Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet, 1923.

Fascinating book on the introduction of European-based law into a culture that had no reason to understand it, in its communitarian consensual approach to justice. Well-written and badly proofed, but worth the read.

p. 18: In 1876 Reverend Edmund Peck founded a mission at Little Whale River on Ungava Bay, where he began working on a syllabic alphabet to represent Inuktitut, based on one created by Reverend James Evans for use with the Cree Indians. In 1894, armed with syllabic prayer books and Bibles, Peck established the first Christian mission on Baffin Island, at a whaling station on Blacklead Island in Cumberland Sound. A rudimentary school was set up as well as a one-room mission hospital.

Peck’s travels and those of his assistants were generally limited to nearby camps, although one year he visited camps along the coast as far north as Qivittuuq while returning home to England on a whaling ship. A number of lay preachers traveled further afield, distributing Bibles and spreading word about the new religion. Several families from Cumberland Sound were reported to have migrated to Igloolik with their Bibles. In this manner, many Iglulingmiut learned to read and write in syllabics without ever having met a qallunaat [European] missionary. Understanding the biblical passages was more difficult.

Literacy grew at an astonishing rate, but the meaning of the words was not always understood. This gave rise to a number of ‘syncretic movements’ that combined traditional spiritual beliefs of shamanism with those of Christianity…. [ Other references to these syllabic Bibles are on p. 22, 28, and 39).

p. 146: When introduced by lay preachers, the new religion sometimes incorporated certain traditions of shamanism, resulting in syncretism, otherwise described as a ‘syncretic’ form of religion. McInnes reported that some camps were ‘very enthusiastic over religion, which they follow in their own crude style, singing hymns and reading from their testament several times a day. The most attractive pastime, however, is trying to count the numbers of the pages and the hymns.’ [See also p. 218-19.]

p. 184, an interpretation of the murder sentence, according to Freuchen: He had been promised room and board for ten years in the great house of Canada. The house was kept warm in the winter, there would be women to sew clothes for him, and he would never have to go hunting for his food [see Freuchen’s Vagrant Viking].