Writing Canada’s Wrongs: Inuit Relocations, Colonial Policies and Practices, Inuit Resilience and Resistance

Frank Tester (co-authored with Krista Ulujuk Zawadski) | Writing Canada’s Wrongs: Inuit Relocations, Colonial Policies and Practices, Inuit Resilience and Resistance

Reviewed by: Jane Edwards

This book is co-written by Frank Tester and Krista Ulujuk Zawadski who is an Inuk who has focused her work on Arctic anthropology, archaeology, museology and collections-based research. She has a master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia and is a PhD candidate at Carleton University in Ottawa. Krista has co-curated exhibits that feature Inuit artists and written articles for the Inuit Art Quarterly and Museum Anthropology. Krista is from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

Inuit Relocations, Colonial Policies and Practices, Inuit Resilience and Resistance” is part of the series entitled Righting Canada’s Wrongs. Although used as a resource for Canadian History courses, this book goes far beyond a high school text book. It tells part of Canada’s history. It is the story of the Inuit relocation.

Few Canadians know the history of the Inuit in Canada. Inuit Relocations, Colonial Policies and Practices, Inuit Resilience and Resistance gives an account and it is not a story of which the Canadian government can be proud.  It is an important story for Canadians to know. Only recently has the Canadian public school curriculum taught students of the Inuit relocations, where communities were split up, and moved to unfamiliar locations many hundreds of kilometres from the land they where they had lived for generations. Families were taken by boat, left with inadequate supplies, with only tents for shelter, and broken promises of assistance. Having been brought to unfamiliar places, the families had no knowledge of where to find food, had no boats for fishing or hunting sea animals and discovered the snow was not of igloo-making quality. There was much suffering from cold and hunger.  Government officials promoted these moves via deception with promises broken, misinformation and ignorance of how the Inuit live.

The relocation of Inuit families and communities had huge repercussions on their ways of life, culture and traditions. This book discusses, through description, with many photographs and links to videos and recorded Inuit voices, what life was like for the Inuit before and after their forced moves. It covers many topics including but not exclusively, the many Inuit relocations across the High Arctic, how their lives changed, the eventual move to settlements when the land could no longer sustain them, Inuit control of natural resource development, the Inuit youth of today and a final chapter on dealing with colonialism. The many photos on each page along with detailed descriptions are important to the message, make the story real and accessible to those of us who have never lived in the far north.

I grew up in the era when Canadian children were taught little to nothing of Indigenous history or culture. I found this book enlightening and disturbing. Enlightening as there was and is so much life, culture and tradition, in the Inuit communities, of which many Canadians are only vaguely aware. It is disturbing to discover the extent of the hardship endured by the Inuit due to institutional mistreatment and ignorance by the Canadian Government and the harms that continue today as a result. I highly recommend reading this book for the recent history of the Inuit and to learn of their “resilience and resistance”.

Frank Tester will be attending Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival this July to discuss this book. Unfortunately, co-author Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is unable to attend this year’s festival, but I look forward to hearing Frank’s discussion of the book and his time spent working with the Inuit in Canada’s north.

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