugen. She ran away when she realized it was Kapugen who had killed Amaroq, but she finally went back to him.
Now, in the second book, Julie realizes how her father has changed. He now has a radio, airplane, and many other white man’s things. He also has a white wife. Kangi, the village they live in, is running out of food, so Kapugen raises musk oxen so he can sell their fur. He tells Julie he shot Amaroq to save the industry. It takes Julie a long time to adapt to these changes, and she is worried for her wolves, because Kapugen will shoot them again if he has to.
Much to Julie’s dread, the wolves do kill another ox. She pleads with Kapugen not to shoot them, and he agrees to give her a chance to lead the wolves away. After many obstacles—from finding the pack and earning the of new members trust to helping the pack bond with a neighboring pack—Julie succeeds reading in getting the wolves to a new hunting ground. Now Julie is satisfied. She thinks the wolves will have enough food until the caribou that her village and the wolves need return and will not hunt the musk oxen. Eventually, when the caribou return, both the wolves and the villagers have enough to eat, and the musk oxen are restored to their natural balance.
This story tells about the changes in Eskimo culture after white men come and about how different people handled this encounter. Before the first explorers came to the Arctic, the Eskimos lived just fine without guns, matches, and electric stoves. Instead, they used traps, spears, and knives to hunt. When hunting fish, men built traps in shallow water and stabbed the fish with spears. Caribou were usually hunted in late summer or fall. They were hunted in water, with traps for when they swam and on land with pits. Men waited by ice holes for walruses and seals to come up for air.
Women and children also trapped animals, and in the summer gathered berries and vegetables, and grass for baskets. Eskimos used every part of the animal. In Julie, a walrus’s flesh is eaten, the intestines used for rain gear, the skin used for boat covers, and the heart dropped back into the ocean so it can reproduce. Animal skins usually took about two days to prepare. First, they had to be dried and cleaned with a bone scraper. Next, they were stretched, twisted, softened, dampened, and stretched again. After the skins were prepared, they were cut with an ulu knife and sewed with a bone needle and animal sinew. Finally, they were dyed with the juice of berries and decorated with shells. Just like this, Eskimos could make their own clothes and didn’t need modern sewing machines
Eskimos could also make their own shoes using materials from nature. In the summer, socks and shoes were braided with grass and fit snugly. But on the other hand, winter boots had three layers of socks, with grass spread in between them for insulation. Women chewed on the winter boots to make therm stretchy and comfortable.
Even without bricks and cement, Eskimos could make pretty sturdy houses that kept them warm. Winter houses were built of snow blocks stacked on top of each other. As the blocks got higher, they tilted inward to form a roof. Snow was then pressed in the cracks and half melted snow was used to cover walls and was soon frozen again, making the wall steady. They used ice or clear sealskin for windows. Summer houses were made of sealskin, rocks, and poles. Half of the house was for sleeping and the other half for cooking.
Although they didn’t have cars, Eskimos had many means of transportation, such as kayaks or umiaks (for water) and dog sleds (for land). Kayaks were covered in sealskin except for the hole in which the paddler sat. Dog sleds were used when waterways were covered in ice. The sled could carry supplies, and when there was room, the driver’s family rode.
Even in these severe conditions, Eskimos still found a way for their children to have fun. Boys played with animal figures carved by their fathers, and girls had cat’s cradle and dolls for entertainment. Babies spent their first year on a hood on the mother’s jacket, called an amaut.
Eskimos also believed in inuas, or spirits, and had to follow certain rules to please them. Breaking these rules was called taboo. When there was a problem or when someone broke a taboo, the anakok, or medicine man, talked to the spirits to fix it. An example of a taboo is when you overuse resources, which would throw off the balance of the tundra and endanger the people’s survival.
After the first European explorers got to the Arctic, things began to change. Some Eskimos fought and some traded peacefully with the first explorers. The white men traded guns, knives, tools, matches, steel traps, tea, coffee, sugar, and alcohol for furs, kayaks, and meat. Missionaries came to the Arctic and converted most Eskimos to Christianity, and offered them more things like medicine and food. After a while, Eskimos became dependent on the things the white men gave them, and had to trade more furs for them. Because of the fur trade, they started over hunting, and many animals became endangered, such as whales.
In Julie, everybody is using guns, electricity, and other white man’s things. They become dependent on them. Kapugen is using guns and tells Julie to use them, too, but at the same time, he is trying to restore the musk oxen that the Eskimos wiped out when the white men gave them guns.
When Kapugen, a friend named Atik, and Julie go walrus hunting, Kapugen says they kill two, because that is all they need. Atik tells him how much more money six sets of tusks will bring. They are torn between staying in balance with nature and making enough money for their village to survive. These Eskimos are trying to hold on to their traditional way of life but, by becoming dependent on the goods that the white men gave them, they couldn’t .
Jean Craighead George uses great detail when describing the Eskimo way of life in Julie. Her descriptive style really helped me understand how it was that they lived. For example, when Julie and her stepmother help a cow to deliver a calf, "Perspiration poured from Ellen's face as she slowly but correctly turned the calf. Its forefeet appeared, then its head." The perspiration and the word "slowly" help me get an image of how hard this work is, and I can imagine how it's done and what it looks like.
George completely captures the hard changes that they went through with the white men. While Julie wants to hold on to their old traditions, her father has become dependent on the white man’s things. George really expresses these torn feelings through her words. When Julie and her father are discussing the fate of the wolves, "Julie understood that for the good of the village he had adopted the Minnesota law and his heart had frozen solidly around it." George uses careful wording in this sentence. That one word, "frozen," describes how Kapugen is not completely wanting to go with the Minnesota law but knows that he has to, and will do anything he has to do for his people's survival.
I really enjoyed reading Julie. This book tells of the time of struggle after the white men came to the Arctic. I think that to fully understand Julie’s feelings in the beginning of the book, you must read Julie of the Wolves first. Both are filled with emotion. I think Julie is a book for children and adults that are interested in the world around them, who would like to know how it is today and how it got there.