This is one of the saddest books I have ever read. But i am so glad that I did read it. Man's inhumanity to man. Many people know the story of the Native Americans but probably not so many know the story of the Native Canadian Inuit. These people were forced from their homes and moved to desolate uninhabitable places and basically left to starve without even basic necessities for survival. Unbelievable hardship brought upon them by the government who wanted them off the land and the Inuit actually trusted these people with their lives.
I enjoyed Melanie McGrath's last book, Silvertown, a moving fictionalised biography of her East End grandmother. Early 20th century Silvertown was no picnic but this new work is set in an even tougher and more challenging environment, that of the Canadian Arctic. It is the story of one Inuit,Josephie Flaherty, the illegitimate son of the filmmaker who made "Nanook of the North." But it is also a story of the betrayal of the Inuit community by the Canadian government. A group of Inuits were tricked and abandoned in a "cultural" experiment that beggars belief in its stupidity and cruelty, particularly as it occurred so recently. McGrath's research is thorough but more importantly her writing is gripping, yet culturally respectful and highly empathetic. Strongly recommended.
The book begins with an account of Robert Flaherty's making of the first documentary film ("Nanook of the North", 1920, available on DVD). After a slightly slow start, McGrath goes on to portray the lives of the Innuit peoples of the Arctic long after Flaherty left. The historic details are meticulously researched. This powerful insight is so well written that you can physically feel the constant fight for survival against the harshest odds. Most people would find these odds insurmountable, but we learn how the Innuit as a people did survive. Not for the feint-hearted or casual reader, the book reveals how Innuit people endured injustices and hardships which were never acknowledged by the outside world until the 1990's.
In 1922 Robert Flaherty made a film in Artic Canada named Nanook of the North that became world famous and led to myths that are still with us. Roberrt left in1924 lleaving a son Josph who lived as an Eskimo till 1953 when a crazy canadian edict forced the 16 families in Josephs group to be forcibly resettled in an"Arctic Eden" in the very far north of Canada leading to starvation,alchoholism and crime. It was not till 1995after a Royal Comission and public pressure the remains of the 16 families were returned to thier homes with compensation. an excellent read.
This is a superbly told story of the tragic experiment that the Canadian government did to the Inuit of what is now Nunavet province by transferring them to Devon Island. Though the story is appalling the book was gripping and I could not put it down. I am interested in that part of the world and have travelled there. Anything by Melanie McGrath is worth reading, try the East end books!
As well as telling the scandal, it gives an extremely vivid picture of the lives of hunter-gatherers. The problems of getting enough to eat and avoiding danger. The differences between Inuit in different parts of Canada and the problems of living in a landscape they had not grown up with.
It is well written and really reveals how duplicitous the Canadian Government has been, and still is, with regard to its dealings with the First Nations people. It is still overriding the interests of the true owners of the land.