Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 09, 2004 - 1:32 pm

“Very young guy” dies at the age of 92

Scientist Graham Rowley studied eastern Arctic in 1930s


Graham Rowley, who first traveled by dog team in the eastern Arctic during the late 1930s, died on New Year’s Day in Ottawa. He was 92.

Throughout his long life, Rowley, who knew many of the now-legendary figures of Igloolik’s recent history, such as Ittusardjuat and Attagotaaluk, maintained contacts with friends from the community. They visited his Ottawa home as recently as Christmas Day to visit, pray and sing.

Rowley was pleased that his Inuktitut name “Makkutunnaaq” (or “very young guy”) stuck with him until the end of his life.

He left England in 1936 to join a three-year British-Canadian scientific expedition led by adventurer Tom Manning that would chart new regions and carry out studies in the Foxe Basin.

“He came to the Igloolik region when it had not been hit hard by disease,” his daughter, Susan, said in an interview from Ottawa. “But it had had some of the benefits, such as the introduction of guns, so that people were able to have larger dog teams.”

Travelling by dog team and living, as he said, “in the ways Inuit had evolved,” Rowley visited the sites of the future communities of Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet, Repulse Bay and Hall Beach.

At an old camp site called Abverdjar west of Igloolik, Rowley’s excavations would show Dorset people - the ancestors of today’s Inuit who lived some 1,000 years ago - had a rich material culture.

“Among them were artists of superb skill and our greatest excitements came when one of us shouted that he was finding something unusually good,” Rowley wrote in his book, Cold Comfort: My love affair with the Arctic, published in 1996.

In this book, Rowley recounts the expedition that led him to the North.

“It was a north very different from that of today. The people were close to the land and the sea, dependent on the resources they found, which sometimes failed. Starvation was the control that limited the population. The influence of the south had not grown powerful enough for its attractions to seduce or subordinate those who lived in the north,” he wrote.

Shortly after his return South, Rowley headed to England to fight in the Second World War. Later, back in Canada, Rowley joined the federal department of Indian Affairs where he was responsible for northern scientific research.

On government business, Rowley frequently returned to the areas he had first visited by dog team years before.

He also assisted his daughter, also an archeologist, in a series of excavations in Igloolik. He last visited the community in 1996.

At the time of his death, Rowley was working on a second book that was to detail his experiences working with the federal government in the 1950s and ‘60s.

During his long career, Rowley received many awards, including the Order of Canada, the Massey medal of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, the Coronation medals, the Jubilee medal, the U.S. Arctic and Antarctic Service award and the Northern Science award.

But Susan Rowley said her father didn’t care if his work was recognized.

“He thought of himself as an ordinary person who was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in the North when he went,” she said.

Bryan Pearson, a long-time northern acquaintance, said Rowley was a fascinating person to speak with and “a great friend of Inuit.”

“I don’t think he was too enamoured of the changes he’d seen in the North, but then he’d lived through the incredible period from the igloo to the jet age,” Pearson said.

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