Nunatsiaq News
TAISSUMANI July 06, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Taissumani, July 6

Historic Maud meets modern Fram

KENN HARPER

In a touching moment, two ships met at sea last week.

One was a historic ship, a derelict resting on a barge, headed south and east to a new home. The other, historic in name only, carried wealthy passengers north to the waters that had claimed the other almost a century ago.

The first was...

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TAISSUMANI June 22, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Taissumani, June 22

The strange history of the igloo flag

KENN HARPER

Here is a good question for a parlour game—perhaps for a new edition of Trivial Pursuit.

What place (country, colony, jurisdiction) had Arctic imagery on its flag for 99 years, but has nothing to do with the North? And not just Arctic imagery, but Inuit imagery.

Here’s a clue. It’s not in the...

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TAISSUMANI June 02, 2018 - 10:05 am

Taissumani, June 2

George Comer and Nivissannaq

KENN HARPER

Last week, I wrote about the American whaler and trader, George Comer. This week, I continue his story, by telling about his relationship with the Inuit woman, Nivissannaq.

Much has been written about George Comer and his relationship with an Inuit woman, Siusaarnaq, more commonly known as...

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TAISSUMANI May 26, 2018 - 10:00 am

Taissumani, May 26

George Comer, the white shaman

KENN HARPER

On May 3, the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. opened a new exhibit, Captain George Comer and the Inuit of Hudson Bay. It began with a brief symposium attended by Arctic scholars and a number of Canadian Inuit.

George Comer was Canadian-born, but moved as a young man from Quebec to Connecticut...

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TAISSUMANI May 05, 2018 - 12:00 pm

Taissumani, May 5

Jacko – Sir John Franklin’s monkey

KENN HARPER

The fate of the lost Franklin expedition is a perennial winner among subjects that succeed in rousing an interest in the Arctic among average citizens of more southerly lands.

Thus, a current exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition,...

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TAISSUMANI April 21, 2018 - 12:00 pm

Taissumani, April 21

William Edward Parry’s medallions

KENN HARPER

It is well known that the federal government initiated a system of disks with identifying numbers for Inuit in 1941.

Each disk was stamped with a unique number. This system remained in place until 1972 in the Northwest Territories, longer in Nunavik.

What is little known is the fact that a...

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TAISSUMANI April 07, 2018 - 11:30 am

Taissumani, April 7

The Inuit two-dollar bill—a bittersweet memory

KENN HARPER

In 1975, the Canadian government issued a two-dollar bill which showed a scene of six men preparing their kayaks for a hunt near Pond Inlet on northern Baffin Island.

The Inuit were the family and friends of Joseph Idlout, a well-known hunter.

The scene, as shown on the bill, is based on a...

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TAISSUMANI March 24, 2018 - 1:14 pm

Taissumani, March 24

The Grave of Ada Blackjack, Heroine

KENN HARPER

Last summer, I was in Anchorage, Alaska, where I visited the grave of an Arctic heroine, Ada Blackjack.

I found it early on a misty morning in Memorial Park Cemetery.

I plucked a flower from someone else’s grave—I figured they wouldn’t miss it—and placed it on the rectangular plaque that marked...

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TAISSUMANI March 10, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Taissumani, March 10

The Murrays of Peterhead: a whaling family — Part 2

KENN HARPER

One can pretty well reconstruct Alexander Murray Junior’s return trips to Scotland and his subsequent winterings there by looking at the birth dates of the children that resulted.

His son, Alexander Percy was born in Hudson Bay in 1895, but five more children were born back home in Scotland, in...

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TAISSUMANI March 03, 2018 - 11:00 am

Taissumani, March 3

The Murrays of Peterhead: A Whaling Family — Part 1

KENN HARPER

The Murrays of Peterhead, Scotland, were whalers.

Alexander Murray had a large family and his sons followed him into the whaling trade, both becoming captains in their own right. Alexander Junior, the elder son, was born May 21, 1860, and John was born eight years later on July 26, 1868. In 1884,...

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TAISSUMANI February 17, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Taissumanni, Feb. 17

Thank you, Peter Freuchen

KENN HARPER

Sometime this spring a small cheque will arrive in my mailbox.

It will come from the Public Lending Right Program of the Canada Council for the Arts. It will be based on a sampling from certain libraries of the number of my published copyrighted titles that were held by Canadian libraries during...

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TAISSUMANI February 10, 2018 - 9:30 am

Taissumani: Feb. 10, 2018

The Baffin Fair

KENN HARPER

Special to Nunatsiaq News

Whaling was an occupation fraught with hazards, especially in the dangerous waters of Davis Strait. In 1819, 10 ships were lost in Baffin Bay. But that was only the beginning.

During the decade of the 1830s, the British Arctic whaling industry suffered a series of...

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TAISSUMANI January 23, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Taissumani, Jan. 23

Taissumani – A Look Backward and Forward

KENN HARPER

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Taissumani. That’s a lot of stories — over 500 — and a lot of research.

