Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

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

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

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

Article excerpt

Shelagh D. Grant, Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet, 1923 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002), xxii + 346pp. Cloth. $39.95. ISBN 0-7735-2337-5.

This is an impressive account of the impact of cross-cultural interactions between Inuit and qallunaat in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Shelagh Grant expands upon her previous work to examine the pre-1945 tensions between attempts to protect sovereignty in the Arctic through the introduction of Canadian law and justice and the ramifications for Inuit society on northern Baffin Island.

The heart of the narrative surrounds the death, on 15 March 1920, of Robert Janes, a fur trader from Newfoundland, at an Inuit hunting camp on the ice of Admiralty Inlet. Grant convincingly demonstrates that although the killing of Janes was agreed upon under Inuit tradition due to a perceived threat to the livelihood of the camp from his threatening behaviour, the Inuk nominated for the task, Nuqallaq, was to be dealt with under the codes of British justice. Detailing the protracted processes of investigation and trial, Grant shows how Nuqallaq was eventually convicted of manslaughter (with a plea for clemency) and sentenced to ten years' hard labour in Manitoba. Although Nuqallaq served only two years, he contracted tuberculosis in prison and was to die within a few months of returning home to Pond Inlet, leaving a legacy of the disease across North Baffin Island.

Grant is consistently passionate and balanced in her consideration of the conflicting accounts of these events, being less interested in past miscarriages of justice and more in the painful consequences. …

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