In April 1999, the Inuit dream of a self-governing territory in the eastern Arctic - Nunavut (Our Land) - became a reality. In celebration of this historic event comes a new edition of Inuit Journey, a firsthand account of another turning point in Inuit history: the establishment in the early 1960s of member-owned, member-run Inuit co-operatives, which played a major role in the march toward independence.
Edith Iglauer was on assignment for The New Yorker in 1961 when she went to the Canadian Arctic to write about the first Inuit co-operative. She accompanied a small party of Canadians led by Donald Snowden, a dynamic young idealist who had been hired by the Department of Indian Affairs in response to a crisis: the traditional food supply of the Inuit was disappearing; people were dying of starvation; the survivors were struggling to cope with a massive erosion of their way of life. Iglauer attended the historic gathering of government workers and Inuit leaders at George River (later renamed Kangiqsualujjuaq), where the first co-operative held its first business meeting.
It was an event that changed people's lives. Thanks to Snowden's belief that when people are given the chance, they make wiser decisions for themselves than others make for them, and thanks to the incredible imagination and stamina of the Inuit people at George River, co-operatives proved invaluable as the Inuit moved toward a new form of self-sufficiency.
This new edition contains 20 previously unpublished black-and-white photographs, and a new preface and epilogue with updated information and Iglauer's affecting story of her own, more personal journey to revisit Kangiqsualujjuaq in 1994.
About the author
Edith Iglauer was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She married Philip Hamburger and raised two sons in New York. A frequent contributor to the New Yorker, she has written a great deal about Canada. Her first book, The New People (1966, reprinted and updated as Inuit Journey in 1979 and 2000) chronicled the growth of native cooperatives in the eastern Arctic. She profiled Pierre Trudeau in 1969 and internationally known architect Arthur Erickson in 1979. Denison's Ice Road is about the building of a 325-mile winter road above the Arctic Circle. Divorced in 1966, she came to Vancouver in 1973. She married John Heywood Daly, a commercial salmon troller and moved to Garden Bay on the BC coast. Daly died in 1978. After writing Seven Stones: A Portrait of Arthur Erickson, Architect (1981) she began recording her memories of her late husband and his salmon troller the MoreKelp. The result was Fishing with John, a runaway bestseller and nominee for the 1989 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. Her second memoir, about her career in journalism, was The Strangers Next Door.
Excerpt: Inuit Journey: The Co-operative Adventure in Canada's North (by (author) Edith Iglauer)
The First One
In Canada's eastern Arctic, there is a place called Ungava Bay. It is a huge inlet - latitude sixty degrees -projecting southward from the Hudson Strait, between Hudson Bay and the Labrador. Three hundred Eskimos live along its four-hundred-and-fifty-mile shoreline, and until just a few years ago they lived very much as their ancestors had lived for several thousands of years before them. They hunted caribou and fished for seal, and when they ran out of food they picked up their tents, packed them on their dog sleds, and moved to new hunting grounds either upriver or on the coast. Not many Canadians knew of their existence, and those who did felt little concern for them; it was assumed that if they could even survive in that far-off and forbidding area, they must be getting along all right. Over the years, the white man did bring to Ungava the Hudson's Bay Company, the gun, the motorboat, the missionary, a lot of disease, and, in the brief summers when the ice melts in the bay and on the rivers that flow into it, a bit of wage employment. The Eskimos were tolerant of the white man, and
even amused by him, but they continued to speak their own language, to eat raw meat and fish, and to ignore Anglo-Saxon ideas of morality and sanitation. "Eskimo" is an Indian name, meaning "eater of raw flesh." The Eskimos' own name for themselves is "Innu" - "The People" - and it has not been for very long that they have known that any other people existed on this earth.
Yet times were changing for the Eskimos on Ungava Bay, as for all Canada's twelve thousand Eskimos. Some of the white man's products began to have a strong appeal for them -notably tea, tobacco, guns, and textiles-and in order to buy these they devoted more and more time to the trapping of animals whose furs the white man wanted to buy in exchange. Of these animals, the white fox was for a while the most valuable - at one time the Hudson's Bay Company would pay over forty dollars a skin - so the Eskimos trapped a large number of white foxes. Then, in the depression, the price of a white fox dropped to two and a half dollars, and from that day to this it has never recovered enough to keep pace with the rising price of the white man's goods. While this change was going on, the caribou, the Eskimos' chief source of food and clothing, mysteriously began to vanish, perhaps because too many caribou were being shot and too few of their newborn calves were surviving. With the threatened extinction of that staple there came the possibility that the Eskimo himself might soon become extinct.