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Ottawa’s Inuit Community Celebrates the Spring Equinox – La communauté inuite d’Ottawa célèbre l’équinoxe de printemps

Ullukut! Hello! Bonjour!

On Saturday, March 18, 2017, Ottawa’s Inuit community held its annual spring equinox celebration at the Bronson Centre. Organized by Tungasuvvingat Inuit, an organization that provides social support, cultural activities, counselling and crisis intervention to Ontario’s Inuit population, this event was also meant to celebrate TI’s 30th anniversary.  / Le samedi 18 mars 2017, la communauté inuite d’Ottawa a tenu sa célébration annuelle de l’équinoxe de printemps au Centre Bronson. Organisé par Tungasuvvingat Inuit, une organisation qui fournit du soutien social, des activités culturelles, des conseils et des interventions en cas de crise à la population inuite de l’Ontario, l’événement était également destiné à célébrer le 30e anniversaire de TI.

Here’s a photographic summary of the afternoon. / Voici un résumé en photos de l’après-midi :

The event started with a community feast featuring traditional country food such as seal, caribou, whale, Arctic char. / L’événement a débuté par un repas communautaire mettant en vedette de la nourriture traditionnelle telle que du phoque, du caribou, de la baleine et de l’omble chevalier.

Whale and Arctic char / Baleine et de l’omble chevalier.

The master of ceremony. / La maître de cérémonie.

Zipporah Nochasak introduces the participants to TI’s parka sewing courses. The group did a short fashion show with their creations. / Zipporah Nochasak introduit les participants aux cours de confection de parka de TI. Ces derniers ont défilé avec leurs créations.

Tamara and Janice, who form the duo “arnakuluit” (beautiful women), kicked off the musical performances with throat-singing. / Tamara et Janice, qui forment le duo “arnakuluit” (belles femmes), ont donné le coup d’envoi aux spectacles musicaux avec des chants de gorge.

Jessica McLean, originally from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador who is now a real-estate agent from Toronto, shared with us her dream to build an Inuit real-estate company and aimed to inspire Inuit youth to follow their dreams. / Jessica McLean, originaire de Happy Valley-Goose Bay, au Labrador, qui est maintenant un agent immobilier à Toronto, a partagé avec nous son rêve de bâtir une entreprise immobilière inuite et d’inspirer les jeunes Inuits à suivre leurs rêves.

Keenan Komaksiutiksak, a young man originally from Rankin Inlet (Nunavut), performed a routine that had all of us totally stunned. Even the young children who were running and playing in front of the stage suddenly became totally silent and their eyes couldn’t get off Kennan. Kennan is a dancer, but three years ago, he found a new passion for the circus art and has become a contortionist. His dream is to be part of the Cirque du Soleil. Here is a video where you can see Keenan perform. /  Keenan Komaksiutiksak, un jeune homme originaire de Rankin Inlet (Nunavut), a effectué une routine qui nous a tous totalement subjugués. Même les jeunes enfants qui couraient et jouaient devant la scène sont soudainement devenus totalement silencieux, leurs yeux rivés sur Kennan. Kennan est un danseur, mais il y a trois ans, il s’est découvert une nouvelle passion pour l’art du cirque. Depuis, il est devenu un contorsionniste. Son rêve est de faire partie du Cirque du Soleil. Voici une vidéo où vous pouvez voir Keenan à l’oeuvre:

Selina Adams, originally from Nunatsiavut, has been living in Toronto for more than 37 years. Selina has helped create the association ITUK (Inuit of Toronto Urban Katimavvik), which was recently incorporated as the “Toronto Inuit Association”. Selina sits on the board of directors. / Selina Adams, originaire du Nunatsiavut, vit à Toronto depuis plus de 37 ans. Selina a contribué à la création de l’association ITUK (Inuit of Toronto Urban Katimavvik), qui a été récemment incorporée sous le nom «Toronto Inuit Association». Selina siège au conseil d’administration.

The students of Nunavut Sivuniksavut were next to provide musical entertainment with songs, drum dancing from Western Arctic and square dancing. / Les étudiants du collège Nunavut Sivuniksavut ont ensuite fourni des divertissements musicaux avec des chansons, des danses de tambours de l’ouest de l’Arctique et des quadrilles.

