DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day

SCHWATKA, FREDERICK – Volume XII (1891-1900)

b. 29 Sept. 1849 in Galena, Ill.


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

INUKJUARJUK, Inuit camp leader; b. c. 1849 at Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq, Que.), son of Etidluie and Ekahalook; m. first Nirukatsiak; m. secondly Kreemipikulu; m. thirdly Kooyoo; m. fourthly Kowmadjuk; he had at least 16 children; d. 1915 at Etidliajuk (N.W.T).

Inukjuarjuk was born in the late 1840s or early 1850s when his father was working for the Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort Chimo. From childhood he was involved in stirring events. His son the Cape Dorset photographer and historian Peter Pitseolak* has revealed that “as a baby my father was taken by Indians. He was changed for a little Indian boy. Etidluie was away hunting . . . and my grandmother was too frightened of the Indian people to say no.” On Etidluie’s return, “he put the little Indian in a box and carrying him on his back went to get his son.” He found Inukjuarjuk with an Indian woman who was singing a song to the child:

This little boy will bring me food
From the stores of the white men,
This little boy will bring me food.
This little boy will bring me food –
He brings me food.

Peter Pitseolak explained that “Etidluie used to be given food where he worked but Indians could only get kadluna [white men’s] food through trading.” According to Peter Pitseolak, relatives in the Fort Chimo area remembered the song and could sing it three-quarters of a century after the event.

When Inukjuarjuk was still a young boy – “not old enough to row” – his family began a long journey which was to take them eventually to south Baffin Island (N.W.T.). After saving sealskins all winter, his father made a large umiak. In the oarlocks he fitted ingenious devices of twisted rope that caused the heavy oars to spring back on their own, and with a sail of strong cloth and a mast made from a log he journeyed with his three sons Kiakshuk, Kavavow, and Inukjuarjuk and other family connections (his wives Atsutoongwa and Ekahalook had died) along the coast of the Ungava peninsula to territory between Mosquito Bay and present-day Ivujivik, Que. Here they stayed for perhaps two winters, and it was in this area in the early 1860s that the three brothers became embroiled in what has been described as the last of the deadly encounters that characterized early meetings between Inuit and whites in the eastern Hudson Bay region. Accounts survive in HBC post records, in fictional form with the locale changed to south Baffin Island in the 1890s in The white dawn by James Archibald Houston, in the film of the same name, and in Peter Pitseolak’s recorded reminiscences.

In the fall of 1858 or 1859 a vessel was wrecked in the area of Mosquito Bay. In his story of the events that followed Peter Pitseolak relates that while the three boys and a brother-in-law were out hunting for polar bear they came upon tracks of shipwrecked white men and eventually found several survivors living on a Peterhead boat. “By hand motion the ship’s boss told the Inuit that they should move their camp near the ship and help. Etidluie and his sons didn’t understand his words but they could understand what was wanted.” Etidluie and his family built their igloos round the Peterhead and began working for the white men and were paid in goods. Then “other Eskimos found the camp. . . . These people who arrived were crazy with jealousy. . . . All they cared about were possessions. These people who arrived were not working for the white men so naturally they had not received anything. They decided to kill the white men; then they would be rich with all their possessions.”

The killers had a woman make long mittens without thumbs. The skins were not softened so that those who wore the mittens could not pick up weapons and they had laces so that they could not be pulled off. “When the mitts were finished the killers went to see Etidluie and said, ‘There’s going to be fighting. If you and your sons do not help kill the kadluna, you also will die.’” Etidluie had liked the white men and was silent for a minute. “Then he spoke and this is what Etidluie said: ‘For myself I am not possessive about my life. But for my sons, if one of them has life still to live, I do not want him to rush to death. I do not want him to die of wounds. So let them help you, for though it is very sad, none of us can live forever.’ Etidluie said to his sons, ‘You must be among the helpers. You must be ready when the leaders say, “Atai” – let’s go! . . . I act as if I want you to do this thing. I do so because I want you to have life.’”

Etidluie did not participate in the killings but the boys did. The killers helped the white men try on the mittens and laced them up. Then someone shouted “Atai!” One of the white men punched off the killers and raced outside. Kiakshuk and Inukjuarjuk caught him and held him. The white man asked “Suvitit – why?” but the boys did not answer. They held him until the man picked to kill him arrived. Inukjuarjuk had a small knife and just before the man died he put it into the wound so that people would think he had helped.

