Rosemary Gilliat’s Arctic Diary

By Katie Kendall

In June 1960, photographer Rosemary Gilliat (later known as Rosemary Gilliat Eaton), along with journalist Barbara Hinds, travelled across the Arctic. Northern Affairs Canada and the National Film Board of Canada sponsored her journey. Her assignment in Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay, Nunavut), Kuujjuag (formerly Fort Chimo, Quebec), Kangiqsualujjuag (formerly George River, Quebec), Killiniq (formerly Port Burwell, Nunavut), and Cape Dorset (Nunavut), was to take photographs of life in the north. During this period, Gilliat kept an extensive diary of her travels, describing the people, places, ways of life, events, and even the flora and fauna she encountered.

A colour photograph of two women fishing on the banks of a water body. They are standing on rocks and there are ice floes in the water.

Rosemary Gilliat (L) and Barbara Hinds (R) fishing (MIKAN 4731485)

As a practicum student at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) this term, I read the diary in full, taking note of important dates, people, places, and events. This will help improve the archival descriptions of Gilliat’s photographs in LAC’s collection. Many of the photos taken by Gilliat during this trip have been included as part of Project Naming, a LAC initiative that enables Indigenous peoples to engage in identifying the people, places, and activities in historical photos. Gilliat’s 455-page diary and many of her photos from the Arctic will be available for the public to help transcribe, tag and describe in our new and upcoming tool Co-Lab!

A colour photograph of two Inuit children wearing traditional coats in front of a white tent in a rocky landscape.

Two children wearing white parkas in the Arctic (MIKAN 4324336)

Gilliat’s diary describes many fascinating aspects of the Arctic in the summer of 1960, reflected in the almost-daily entries. Gilliat describes the landscape of the north in spectacular detail, and particularly focuses on the Arctic flowers at the start of her travels, when she had not yet made many acquaintances. Her occasional frustration with friend and travel companion Hinds is relatable, and her frequent photographic mishaps (for example, forgetting to carry film) are amusing. The snippets of news from the outside world provide the reader with a glimpse of life at that time. For example, Gilliat receives news about the ongoing space race—Russian dogs Belka and Strelka successfully orbit the Earth and return from space in August 1960—prompting Gilliat to muse on when the world will see the first human in space, which would happen less than a year later in April 1961. Gilliat also takes note of women’s roles in the north, referencing the second wave women’s movement of the 1960s.

A colour photograph of a community of wooden houses on the shores of a water body. There are flowers in the foreground.

Landscape view of wooden houses by the water (MIKAN 4731543)

Most importantly, Gilliat shares experiences with the Inuit of the communities she visits, accompanying members of the community while they fish for char, hunt for seals, and travel from one location to the next by boat or plane. Gilliat had a couple of near-death experiences travelling by boat through storms and ice, and was stranded a couple of times (once on an island for several days). In late August, she witnessed a beautiful polar bear swimming, only to realize that Eetuk, Isa, Sarpinak and Moshah, her Inuit companions, were going to kill it to provide food for their people. Gilliat’s expressive writing vividly explains her conflicting feelings on the event.

A colour photograph of a man seen in profile aiming a gun. He’s wearing a traditional fur-trimmed parka with alternating green and red stripes on the sleeves.

Oshaneetuk, a sculptor and hunter, on a seal hunt, Cape Dorset, Nunavut (MIKAN 4731420)

The hunting expeditions and tumultuous sailing events are thrilling, but the quiet moments between Gilliat and Inuit friends stand out. For example, in Cape Dorset, she meets Kingwatsiak, one of the oldest and most respected members of the community. Kingwatsiak invites Gilliat into his home and asks her to take a photograph of him. He also asks her to write a request on his behalf to Queen Elizabeth II. Kingwatsiak wishes for a photograph of her younger son, Prince Andrew, as his name (in English) is also Andrew. The letter is included in the diaries, and explains that he received a medal at the Queen’s coronation and travelled to Scotland as a young man and attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. He asks the Queen to deliver the photograph soon, as “I am now a very old man” and therefore may not have much time left.

A colour photograph of an elder wearing a traditional coat with green and red stripes on the sleeves. He is also wearing a medal with an image of Queen Victoria engraved on it.

Kingwatsiak in a tent, Cape Dorset, Nunavut (MIKAN 4324230)

Although much of the terminology and ways of thinking are outdated, Gilliat’s descriptive anecdotes and direct observations makes the diary a joy to read. She remains objective but eternally optimistic, describing what she sees but never letting it dampen her outlook on the beauty of the Arctic and the kindness and resolve of its people.

Katie Kendall was a practicum student (MA Art History, Carleton University) in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.