Silla + Rise, a trio based in Ottawa and made up of Cynthia Pitsiulak, Charlotte Qamaniq and DJ Rise Ashen, blends Inuit traditional and contemporary throat-singing with futuristic dancefloor beats. They played a few songs from their Debut album which is nominated for “Indigenous Music Album of the Year” at the Juno Awards 2017. Here is where you can hear their unique sound: / Silla + Rise, un trio basé à Ottawa et composé de Cynthia Pitsiulak, de Charlotte Qamaniq et du DJ Rise Ashen, allie le chant de gorge inuit traditionnel et contemporain aux musiques de dancefloor futuristes. Ils ont joué quelques chansons de leur album Debut qui est nommé pour “le meilleur Album de musique indigène de l’année” aux Juno Awards 2017. Voici un lien où vous pouvez entendre leur son unique:

The event closed with a performance by Twin Flames made up of singer-songwriters Chelsey June and Jaaji and their musicians Chris Zimmerman (drums), Karolyne Lafortune (violin) and Francis Dupuis (bass).

Here is Twin Flames’ most recent video, that of their song “Taanisi” (“to dance” in Inuktitut). I bet you too will be dancing when you watch it. 😉 / Voici la vidéo la plus récente de Twin Flames, celle de leur chanson “Taanisi” (“danser” en Inuktitut). Je suis prête à parier que vous aussi danserez en écoutant la chanson. 😉

Have a great day! Bonne journée!
France Rivet




Dispossessed: The eviction of Inuit from Hebron, Labrador: Book Launch


From February 27 to March 3, 2017, the Université du Québec à Montréal was the host of the second International Week of the Arctic and Antarctic Observatory of Southern and Northern Societies and Cultures, an initiative of the Universidad del Salvador, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the University of Iceland, the Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego and the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional — Rio Grande (Argentina).

The official opening of the week’s activities was the launch of Carol Brice-Bennett’s book Dispossessed: The eviction of Inuit from Hebron, Labrador. The book is based on Carol’s 1994 report to the North Program, Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, about the closure of the Moravian mission of Hebron and the forced relocation of all Inuit families to other communities along the Labrador Coast. A new chapter was appended to the report to summarize the actions that have been taken in the past twenty-two years.

I had the pleasure of attending the book launch, and the great privilege of bringing the evening’s distinguished guest: Sophie Jararuse Keelan, a survivor of the relocation. Her family was relocated from Hebron to Makkovik when she was 11 years old.

Here are a few photos of the event attended by thirty or so researchers and artists from various countries such as Argentina, Siberia, France or Finland.

Dominic Hardy, the evening’s MC, Professor of Art History, Université du Québec à Montréal


Catherine Mounier, Vice-rector of Research and Creation, Université du Québec à Montréal


Professor Enrique Del Acebo Ibáñez, Universidad del Salvador, Argentina


Professor Daniel Chartier, Research Chair on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic and International Laboratory for the Multidisciplinary Study of Representations of the North, Université du Québec à Montréal

As Daniel explained: “In 1959, men, women, and children were forced to leave their community on the coast of Labrador without their consent. Today, nothing can repair this injustice, but we all have the obligation to know about these events and the affected outcome on the people of Hebron, and to make sure that such a situation never repeats itself.”

Carol Brice-Bennett, the book’s author.

Daniel was followed by the book’s author Carol Brice-Bennett: “I’m glad this particular study was published because it was such a crucial event for Inuit in Northern Labrador. As Daniel said, it should never have happened and never happen again. And it’s part of the identify of Labrador Inuit. There have been relocations elsewhere and it’s an experience that many people can relate to. It makes me think of one person I interviewed. They were not among the Hebron Inuit. It was someone from Makkovik who had to move to Happy Valley Goose Bay to work, and suddenly, they understood what it meant to leave their home and start again. It’s an experience that in our world today is quite common. I think that maybe the book will give a perspective on some of the difficulties of adapting to another place. There’s one person here who can really speak from experience. I’ll let Sophie talk.”

Sophie Jararuse Keelan

As the representative of all Hebron relocatees, Sophie’s testimonial touched many in the room: “It was a difficult experience, an overwhelming experience. I’m so honoured and privileged to speak at this special event. Our people are Inuit and were relocated against their will by the government of Newfoundland. It’s a very sad experience. When I get to think of it now, I still see in front of me the day we left my homeland. We left our identity as Inuit, as families, as close friends. We had to survive and get adapted again to the new environment, to the new land. We had to learn again the surroundings of hunting areas. (…) I lost families in Hebron. My sister, older brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are buried in Hebron. I am privileged to go back every year since 2009 to relive it and bring back my own identity as an Inuk person. I wanted the people of around the world to know that we are all human beings. (…) It doesn’t matter what you look like, what colour is your skin. You are human beings. This is what I treasure in my heart. I thank you very much for listening to me. Nakurmiik.”

