Kitigaaryuit: A Portrait of the Mackenzie Inuit in the 1890s, Based on the Journals of Isaac O. Stringer

T. Max Friesen

Abstract

In the nineteenth century, the village of Kitigaaryuit was the most important settlement of the Mackenzie Inuit, who inhabited the Beaufort Sea coast in northwesternmost Canada. However, the nature of Mackenzie Inuit life at Kitigaaryuit is poorly understood, due to the brevity and rarity of relevant ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts. This paper presents a summary and interpretation of the previously unpublished journals and letters of the Anglican missionary Isaac O. Stringer. Beginning in 1892, Stringer visited Kitigaaryuit nine times, usually arriving during the all-important beluga whale hunting season in early August. Although not a trained ethnographer, he recorded detailed information relating to many subjects, including the annual cycle of the Mackenzie Inuit, the beluga whale hunt, demography, social organization, and the nature of culture change during this period. In their entirety, Stringer’s writings provide a vivid and unique portrait of a crucial time and place in arctic history.

  • T. Max Friesen, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 100 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G3

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