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Douglas Earle 'Qimmiq' Wilkinson: 1919-2008

Author-filmmaker Doug Wilkinson dies March 12


Doug "Qimmiq" Wilkinson, 88, remembered fondly by many Eastern Arctic residents for his numerous films, photographs and books, died March 12 at Southbridge Lodge in Brampton, Ont.

He leaves his wife, Vivian, to whom he was married for 65 years; his daughter, Beverly; her husband, John Brady; and two grandchildren, Michael and Heather-Anne.

"My dad led an extraordinarily interesting life; his heart always remained in the Arctic even when he was living in the south," Beverly Brady said in an email.

"He would just come alive whenever anyone expressed an interest in the North. He was very informative and his eyes would light up," Brady said later in an interview.

She said that Doug and Vivian have each directed that, when the time comes, their ashes be interred together at the Anglican church in Pond Inlet. Vivian, 92, still resides at Southbridge Lodge.

Wilkinson wrote and directed more than 40 documentary films, most of them shot in the Eastern Arctic between the late 1940s and the late 1960s during its most dramatic period of social and technological change.

Many of his films documented Inuit life on the land and the difficult transition to life within settled communities. In his writing, Wilkinson often agonized over the wave of social change that swept over the Arctic in the 1950s.

"This is a difficult and critical time for all Eskimos in Canada. Old beliefs are dead or dying while new ones are being formed slowly or not at all. Ambitions and energies are being blunted on the walls of indifference and misunderstanding, often thrown up by the people who are in the best position to help," he wrote in Land of the Long Day, published in 1955.

Wilkinson was born in Toronto in 1919, where he graduated from high school in 1937. After working for the T. E. Eaton Company, followed by a stint in the Canadian Army, Wilkinson joined the National Film Board in 1945, where he began his long career as a filmmaker, writer and photographer.

His best-known film, Land of the Long Day, records a year in the life of Joseph Idlout, the well-known north Baffin hunter. Filmed in 1953 and 1954, the 38-minute film won numerous national and international awards, including a Golden Reel award. In 1955, Wilkinson followed it with his best-known book, which bears the same title.

During those years, Wilkinson formed a close bond with Idlout, whose energy and hunting skills he greatly admired, and with many other Inuit who then lived in the Pond Inlet area.

"He was inook, angoteealook, a human being, a big man. Into his hunting he poured all the energy and emotion that a painter sets on his canvas, a writer from his pen," Wilkinson wrote.

His other non-fiction books include Sons of the Arctic, Arctic Fever: the Search for the Northwest Passage, and The Arctic Coast.

Between 1955 and 1958, Wilkinson worked for the Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources as a northern service officer, a job that took him to Ottawa, Baker Lake and Frobisher Bay, as Iqaluit was then known.

While working for the federal government in 1955 and 1956, Wilkinson recorded the construction of Apex in a set of photographs that now reside with the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

Wilkinson, who sold his extensive collection of films, photographs and sound recordings to the Northwest Territories archives in 1990, also took numerous photographs in the Chesterfield Inlet, Pelly Bay, and Pond Inlet areas.

After leaving the federal government in 1959, Wilkinson worked for a film production agency called Robert Anderson Associates Ltd., where he served as vice-president. Until his retirement in 1976, Wilkinson continued to do freelance writing and filmmaking, often done during and after various trips to the Arctic with Vivian.

Known for his modesty, good humour and generosity, Wilkinson often shared freelance and royalty cheques with the Inuit whom he interviewed for his books and articles.

His family asks that donations be made to the Canadian Cancer society in his name. Condolences may be sent to dougwilkinson@ or to The Brady Family, Box 5111, City Centre Postal Outlet, Brampton, Ont. L6T 5M2.

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