Carol Brice-Bennett exchanging with Sophie Jararuse Keelan.


Sophie, beside her husband Mike, proudly showing her copy of Dispossessed.

Thanks to an agreement with the Nunatsiavut Government, 500 copies will be distributed to the relocatees and their families.

Published by Les Presses de l’Université du Québec, Dispossessed hits the shelves of bookstores today, March 15. The paper copy can be ordered directly through the publisher, through, or through your favourite bookstore.

The digital version can also be downloaded, for free, from Archipel, the Université du Québec à Montréal’s open access library of digital publications. Just click on the button Télécharger (41MB) appearing beside the picture of the book cover.

Thank you! Nakummek!
France Rivet





A Litter of Polar Bear Books to celebrate International Polar Bear Day

Good day all,

Just a few days ago, in light of International Polar Bear Day being just around the corner, a colleague writer, Michael Engelhard, made me an offer I couldn’t resist: publish his review of five books about polar bears on my blog. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Michael yet, but we’ve been exchanging by email for the last two years.

Michael first contacted me to ask my permission to publish a photo I took of the 2013 ordination of the new Churchill-Hudson Bay archbishop. Michael was in the research phase of his upcoming book, a cultural anthropology of the polar bear, and, as he explained, my photo “beautifully illustrated the medieval Icelandic custom of donating polar bear skins to churches, as a sign of devotion, and they were often spread in front of the altar.”

Cérémonie d'ordination. Remarquez l'ordinand qui est couché sur la peau de l'ours polaire.

Through our exchanges, Michael also informed me about a segment of Johan Adrian Jacobsen’s life that I was not aware of. For those who have been following this blog, you know that Johan Adrian was the young Norwegian hired by Carl Hagenbeck to recruit “Eskimos” for his ethnographical shows. In summer 1880, Jacobsen came to Labrador and recruited eight Inuit, among them Abraham Ulrikab, who all died in Europe, killed by smallpox. That said, did you know that Jacobsen was also tasked by Hagenbeck to help train polar bears to pull sleds on one of Roald Amundsen’s expedition? That was news to me. As Michael also explained that crazy scheme never amounted to anything.

As per Canada Post’s tracking system, my copy of Michael’s book, Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon, is now in Gatineau. So, it’s just a matter of hours before it arrives on my doorstep. I’m really looking forward to dig into it and learn so much more about this icon of the Arctic and the multiple ways it has inspired, influenced, fascinated, or terrorized  humans over the centuries.

With no further ado, here is Michael’s essay.

Happy International Polar Bear Day!
France Rivet


Illustration from a German children’s book, 1928

Illustration from a German children’s book, 1928

In his out-of-print gem Bears and Men: A Gathering, the poet and novelist William Mills relates an Eskimo legend that, with sea ice shrinking and polar bears starving, feels especially poignant. In it, the raven created women and men, and plants and animals for them to eat. Then he created the polar bear, “because he felt that if he didn’t create something to make men afraid, they would destroy everything he had made to inhabit the earth.”

On International Polar Bear Day Feb. 27, let us celebrate the charismatic creature with a few books for discerning (and concerned) readers. This Arctic roundup includes a biological overview, a graphic novel, a travelogue, a pictorial anthology, and a children’s book and all are available through your local bookseller.

Polar Bears: Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior

For people curious about the lives and ecology of polar bears but intimidated by technical tomes, Andrew Derocher’s Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior (2012) is heaven sent. Helped by Wayne Lynch’s color photos, the eminent Canadian wildlife biologist puts the bear in its natural context, outlining its role as an apex predator — the largest carnivore on land. Chapters on polar bear evolution and Arctic marine ecosystems show that it owes much to the sea — hence its classification as a marine mammal. Drawing on fieldwork and an extensive literature, Derocher even explores arcane topics such as molting and vocalizations. Written for laypersons and with sidebars scattered throughout, Polar Bears offers just enough information to whet readers’ appetites for more.

