As part of Project Naming, a community engagement and photo identification project that aims to reconnect Inuit and their past, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has undertaken the digitization of a series of photographs from the Indian and Northern Affairs Collection. These albums have been the starting point of a great story regarding a family from Nunavut.
In this collection, are a number of images of the Weetaltuk family taken during the summer of 1949 on the Cape Hope Islands in Nunavut. The original captions accompanying the photographs provided basic details. Fortunately, the database records for these images are now more complete after several family members contacted LAC to provide the names of relatives and other relevant information about these pictures. Most importantly, they were able to correct the Weetaltuk surname, as well as community names that had been incorrectly recorded. From the original captions, we knew that George Weetaltuk was a community leader, a skilled hunter and an expert boat builder. His family members explained the detailed process that George followed in creating his boats, as seen in this photograph of him with his son, William, and his adopted son, Simon Aodla, constructing an 11.58 metre (38-foot) boat.
Another record that the Weetaltuk family was able to correct was this group photograph taken in front of a log cabin. The caption states that this picture was taken on Cape Hope Islands. We now know that the picture was probably taken on nearby Charlton Island, James Bay, where for many years, George and his family resided while he was employed seasonally by the Hudson’s Bay Company. In addition to this information, the family was also able to identify five of the people in the photograph, and provide genealogical connections.
Weetaltuk family photograph. Back row: Adla (far left), married to William, George’s oldest son (2nd from left), George Weetaltuk (centre) and his first wife, Ugugak (4th from left). Front row: George’s sons Alaku (far left) and Tommy (sitting on the ground). (PA-099605) Source
In addition, another of George’s sons, Edward, was a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was the first Canadian Inuk to serve in military combat with the Canadian Army during the Korean War. Following his 15 years of service, he began writing his life story. According to a news article, Edward (Eddy) Weetaltuk “wanted to show young Inuit that education was important and that Inuit can become anything they want and even become famous, if that’s what they want.” (Nunatsiaq Online, July 16, 2009)
Although Eddy started writing E9-422: Un Inuit, de la toundra à la guerre de Corée in 1974 (in French only), it was not published until 2009 only a few days before his death.
Through these family connections and dialogue with the community, our photographic collections are constantly improved and enriched for future generations.
For more information about Project Naming, read our Blog article, published on May 9, 2013, and listen to our Project Naming and Canada’s North podcast.