Those Who Dwell Below

  • Aviaq Johnston
  • Inhabit Media, 2019

Those Who Dwell Below is the sequel to 2017’s widely awarded book Those Who Run in the Sky . The new books takes readers back to the world of the spirits, this time to learn why the animals have abandoned the land. Now his village’s shaman, Piturniq (Pitu) is struggling to feel comfortable in his role when he is called on to help a starving community several days away. As he travels with friends and rivals, Pitu must grapple with questions of loyalty, integrity, justice, and wisdom.

The novel is deeply layered and rewarding. Its centrepiece involves Pitu’s extended visit with Nuliajuk, the Woman Below, who is mother of the sea mammals and the spirit of the sea. Through a lithe series of philosophical dialogues about tradition and change, arrogance and respect, Pitu must think deeply about himself and his community. Readers are sure to come away with a broader sense of these themes. The book’s stark yet striking illustrations add a further layer for contemplation.

Those Who Dwell Below is another welcome addition to a growing body of Indigenous literature for teens and young adults. It provides a compassionate portrait of punishment and restitution and may enrich non-Inuit readers’ assumptions about Innu world views and cultural practices. It’s a perfect choice for anyone building a library that includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit texts. It’s also a physically beautiful book, smartly positioned for a range of contemporary readers.

Those Who Dwell Below ends as a new story begins. I’m hopeful we’ll hear more about Pitu’s adventures on the land (and in the world of the spirits) soon.