The Giant Bear: An Inuit Folktale

In children’s books about polar bears, which are flooding the market, the animal’s protective parent-offspring bond and the cubs’ need to explore feature prominently, allowing children to identify easily with the bears. Unfortunately, the books often also humanize their infant character. More naturalistic stories incorporate biological information — and then there are retellings of Inuit myths such as The Giant Bear (2012). Fetchingly illustrated by Eva Widermann, it is based on a narration by Native storyteller Jose Angutingunrik from Nunavut. It tells of an ice-clad, monstrous bear — the nanurluk — that lives under the sea ice and stalks an old couple. Despite its gruesome subject, the book offers real insights into Arctic survival and the minds of people who’ve thrived there for millennia.

(Note from France: This book is also available in Inuktitut, in Innuinnaqtun and in French.)

The Beaufort DiariesA bedtime story for grown-ups, T. Cooper’s graphic novel (and animated short) The Beaufort Diaries (2010) follows a polar bear exiled from Alaska into “the wilds of Hollywood.” In this riff on Kotzwinkle’s satirical parable The Bear Went Over the Mountain, the protagonist also makes it big in “La-La Land,” rising to stardom and hobnobbing with a famous real-life actor who has made global warming his cause célèbre. Reaching beyond naïve anthropomorphizing, the animal’s personification in Cooper’s tale functions as once did Aesop’s and La Fontaine’s: It mirrors our own society, our own foibles.

The Last Polar BearSeattle’s Mountaineers Books is known for large-format pictorials that are much more than mere “coffee-table books.” Many of their titles focus on Arctic landscapes and wildlife (and one even contains a CD of birdsongs). These books showcase sublime photography and writing by different contributors, combined with environmental advocacy. They remind us of American heirlooms — places and life forms — that deserve our attention and protection. Photographer Steven Kazlowski’s, The Last Polar Bear (2008) contains 200 photos he took over a period of six years. Essays by luminaries such as the former anthropologist Richard Nelson, wildlife biologist Stephen C. Amstrup, and a great-grandson of “Teddy” Roosevelt paint a vivid picture of the white bear’s life ways and situation.

Never Look a Polar Bear in the EyeThe journalist, firefighter, and paramedic Zac Unger’s travelogue-cum-reportage Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye (2013) compels with details about the Churchill, Manitoba scene. Planeloads of wildlife enthusiasts seek out this “Polar Bear Capital of the World” every year, and Unger depicts them and the locals and the furry objects of their desire with humor and verve. According to him, some residents carry a shotgun when they push a baby stroller through town. Unger, his wife, and their three children moved from Oakland, California, to make Churchill their temporary home — the writer’s quest for mini-marshmallows to feed to his kids was the least of adventures in this remote, small community.

Michael Engelhard is the author of the essay collection, American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean, and of Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon, the only book that deals exclusively with 8,000 years of human-polar bear interaction. Trained as an anthropologist, Engelhard lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and works as a wilderness guide in the Arctic.







“Trapped in a Human Zoo” nominated at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards

(Version française de ce texte)


On Tuesday, January 17, I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Screen Awards press conference in Montreal. The documentary Trapped in a Human Zoo had been submitted in two categories: Best Science or Nature Documentary and Best Research. That morning I was to find out if we had made the list of finalists.

Actresses Carole Laure and Mariloup Wolfe reading the list of nominees.

What a wonderful feeling to see our work being recognized in both categories:

Here are two photos where you will see who are the other finalists in each category:

I join my voice to that of Pix3 Films to thank all who were involved in the making of the documentary, and all those who have contributed in one way or another to the research.

We’ll find out on March 7, 2017, who the winners are. Keeping our fingers crossed!

France Rivet





“Piégés dans un zoo humain” finaliste pour les Prix Écrans Canada 2017

(English version of this post)


Mardi, le 17 janvier, j’ai eu le plaisir d’assister à la conférence de presse des Prix Écrans Canadiens 2017 qui se tenait à Montréal. La version anglaise du documentaire Piégés dans un zoo humain avait été soumise dans deux catégories :  Meilleure émission scientifique et Meilleure recherche C’était donc le grand jour pour découvrir si nous avions été sélectionnés comme finalistes.

Carole Laure et Mariloup Wolfe faisant la lecture des finalistes.

Quel sentiment merveilleux de voir notre travail être reconnu dans les deux catégories :

Voici deux photos où vous verrez qui sont les autres finalistes dans chaque catégorie:

Je joins ma voix à celle de Pix3 Films pour remercier tous ceux qui ont été impliqués dans cette production ainsi que tout ceux qui ont contribué d’une façon ou d’une autre à  la recherche.

