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Five Inuit in a zoo: A 10-page article in French magazine “Géo Histoire” about the Labrador Inuit

(Version française de ce texte)

Hello,

You would have told me that, one day, I would see my name in the French magazine Géo (I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it’s the equivalent of National Geographic for the French-speaking world), and I would have had a hard time believing it. But life sure holds for us the most extraordinary surprises: the August-September 2015 issue of Géo Histoire (Géo‘s publication dedicated to history) publishes a 10-page article on Abraham Ulrikab’s story! This issue has been on newsstands in Europe since July 22, and we be there for the next two months. It should arrive in Canada around August 22-23 (and be on newsstands until October). That said, the electronic version is available online and on magazine subscriptions sites such Zinio.

Reportage de Géo Histoire - Cinq Inuits dans un zoo

Five Inuit in a zoo : an article appearing in Géo Histoire

You may be wondering how I managed to grab the attention of Géo‘s editor-in-chief to the story of the Labrador Inuit. Well! To be honest, Eric Meyer contacted me. He was in the process of writing his editorial for the May 2015 issue of Géo, which contained a report on Canada’s Inuit, and he stumbled on the article A long road home: Reclaiming human remains is Kept in foreign museums not easy, published in The Economist on February 28, 2015. Inuit skeletons kept in the reserves of Parisian museums! He was very curious to find out more. Hence his request for us to chat over the phone.

Mr Meyer has indeed alluded to Abraham’s group in his May 2015 editorial. Here is our own translation of an excerpt of his text:

But the situation that population finds itself in reminds us that even in 2015 a human culture is a fragile body that grows within a particular history and geography, and it is endangered when one wants to force upon it and often saying that it is for “its own good” – an external model, supposed to be more “modern”. The Musée de l’Homme in Paris still retains many Inuit skeletons, human beings who, in 1880, were brought from Labrador to be exhibited in zoos in Europe, including at the Jardin d’acclimatation in Paris! The white man has done much worse than Inuit hunters who shoot bears.
But Mr Meyer went one step further: he commissioned Cyril Guinet, one of Géo Histoire‘s journalists, to write a full report on the story of the Labrador Inuit who died in Europe. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Guinet during my conference in Paris in mid-April. Ensued a few email exchanges with him and with Miriam Rousseau, the magazine’s photo editor. And now, three months later, the excellent work of Géo Histoire’s team allows the entire French-speaking world to read the first report about Abraham Ulrikab to appear in a color magazine, and in such a renowned magazine! Although few of Labrador Inuit read French, I’m sure they will be very proud to see the end result, and to know that their ancestors’ story is really starting to raise interest worldwide! Many thanks to Eric Meyer, Cyril Guinet and Miriam Rousseau.
Cinq Inuits dans un zoo - pages 122-123

Five Inuit in a zoo – pages 122-123

There is just one clarification I would like to make. The article mentions that the Inuit’s remains should be coming in the fall 2015. In my opinion, it is unlikely that the return of Inuit in Labrador will occur this fall. The Nunatsiavut Government is currently writing its repatriation protocol (for either the repatriation request of human bones or artifacts collected in graves). Public consultations with the Labrador Inuit population has started and the government expects it  to be completed by September 2015. In addition, efforts to find descendants continue. Hopefully, in the fall 2015, the Nunatsiavut Government will be in a position to forward the official repatriation request to Canada’s Foreign Minister who will forward to his French counterpart. It is only then that the discussions can really begin between the two countries. At this point in time, no one can predict how much time will be required for them to reach an agreement.

Here is the cover of the August-Septembre 2015 issue of Géo Histoire! Watch for its arrival on newsstands!

Cover of Géo Histoire #22 (August-Septembre 2015)

Cover of Géo Histoire #22 (August-Septembre 2015)

All the best! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to send them our way!
France Rivet

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