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TAISSUMANI: Around the Arctic January 16, 2015 - 9:31 am

Taissumani, Jan. 16

Angulaalik: A Killing at Perry River – Part 2


Last week I wrote about Angulaalik and the unfortunate death of Utuittuq (Otoetok). I reproduced the pidgin English translation of the confession letter that he sent to the police in Cambridge Bay.

When Angulaalik’s family provided the researcher, Robin McGrath, with a carbon copy of Angulaalik’s original letter, she was appalled at the sloppy translation job that had been done for the police in 1957.

She asked competent interpreters who worked at the legislature in Yellowknife to retranslate it. The result is a more lucid rendition of the man’s thoughts at the time of writing:

“I want to say a few things to the police. I was afraid and never thought of the consequences. For a long time Otoetok was after me; finally I got angry. I did not intend to kill him, but he kept after me and during a drinking party I poked him with a cutting knife because he kept bothering me. People were partying in Norman Eevalik’s house; in the middle of all the people we were wrestling and it was there I poked him while I was drunk. The day after he died, when I sobered up, I thought of committing suicide, but I didn’t because I have children. I thought of my children and how they have no one else to support them. This is my confession. I was afraid of him; I never bother anyone normally, but one person kept mocking me. Otoetok was following me all the time and began to be afraid so I poked him.”

Corporal Edward Jones and Special Constable Jimmy Nahagaooloak travelled to Perry River to investigate the events. Angulaalik received them on their arrival and fed them. He provided an oral statement in Inuktitut, interpreted by the special constable and written down by Jones. The officer then charged him with murder.

The case came to trial in Cambridge Bay in May of 1957. Justice John Sissons, the first judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories (then called the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories) officiated.

Sissons would not admit into evidence Angulaalik’s statement to Corporal Jones, ruling that “it could not be established that the statement reported by the corporal was what Angulaalik said or meant.”

Neither did he admit the letter of confession, writing that “Angulaalik had not written this letter. He had asked his host at the fatal party, Norman Eevalik, to write it for him and he could not read what Norman had written. It was perfectly proper for the Hudson’s Bay Company to guess what was meant by ‘two cases of fragile’ or ‘three dozen handle with care,’ and to presume further that the order was voluntary. But our courts cannot guess.”

The trial was by jury, but it was hardly by a group of Angulaalik’s peers. All the jurors were white. Nonetheless, they brought in a verdict of not guilty. Angulaalik was acquitted.

Tragically, at a party thrown that night to celebrate the acquittal, home brew reared its ugly head again. This time it was laced with methyl hydrate. Two people died.

When Angulaalik was arrested and taken to Cambridge Bay to await trial, he may have anticipated a long incarceration, for he formally turned over his store to the HBC.

He never got it back. On his return to Perry River, he was no longer the man in charge. He endured the humiliation of becoming the post servant, subservient to the orders of a white manager.

One of those managers, Duncan Pryde, wrote in his best-selling book, Nunaga, that Angulaalik had committed a number of other unreported murders. If true, the police never heard about them, and no one else has ever documented this allegation. Perhaps readers in the Kitikmeot can shed some light on this.

In 1967 Angulaalik and Ekvana moved to Cambridge Bay so their children could go to school. But they returned each summer to Perry River. Angulaalik, once a very successful Inuit businessman, passed away in 1980.

Taissumani recounts a specific event of historic interest. Kenn Harper is a historian, writer and linguist who lives in Iqaluit. Feedback? Send your comments and questions to

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