Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
Wabano Centre299 Montreal Rd.

Inuit, Injusticeand the Canadian Arcticwith Kenn Harper

Hosted by Elizabeth Hay

Inuit, Injusticeand the Canadian Arcticwith Kenn Harper

Hosted by Elizabeth Hay
Wabano Centre
299 Montreal Rd.
Kenn Harper
Join us for a special event spotlighting arctic history. Kenn Harper, author of  Minik: The New York Eskimo  and  Thou Shalt Do No Murder , lived in the Arctic for 50 years in Inuit communities in Canada and in Qaanaaq, Greenland. He has worked as a teacher, historian, linguist, and businessman. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a recipient of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog (Denmark).  

Minik: The New York Eskimo: An Arctic Explorer, a Museum, and the Betrayal of the Inuit People  is the true story of an Inuit boy's struggle for dignity against Robert Peary and the American Museum of Natural History in turn-of-the-century New York City. Sailing aboard a ship called Hope in 1897, celebrated Arctic explorer Robert Peary entered New York Harbor with peculiar "cargo": Six Polar Inuit intended to serve as live "specimens" at the American Museum of Natural History. Four died within a year. One managed to gain passage back to Greenland. Only the sixth, a boy of six or seven with a precociously solemn smile, remained. His name was Minik.

Although Harper's unflinching narrative provides a much needed corrective to history's understanding of Peary, who was known among the Polar Inuit as "the great tormenter", it is primarily a story about a boy, Minik Wallace, known to the American public as "The New York Eskimo." Orphaned when his father died of pneumonia, Minik never surrendered the hope of going "home," never stopped fighting for the dignity of his father's memory, and never gave up his belief that people would come to his aid if only he could get them to understand.

Thou Shalt Do No Murder: Inuit, Injustice, and the Canadian Arctic  is a story of fur trade rivalry and duplicity, isolation and abandonment, greed and madness, and a struggle for the affections of an Inuit woman during a time of major social change in the High Arctic. Doubts over the validity of Canadian sovereignty and an official agenda to confirm that sovereignty added to the circumstances in which a guilty verdict against the leader of the Inuit accused was virtually assured. The show trial that took place in Pond Inlet in 1923 marked a collision of two cultures with vastly different conceptions of justice and conflict resolution. It marked an end to the Inuit traditional way of life and ushered in an era in which Inuit autonomy was supplanted by dependence on traders and police, and later missionaries. Kenn Harper draws on a combination of Inuit oral history, archival research, and his own knowledge acquired through 50 years in the Arctic to create a compelling story of justice and injustice in the Canadian far north.

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