But this week’s column will also be my last Taissumani as a regular weekly column.

I have appreciated the comments that readers have made on many of the stories. Often these were made...

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TAISSUMANI January 16, 2015 - 9:31 am

Taissumani, Jan. 16

Angulaalik: A Killing at Perry River – Part 2

KENN HARPER

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...

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TAISSUMANI January 09, 2015 - 8:17 am

Taissumani, Jan. 9

Angulalik: A Killing at Perry River

KENN HARPER

Angulaalik was a remarkable Inuk from what is now the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. Born about 1898, he lived most of his life in Queen Maud Gulf, southeast of Cambridge Bay.

Captain C. T. Pedersen, an American trader, travelled regularly on his schooner from San Francisco and Seattle into the...

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TAISSUMANI January 05, 2015 - 11:59 am

Taissumani, Jan. 2

Robert Hood – Passion and Murder in the Arctic

KENN HARPER

In 1819, the British explorer John Franklin set out on his first Arctic land expedition.

Its purpose was to explore the northern coast of North America eastward from the mouth of the Coppermine River. In June of 1821, Franklin and his party left Fort Enterprise, the headquarters that they had...

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TAISSUMANI December 19, 2014 - 5:40 pm

Taissumani, Dec. 19

The Belcher Island Murders – Part 3

KENN HARPER

The judicial party arrived in the Belcher Islands on Aug. 18. Judge Plaxton was from the Ontario Supreme Court but was also a Stipendiary Magistrate for the Northwest Territories.

R. A. Olmsted, from the federal Department of Justice, was the prosecutor. J. P. Madden, a lawyer from Ottawa served...

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TAISSUMANI December 12, 2014 - 10:12 am

Taissumani, Dec. 12

The Belcher Island Murders — Part 2

KENN HARPER

Last week I wrote about the beginnings of the religious fervour that resulted in the deaths of a number of Inuit in the Belcher Islands in 1942. Two local men, Peter Sala and Charlie Ouyerack, had proclaimed themselves to be God and Jesus.

By the end of February, the death toll was three. But in...

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TAISSUMANI December 05, 2014 - 12:45 pm

Taissumani, Dec. 5

“And the Stars Shall Fall from Heaven” — The Belcher Island Murders

KENN HARPER

One night in February 1942 a shooting star streaked through the night sky above the Belcher Islands, a remote island group in southern Hudson Bay.

Inuit looked heavenward and remembered a Bible verse from Matthew 24: “and the stars shall fall from heaven… and they shall see the Son of Man coming...

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TAISSUMANI November 28, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Taissumani, Nov. 28

Death On An Ice Island

KENN HARPER

T3 was an ice island seven miles long and three miles wide drifting in the Arctic Ocean, when 20 researchers arrived there in May 1970.

They were from the United States Weather Bureau and were to remain for five months. The atmosphere was cozy despite the sometimes minus 60 degree outdoor...

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TAISSUMANI November 20, 2014 - 10:57 am

Taissumani, Nov. 21

Who Killed Charles Francis Hall?

KENN HARPER

Last week I wrote about the death of Charles Francis Hall on the Polaris expedition.

Hall was the only person to die on that expedition. Eventually, when the survivors had returned to the United States, a government inquiry was held.

George Tyson, the ice-master, spoke of Hall’s conviction that...

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TAISSUMANI November 14, 2014 - 11:23 am

Taissumani, Nov. 14

How Do You Spell Murder? — The Death of Charles Francis Hall

KENN HARPER

Charles Francis Hall began his third expedition to the Arctic on June 29, 1871. This was the most ambitious one of all.

The previous two were in search of information on the missing Franklin expedition, but this one would be an audacious attempt to reach the North Pole by ship. The steamer...

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TAISSUMANI November 07, 2014 - 10:12 am

Taissumani, Nov. 7

The 19th Inuit Studies Conference

KENN HARPER

In 1974, at a time when the Inuit of Nunavik were negotiating their land claims settlement, researchers at Laval university established a private non-profit organization called Association Inuksiutiit Katimajiit.

Its objectives were to collect data on research into Inuit culture, language and...

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TAISSUMANI October 31, 2014 - 7:51 am

Taissumani, Oct. 31

The Sadness of Miss Bill

KENN HARPER

Life was not kind to Eqariussaq, or Miss Bill as the Peary’s always called her, for she was unable to bear children. Knud Rasmussen once wrote, “There is only one woman whom I pity among the Polar Eskimos — the woman who has no children.”

Eqariussaq’s marriage to Ahngoodloo did not survive. But...

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TAISSUMANI October 24, 2014 - 9:26 am

Taissumani, Oct. 24

Eqariussaq, AKA Miss Bill

KENN HARPER

In 1893 Josephine Peary accompanied her husband, the explorer Robert Peary, on an over-wintering trip to northern Greenland. This was daring on her part because she was in the last stages of pregnancy when she left the United States.

On Sept. 12 she gave birth to her first child, a daughter which...

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