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Abraham Ulrikab and the Labrador Inuit’s death as covered by the satirical press of 1881

(Version française de ce billet)

Today, January 10, 2016, Parisians and France commemorated the first anniversary of the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. This day also represents the 135th anniversary of the death of 13-month-old Maria at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris.

Those familiar with Abraham Ulrikab’s story may recall that Maria was the first Labrador Inuit to die in Paris in January 1881. The coming week therefore represents the 135th anniversary of the death of the last five members of the group of eight who left Northern Labrador for Europe in August 1880. The five individuals were:

  • Maria, 13 months old, daughter of Abraham and Ulrike, January 10
  • Tigianniak, 45 years old, January 11
  • Tobias, 20 years old, January 13
  • Abraham, 35 years old, husband of Ulrike, January 13
  • Ulrike, 24 years old, wife of Abraham, January 16
Ulrike and Maria

Ulrike and Maria, illustration by painter Adolf Liebscher (1857-1919) published in November 1880 in the czech illustrated newspaper Svetozor.

Tigianniak

Tigianniak, illustration by painter Adolf Liebscher (1857-1919) published in November 1880 in the czech illustrated newspaper Svetozor.

Tobias

Tobias, illustration by painter Adolf Liebscher (1857-1919) published in November 1880 in the czech illustrated newspaper Svetozor.

Abraham

Abraham Ulrikab, illustration by painter Adolf Liebscher (1857-1919) published in November 1880 in the czech illustrated newspaper Svetozor.

Recently, I could not help having a thought, for both for the Labrador Inuit and the Charlie Hebdo‘s journalists, when I discovered two texts dealing with the death of the Inuit in Le Tintamarre, a satirical weekly newspaper.

The translation of the first text, published on January 16, 1881, reads as follows:

The Eskimos of the Jardin d’Acclimatation are taking a few days off.

The administration released by notice the fact that they became ill.

I bet our temperature seemed su-phoque-ating (the writer used a play on words for “suffocating” where phoque is actually the French word for “seal”) to them, and they have caught a cold when uncovering their shoulders

G. Rémi.

Then, on Sunday March 6, 1881, after the death of the Inuit had been released publicly, Le Tintamarre decided to treat the subject through a rather original angle:

The Eskimos of the Jardin d’Acclimatation all died recently, from the black smallpox: a bear they had brought with them, feeling the first symptoms of this terrible disease, drowned before yesterday, in the Jardin’s pond.

The unfortunate feared that, by surviving the pox, he would remain disfigured for the rest of his days; this is considered to be the only reason that led to his suicide.

Grandgousier.

May these two texts have made you smile. One hundred and thirty-five years later, I hope no one feels offended by such texts.

Good luck to all those who follow in the path of the writers of Le Tintamarre and of Charlie Hebdo and try to steal our smiles.

France Rivet

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