Les gagnants seront annoncés le 7 mars 2017. Gardons les doigts croisés!

France Rivet




Ice Photo #5 – Evighedsfjord, Greenland / Photo de glace #5 – Evighedsfjord, Groenland

This week’s ice photo was taken on July 10, 2016, during Adventure Canada’s Greenland and Northern Labrador expedition. When we woke up that day, the Ocean Endeavour was anchored in the Evighedsfjord (the fjord of Eternity) with glaciers and high mountains in the background. The highlight of the morning was the zodiac cruise to approach one of the glaciers. Don’t worry! The zodiacs stayed at a safe distance. It’s the effect of the lens that makes it look like we were almost touching it.

For more photos of our zodiac cruise in the Eternity Fjord.

La photo de la glace de cette semaine a été prise le 10 juillet, 2016 durant l’expédition le nord du Labrador et le Groenland d’Adventure Canada. Lorsque nous nous sommes réveillés ce matin, l’Ocean Endeavour était ancré dans le Evighedsfjord (le fjord de l’éternité) avec de hautes montagnes et des glaciers comme toile de fond. Le point culminant de la matinée fut la croisière en zodiac pour approcher un des glaciers. Ne vous inquiétez pas! Les zodiacs sont demeurés à une distance sécuritaire. C’est l’effet de la lentille de la caméra qui donne l’impression que nous pouvions presque le toucher.

Pour voir plus de photos de la croisière dans le fjord de l’Éternité.




Pérégrinations nordiques : le Nunavik vu par Robert Fréchette


Lors d’une récente visite à Montréal, j’ai pris le temps de déambuler sur l’avenue du Mont-Royal pour voir l’exposition Pérégrinations nordiques mettant en vedette les paysages, les habitants et la faune du Nunavik. Le photographe, Robert Fréchette, aujourd’hui directeur général de l’Institut culturel Avataq, mais aussi fondateur de la première agence de photojournalisme indépendante du Québec, ex-directeur au développement des Parcs nationaux du Québec au Nunavik et ex-directeur du Parc national des Pingualuit, entre autres, a vécu une quinzaine d’années au Nunavik de 1994 à 2008.

Au travers de la cinquantaine de photos grand format étalées ici et là, soit sur l’avenue du Mont-Royal ou sur les coins des rues perpendiculaires, et ce entre les rues Fullum et de Bullion (séparées par près d’une trentaine de rues), il nous offre un portrait très intimiste de la vie des Inuits du Nunavik.

L’avenue du Mont-Royal étant très achalandée, j’ai été agréablement surprise de voir que beaucoup de passants prenaient le temps d’arrêter pour regarder les photos, lire les légendes, prendre des selfies, discuter du sujet de l’image, partager leurs connaissances et leurs expériences dans le Grand Nord…

Voici donc quelques images de l’exposition et de la vie urbaine qui l’entoure. En espérant que vous aussi aurez la chance, d’ici le 31 octobre 2016, de passer pour admirer les splendeurs des paysages du Grand Nord québécois, pour découvrir le quotidien d’une population que nous, gens du Sud, connaissons encore bien mal, et pour être surpris par les clins d’œil que la faune peut nous faire.

Bonne visite!
France Rivet

Introduction de l’exposition

Nous habitons un pays nordique, mais combien d’entre nous connaissent vraiment le Nord? Que dire du Nunavik qui constitue près de la moitié de la superficie du Québec? Combien de Québécois peuvent positionner Kujjuuaq sur une carte? Au-delà des clichés connait-on, ne serait-ce qu’un petit peu, la culture des Inuits du Québec?

Cette exposition est constituée de trois pratiques photographiques différentes. Les images soumises ont été captées sur une période de 20 ans. En effet, les circonstances de mon long séjour au Nunavik m’ont amené à faire de la photo aérienne, du photojournalisme documentaire et de la photo animalière. Il s’agit de photos d’amis et de différents sujets qui m’ont captivé au fil des ans. Évidemment, chacune de ces approches favorise un sujet : les habitants, le territoire et la faune arctique. La combinaison des trois présente le Nunavik d’une manière dynamique, comme un coin de pays fascinant, presque mythique, habité par une culture et un mode de vie parfois très différents, mais tantôt si semblables à ce que l’on vit au Sud.

Robert Fréchette 2016

Panneau d'introduction à la sortie de la station de métro Mont-Royal.

