I was preparing to give a tour of the Mary Yuusipik exhibit that just opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The exhibit includes twenty-six drawings that show what artist Mary Yuusipik’s life was like growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in the interior Back River area of Nunavut. I was reading about each of Mary’s drawings and studying them and when I came to this one called Chasing Butterflies I said to myself, “Butterflies in Nunavut? Wouldn’t it be way too cold for butterflies there?” Turns out according to this beautiful and interesting book by Carolyn Mallory The Common Insects of Nunavut there are eight kinds of butterflies and moths in Nunavut including the Brush Footed Butterfly, the Gossamer Winged Butterfly and the White and Sulphur Butterfly.
Carolyn includes traditional stories she heard from people about the various insects in her book. Several older women in Baker Lake told Carolyn that if you placed a butterfly on newborn girls they would grow up to make beautiful designs on the things they sewed.
Looking at a gorgeous wall hanging like this one which is part of the current Mary Yuusipik exhibit one might speculate that Mary herself may have had a butterfly alight on her as a newborn.