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Part Qallunaaq:
From Hudson Bay to the Firth of Tay: Searching for My Scottish Grandfather
© by Zebedee Nungak


Zebedee Nungak - © Zebedee Nungak

It is a fact of life all over the Inuit homeland in Arctic Canada that the progeny of Qallunaat (White People) have existed for generations amongst Inuit. The earliest forbears of these were explorers, whalers, traders, policemen, and numerous assorted others. Very few of these ever left a name, address, or some other tangible reference by which their Inuit descendents could touch, feel, and know their Qallunaaq ancestor.

In recent years, interest in Qallunaat ancestry has been heightened among Inuit people related by such ancestry from far-flung locations finding each other. Some have come across each other through research triggered by enlightened curiosity. Others do so literally by accident. Detective work is the order, and it is mostly hit and miss. Some who suspect shared ancestry from one individual can never be absolutely sure. Names, dates, and records can be very sketchy, if they exist at all.

Inuit of mixed ancestry have endured a variety of social and personal stresses. People of mixed Inuit/Qallunaat parentage are so common today that it may seem odd to consider that any tension ever existed among full-blooded Inuit and half-breeds. But such tensions have been an obvious fact of life in Inuit society for as long as such people have been around. This tension is very hard to describe in clinical exactness, because its manifestations are as diverse as human nature, personality, and character.

In my parents’ generation, it took the form of being looked down upon, of being made to feel not quite whole. If one had the misfortune to be part Qallunaaq, it was not unusual to be treated as a psychological outcast. One was made certain to know how you were not really, truly, an Inuk. In addition to the petty cruelties inflicted upon half-breeds for being born as such, there was the obviousness of illegitimacy. Most unions producing such offspring were not based in Holy Matrimony.

As a result of enduring these stresses during some part of their lives, Qallunaangajuit (part Qallunaaq half-breeds) compensated by “out-Eskimo-ing the Eskimos” in many aspects of life.

Half-breeds were generally more indiscriminate and deliberate in the practice of traditional life; from eating the most rotten igunaq (fermented meat), to possessing respectable repertoires of unikkaatuat (stories and legends), and being expert in the ancient skills. No revenge was sweeter than to demonstrate by living example that they were as human beings just as valuable as any who might have felt superior.

From where do I speak of this? My late mother was the daughter of an Inuk mother and a Scottish father.

William Mackenzie Peter was a Scotsman who worked for the French trading company, Revillon Frères, in the 1920’s. He had a sister named Winifred, for whom he insisted my mother be named. He is remembered as being very friendly to Inuit; that, he certainly was to my grandmother. He left, as did so many others, leaving no trace other than the child he fathered by an Inuk woman. His biography, as far as we knew it, was his name, and his country of origin.

All her life, my mother carried an un-fulfillable desire to know her biological father. She insisted that my first-born son be named William Mackenzie, after the father she was destined never to have. One of my mother’s great pleasures was being able to say, “Ataataak! (Father!)to my son.

What would it take to find that piece of paper, that photograph, in which I would find a missing piece of myself? A visit to France to search out Revillon Frères records? A trip to Scotland to publicize the tattered scraps of his biography? Scores of families across the Arctic who share such unfilled blanks in their family picture also had such questions echoing in their lives.

As grandchildren of this man, my siblings and I never had the slightest interest in knowing about the man for most of our years. This wasn’t because of any hard feelings; just indifference made normal by never having known anything about him, other than his name. With so little to go on, searching for him seemed a Mission: Impossible!

Originally, the idea of a search was for my mother’s sake. But, as I took on the task, it transformed into pursuit of fulfillment for me, my brothers and sisters, and our growing crowd of grandchildren. I had no illusions about the daunting challenge of finding anything. Even holding a photograph would do in the event of finding nothing else. In a quest such as this, even little would be plenty!

This is the story of my search for my family’s Scottish roots…


Chapter 1. Setting the Scene
Chapter 2. Discovering Archival Footprints
Chapter 3. Picking At a Cold Trail
Chapter 4. A “London Bridge” to Scotland
Chapter 5. Aberdeen Chooses Me
Chapter 6. SeRR-ching with Cammy Campbell
Chapter 7. Discovering Gold
Chapter 8. Finding William Mackenzie Peter
Chapter 9. Winifred Talbert Peter
Chapter 10. William James Peter
Chapter 11. The Opposing Tensions of: “What Next?”
Chapter 12. De-compression in Northamptonshire
Chapter 13. Follow-Up Doldrums, and Donald Cameron
Chapter 14. Mrs. Menzies of Dundee
Chapter 15. Going For Broke!
Chapter 16. The First Photograph
Chapter 17. Sitting on an Address
Chapter 18. The Second Photograph
Chapter 19. “The Eagle Has Landed!”
Chapter 20. Squaring some Ajurnamat Realities
Chapter 21. Connecting some Physical Inheritance Dots
Chapter 22. A Black Bar Shattered by Forgiveness
Chapter 23. Ownership of Discoveries, and Nakurmiiratsaka
Chapter 24. Reflections on Food and Music
Chapter 25. Tidy Squares vs. Inuit Thinking
Chapter 26. A “Symphony of Coincidences”
Chapter 27. Names and Lineages
Chapter 28. Completeness of Identity
Chapter 29. Meeting Uncle Bill
Chapter 30. Family Time

experimental eskimos
Tells you the story of how he and 2 friends were tricked by Pierre E. Trudeau and Jean Chretien to become the instruments of the forced assimilation  of their own people. They were later bannished from their communities and suffered serious personal problems.

An Inuit Perspective on Movies and Film
By Zebedee Nungak

The videos show below come from the above article.

Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North (also known as Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic) is a 1922 American silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty, with elements of docudrama, at a time when separating films into documentary and drama did not yet exist.

In the tradition of what would later be called salvage ethnography, Flaherty captured the struggles of the Inuk man named Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic. The film is considered the first feature-length documentary. Some have criticized Flaherty for staging several sequences, but the film is generally viewed as standing "alone in its stark regard for the courage and ingenuity of its heroes."

How to Build an Igloo 1950

Inuit life on Baffin Island during the changing seasons, 1952

is a classic record of the last days of genuine out-on-the-land life, as Inuit lived it in the period prior to becoming permanent towns people. The air of joyous renewal and rejuvenation surrounding aullaat, the whole camp moving to new grounds, is portrayed in its splendid fullness. The excitement and high drama of the whale hunt is also captured accurately.

Eskimo Family, 1959

The Living Stone
This documentary shows the inspiration behind Inuit sculpture. The Inuit approach to the work is to release the image the artist sees imprisoned in the rough stone. The film centres on an old legend about the carving of the image of a sea spirit to bring food to a hungry camp.

The Inuit and their Hunting Habits (Documentary, 1980
In this documentary from 1980 anthropologist Hugh Brodie researches the remote Inuit people of the Arctic region. The historic film shows how the hunting of caribous, mooses, seals and other animals played a central role in their life.

The Eskimo - fight for life
NFB Documentary from 1970

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