Panneaux à la sortie de la station de métro Mont-Royal.



Famille admirant la photo du cratère de Pingualuit. À droite, une photo aérienne du fjord Nachvak au Labrador.



Ces deux jeunes garçons marchaient d’un bon pas lorsque l’un d’eux s’est exclamé : «Mais, c’est donc bien beau! Il faut que je prenne une photo pour l’envoyer à ma mère!»


Panneaux au coin de la rue Fabre.

Panneaux au coin de la rue Fabre.


Tivi Etok

Quelle agréable surprise ce fut de reconnaître Tivi Etok, rencontré en juillet 2009 sur une croisière le long des côtes du Labrador. Tivi, via son interprète, avait livré un témoignage très émouvant des dures réalités de sa vie. Sa résilience s’est avérée être une belle leçon de vie. Je me souviens aussi de sa joie et de son rire lorsqu’à L’Anse-aux-Meadows il avait vu son tout premier cochon!


Deux passants discutant de la chasse à la baleine.

Deux passants discutant de la chasse à la baleine boréale devant le Parc Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent.


Mère enlaçant son jeune fils au pied de la photo d'un jeune garçon au retour de la chasse à l'outarde.

Mère enlaçant son jeune fils au pied de la photo d’un jeune garçon au retour de la chasse à l’outarde.






Ice Photo #4 – Ramah Bay Iceberg / Photo de glace #4 – Iceberg de la baie de Ramah

This week’s ice photo was taken on July 7, 2016 at 4:13 a.m. I was admiring the sunrise from one of the decks of the Ocean Endeavour anchored in Ramah Bay, Torngat Mountains National Park.

La photo de glace de cette semaine a été prise le 7 juillet 2016 à 4:13 alors que j’admirais le lever du soleil à partir d’un des ponts du Ocean Endeavouor alors ancré dans la baie de Ramah, Parc national des Monts Torngat.

Sunrise over Ramah Bay (Nunatsiavut) / Lever de soleil sur la baie de Ramah (Nunatsiavut)

Sunrise over Ramah Bay (Nunatsiavut) / Lever de soleil sur la baie de Ramah (Nunatsiavut)

Ice Photo #3: Twisted Ice Chunk / Photo de glace #3 – Torsade de glace

This week’s ice photo was taken during a late night cruise in the Ilulissat Ice Fjord in Greenland’s Disko Bay. The captain had just used his fishing net to scoop up several small pieces of ice that had broken off nearby icebergs. This one looked most interesting with its twisted shape.

La photo de glace de cette semaine a été prise lors d’une croisière de fin de soirée dans le fjord glacé d’Ilulissat, dans la baie de Disko au Groenland. Le capitaine venait juste de tendre son filet de pêche pour ramasser plusieurs petits morceaux qui s’étaient détachés des icebergs avoisinnants. La forme torsadée de celui-ci lui donnait une allure unique.

Ice Photo - Twisted Bergy bit

Jonas Nochasak of Hopedale: son of Abraham Ulrikab or of Tigianniak? Did the records confirm the family link?

Hello everyone,

To my astonishment, about two weeks ago, I received an email from Richard Burton, up in Prophet River, British Columbia, telling me that he believed he was the great-great-grandson of Abraham Ulrikab. Richard had just been made aware of Abraham’s story by his father Andrew who had heard about the book In the Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab and the documentary Trapped in a Human Zoo. Abraham’s story resonated with both men. Through their family’s oral history, they had always been told that, when Andrew’s grandfather Jonas was five years old, his parents had departed for Europe, never to be seen again. Jonas had one daughter, Barbara. Andrew is her son, Richard her grandson.

My very first reaction was to forward the email to Professor Hans Rollmann at Memorial University. Hans has been researching Abraham’s family for several years, and was mandated by the Nunatsiavut government to try to identify living descendants. Even though Abraham and his family perished overseas, it is a possibility that there are still living descendants in Labrador. How come? Abraham left children behind: those of his first marriage with a woman named Martha. I was therefore curious to know if one of them was named Jonas and had been born around 1875. For sure, Hans would know the answer. His reply came back saying that there was no trace of any child named Jonas.

I fired off a series of questions to Richard. The new information stated that Jonas’ last name was Nogosik (Noggasak/Nochasak). He was married to Justine and their daughter Barbara Frances had been born in 1908. Jonas would have died in Hopedale in the late 1920s. Richard also added an important detail: “I have always been told that Jonas, and his father who went across the ocean, were the shamans of Labrador”. Well! If his father was a shaman then it couldn’t be Abraham, a devout Christian of the Moravian Church.

