Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory
by Lucien M. Turner; Introduction by Stephen Loring
ISBN: 1 56098 965 3
Price: £21.50/ US$29.95
This is a reproduction of work originally published 1894 as part of
the Eleventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution,
The reissue of this valuable manuscript, with an added section of photographs
taken by Turner, is long overdue. It forms the principal source of information
on the life of the Ungava Inuit and Innu during the early contact period
for students of the archaeology, ethnology and anthropology of the Northeast.
The republished volume is enhanced by a detailed introduction by Stephen
Loring of the Smithsonian's Arctic Studies Centre, himself an ethnographer
and archaeologist who has done extensive fieldwork in Labrador, particularly
among the Innu. Loring, having made an extended archival study of Turner's
papers, explains and critiques Turner's work. His critique forms a useful
counterbalance to Turner's report.
Turner's opportunity to go to this remote region had come about as
part of an international scientific effort to conduct coordinated observations
of meteorological and magnetic phenomena during a two-year period from
August 1882 until September of 1884. The project was titled the International
Polar Year and it resulted in the first professionally-based anthropological
studies in the eastern Arctic.
Turner considered himself primarily an ornithologist, and made extensive
bird and other wildlife observations and collections while working in
the Ungava region. Living at the Fort Chimo Hudson's Bay Post, he regularly
encountered Innu and Inuit visitors coming to trade. Turner' ethnography
efforts were somewhat handicapped by the nature of his instructions:
he was to record meteorological data which kept him tied to his observation
posts. Further, the HBC manager was suspicious of him and warned him
to stick to his own business and not interfere in any way with that
of the Post.
Despite this, Turner was able to conduct the anthropology by making
friends with the natives coming to trade and camping in the area, and
bought almost everything they were willing to sell him. His records
about the material culture were made possible by the Metis wife of the
Post's cooper, Mrs. Maggie Brown, who translated and taught him both
Inuktitut and Innuaimun, the languages of the Inuit and Innu natives.
Because of her background, she was also able to acquire sacred objects
that Turner himself would not have been permitted. The resulting collection
of several hundred ethnological items, along with detailed notes on
their construction and use, forms a priceless Smithsonian legacy.
Many of Turner's fellow anthropologists paid local informants to do
their fieldwork for them and only occasionally visited their areas of
study during the summer. Turner, living at the Post continuously for
more than two years, tried as much as possible, in the limited freedom
his observatory and its instruments afforded him, to experience and
explore the environment of his subjects. This afforded him the opportunity
to gather an enormous collection of natural history specimens. He also
encouraged the native children to collect specimens for sale to him.
Written in a precise Victorian style, Turner's monograph details traditional
customs, rituals, stories and daily life among two distinct peoples
at a crucial period in their history. It should be in the library of
everyone with an interest in the people of this region.
Review by Jane Sproull Thomson, a Research Associate of the Arctic
Institute of North America and a former ethnology curator with the Newfoundland
and Glenbow Museums; she presently teaches native art history for the
University of Calgary.