The story was brought to the HBC post at Little Whale River (Petite Rivière de la Baleine, Que.) by an Inuk called Noma. The post record relays his information: “All the Men and Women Engaged in the murder are said to have a line Tatooed across their nose extending down on either cheek – this was done in honor of, and to commemorate the exploit.” Peter Pitseolak relates, “All those people who killed were given a mark. They were tattooed on the bridge of the nose – because they had killed kadluna. They used to tattoo the men when they got something big. My father had his mark with him all his life.”

After the killings, possibly about 1862, Etidluie and his family crossed the Hudson Strait to south Baffin Island, an important migration since descendants there today account for much of the population of the area. Peter Pitseolak believed that his grandfather originally came from the south Baffin area and noted that he returned there to marry his old girlfriend Alenga. A drawing by Peter Pitseolak made for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative’s well-known print-making program shows Etidluie bargaining for Alenga with her son Niviaksiapik. In the picture Inukjuarjuk, a young boy with a slingshot, and his brothers watch the negotiations. Another drawing depicts Inukjuarjuk with his father and brothers in the umiak that brought them to Baffin Island. The family took Seekooseelak, “where there is no ice at break-up,” the southwest Baffin territories around what is now Cape Dorset, as their principal hunting-grounds. Here Inukjuarjuk matured into a powerful leader. In the late 1860s, as a young hunter just beginning to live with his first wife, Nirukatsiak, he again spent a winter with shipwrecked white men. But this encounter was entirely peaceful. He helped around their campsite and guided them hunting inland.

In the course of time, as was usual for great hunters, Inukjuarjuk acquired additional wives. (“Oh, they needed them – to work on their skins,” one Inuit elder commented.) Peter Pitseolak recalled that his father bought his mother, Kooyoo, who wore her hair in double braids, for “a rifle and a lead dog. Just because he liked those braids.” Such a lifestyle was demanding. Said Cape Dorset’s great graphic artist Pitseolak* Ashoona, who knew Inukjuarjuk in her childhood, “Sometimes it would get quite dark and that poor man still would be building the igloos.” His four wives bore him at least 16 children, among them, notably, Peter Pitseolak and his elder brother Pootoogook, who became known as the Eskimo King and was the last HBC Inuit “boss” for the 12 hunting camps trading into Cape Dorset.

Inukjuarjuk’s life coincided with the arrival on south Baffin Island of the agents of change – the whalers who began to pass through the Hudson Strait in 1860, the missionaries who brought reading and writing and set up the first Anglican mission at Lake Harbour in 1909, the fox-fur traders who established the first HBC post there in 1911. But change was imperceptible in Inukjuarjuk’s lifetime. Unlike his descendants, he lived the life his ancestors knew and died a nomadic hunter at Etidliajuk, an important south Baffin hunting camp, in 1915, from sickness spread by the Inuit who carried the mail by dog-team from Lake Harbour.

Dorothy Harley Eber

[Additional details concerning Inukjuarjuk were communicated to the author by a granddaughter, Igalook Petaulassie of Cape Dorset, N.W.T.  d.h.e.]

Canadian Museum of Civilization (Hull, Que.), Information management services, IV-C-126M (“Working draft of chart showing descent of Cape Dorset graphic artists,” comp. Dorothy Harley Eber, 1980). Daniel Francis and Toby Morantz, Partners in furs: a history of the fur trade in eastern James Bay, 1600–1870 (Kingston, Ont., and Montreal, 1983), 140–41. Dorothy Harley Eber, When the whalers were up north: Inuit memories from the eastern Arctic (Montreal and Kingston, 1989). J. [A.] Houston, The white dawn; an Eskimo saga (Don Mills [Toronto], 1971). Peter Pitseolak and Dorothy Harley Eber, People from our side: a life story with photographs by Peter Pi[ts]eolak and oral biography by Dorothy Harley Eber, translation of Pitseolak’s manuscript by Ann Hanson ([new ed.], Montreal and Kingston, 1993). Peter Pitseolak (1902–1973), Inuit historian of Seekooseelak: photographs and drawings from Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, ed. David Bellman (exhibition catalogue, McCord Museum, Montreal, 1980).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Dorothy Harley Eber, “INUKJUARJUK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/inukjuarjuk_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/inukjuarjuk_14E.html
Author of Article:   Dorothy Harley Eber
Title of Article:   INUKJUARJUK
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   September 29, 2023