So, one possibility we thought we’d look into was if Jonas’ father was the shaman Tigianniak, who travelled as part of Abraham’s group. Jonas being a very Christian name, I wondered if 5-year-old Jonas had been adopted by one of the relatives of Tigianniak who had decided to convert to Christianism. His new parents could have changed his first name from an Inuit one to a Christian one, or Jonas could have converted and taken a Christian name when older. His last name being Noggasak was also intriguing. It seemed plausible that in the 1890s, when Inuit had to choose last name, the young man would have decided to pay tribute to his older sister Nuggasak, who had died in Europe with Tigianniak and Paingu, her parents.

Richard also sent me a photograph of Jonas and his wife Justine.

Jonas and Justine Nochasak, Hopedale, Labrador

Jonas and Justine Nochasak, Hopedale, Labrador

I did a quick montage with the pictures of Tigianniak and Paingu, and to be honest, I could see some resemblance. What do you think?

Paingu, Jonas Nochasak, Tiggianiak

Paingu, Jonas Nochasak, Tiggianiak

I fired off another email to Hans, as well as to Carol Brice-Bennett, who has done a lot of genealogical research for Labrador families. They both came back to me with the same conclusion: the Jonas Nochasak who married Justine and had a daughter Barbara Frances came from a long lineage of Nochasak whose origin is in Hopedale, and who were christianized early on by the Moravians. In short:

  • Barbara Frances Nochasak was born on 9 December 1917 in Hopedale. She would have been named after her father’s uncle’s wife or her great-great-grandmother.
  • Barbara had an older sister, Sarah (born in 1911), and an older brother, Zacharias (born in 1914)
  • Barbara’s parents were Jonas and Justine Nochasak who were married in Hopedale on February 25, 1911.
  • Jonas was born on January 8, 1890, in Hopedale, and died in Hopedale on April 8, 1939. Jonas was a well-known chapel servant at the Moravian church in Hopedale.
  • Jonas’ wife, Justine, was born around 1879 in Okak. When she married Jonas, she was the widow of a man named Santer (or Sauter?). Justine died in 1938. (Here is a note from Carol: Justine was about 11 years older than Jonas but such marriages were fairly common because eligible girls for marriage were scarce at the time and young men were often compelled to marry widows.)
  • Jonas’ parents were Nathaniel & Sarah Nochasak from Hopedale.
  • Nathaniel was the son of Jonas and Ida Nochasak, also from Hopedale.

Carol believes that the photos of Jonas and Justine was taken in Hopedale because of the structure of the houses. I did a quick search on the website Labrador Inuit through Moravian eyes and found this image that gives a better idea of what the community looked like. Here is the link to access the original image.

Hopedale's Moravian missionary buildings and Inuit houses.

Hopedale’s Moravian missionary buildings and Inuit houses.

The search also yielded the following photo of a Jonas Nochasak who was an organ player in Hopedale in 1906. It was extracted from a presentation by Professor Tom Gordon from Memorial University. In 1906, Jonas (the father of Barbara) was only 16 years old, so it can’t be him on the photo. Maybe an uncle or his grandfather?

Jonas Nochasak, organist at Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, 1906

Jonas Nochasak, Organist at Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, 1906

I had the great pleasure of visiting Hopedale in early July. The church and mission house shown on the photo above are still standing. Here is a “postcard” of a few images taken inside the Moravian church where Barbara was baptized, and where Jonas was a chapel servant. The organ you see on the bottom left picture has been in the church since 1847. It is the same one Jonas above would have played on.

Moravian Church, Hopedale, Nunatsiavut

Moravian Church, Hopedale, Nunatsiavut

For more photos of Hopedale, have a look at my Hopedale album on Flickr.

It was a bit sad that the records did not confirm any family link with Abraham, Tigianniak, or Paingu, but the possibility that such a link existed was quite exciting, since it would have meant that the request for repatriation could have been issued by living descendants.

Thank you to Richard Burton and his family for coming forward and for answering the many questions I had. The possible link was worth investigating and, it sure was fun! A big thank you goes to Hans Rollmann and Carol Brice-Bennett whose work has allowed descendants of the Nochasak family now living in British Columbia and Ontario to discover their real family lineage in Labrador.

Nakummek! Thank you!
France Rivet