Project Naming: celebrating the past and looking to the future

By Julie Dobbin

Since its beginnings in 2002 as an Inuit-focused project, Project Naming has expanded to engage all Indigenous peoples to identify photographs in Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection.

The majority of individuals in the images of the collection have never been identified; they are anonymous. Additionally, archival descriptions relating to events or activities are absent or have outdated information (e.g., place names, band names or terminology). The information is based on original inscriptions and captions found on the records, and hence it reflects the biases and attitudes of non-Indigenous society at the time. Since 2002, approximately 10,000 images have been digitized, and approximately 2,500 mainly Inuit individuals, activities and places have been identified.

In honour of the project’s 15-year anniversary, a celebratory event took place over the course of three days in March 2017. It was held at LAC and Carleton University in Ottawa and involved Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples as well as the general public.

Project Naming’s 15th anniversary event was not only a celebration of all the individuals who have been identified and of partnerships with Inuit communities, but also a celebration of Indigenous cultures as well as a chance to look back at the past to build a better future. Throughout the three days, Inuit, First Nations and Métis Elders shared their knowledge and made important recommendations on the future direction of Project Naming, and on the future of a country where Indigenous peoples are no longer unidentified, silenced and forgotten.

A colour photograph of a man from the Métis Nation wearing a beaded vest standing at a podium.

Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council, at LAC for the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming, March 3, 2017.

Although Project Naming has taken some important strides in undoing past wrongs, much more work still needs to be done. To mark the 15th anniversary, new official Facebook and Twitter pages for Project Naming have been launched. This greater presence on social media provides a new platform for non-Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous peoples to recount their stories, share their histories and continue the significant work that Project Naming has begun.

A colour photograph of two Inuit women looking closely at a picture. The older one holds the picture while the younger one takes a photo on her iPhone of it. Behind them are people talking and tables covered with papers.

Manitok Thompson (left) and Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merrit (right) identifying photographs at the Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa, March 2, 2017.

“When you see those pictures, it’s like coming home,” Inuit Elder Piita Irniq declared during the event. His statement indicates just how much power a photograph can have. Project Naming is therefore not simply about identifying people, places and things; it is about regaining what has been lost, finding oneself and being able to return home. Sessions at the event became about more than just identifying names. These sessions were about sharing knowledge, whether about clothing, physical traits, hunting, fishing, trapping, families or traditional ways of life. Most importantly, every photograph in every session was a means of sharing a story or personal memory.

A colour photograph of an older Inuit man wearing a traditional Inuit jacket who is standing in front of a monitor pointing to an image on the screen. Two young Inuit are watching and listening closely.

Elder Piita Irniq (right) and Nunavut Sivuniksavut students Gabe Klengenberg (left) and Aislyn Gizelle (centre) during a session at LAC for the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming, March 1, 2017.

I cannot speak for others, but I had the sense that those who attended the event left with more awareness than when they arrived. It was truly three days of education, an education that every Canadian would benefit from, and one that Project Naming is intended to foster. Every time a face was identified during the event, it felt like a victory, like a difference was being made and an identity restored. Having the chance to watch the Elders identify people and places was remarkable. What was even more incredible was the energy in the air, the feeling of collaboration, respect and reconciliation. Project Naming will continue the meaningful work it has done over the past 15 years; with new partnerships with Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples, a positive difference will continue to be made. To all those who may not know about Project Naming and how to help, visit the web page and social media accounts, “like” the page, share the photos and help make a better Canada, one where people’s identity will not be erased but will instead be celebrated and honoured.

Promote and learn more about Project Naming:

A colour photograph of a young Inuit man looking at several large photographs on easels.

Curtis Kuumuaq Konek at LAC during the 15th anniversary event of Project Naming.

Julie Dobbin is doing her MA in Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University. She wrote this article during a practicum in the Exhibition and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Top three genealogy questions

We receive many interesting questions from our clients at the Library and Archives Canada Genealogy desk. Here are the top three questions asked:

Question 1. My grandfather came to Canada between 1905 and 1914. How do I find his passenger list entry?

First, search the name on one of the indexes available online. Try different spellings and birthdate variations if your initial search is not successful.

If that doesn’t work, there are other documents that indicate the year of immigration. Try census returns or the 1940 National Registration File. If you know the city where your ancestor settled, you may be able to narrow down the year of immigration by seeing when they appear in a city directory.

You can also try searching for other family members that came to Canada with him. Maybe the passenger list entry of his wife, “Esmerelda Jenkins”, might be easier to find than “John Jenkins” (names are for example only).

Question 2. My mother said that we have aboriginal heritage somewhere in our family. How do I prove that?

Complete your family tree. Don’t focus too much on finding the aboriginal link at this point. Pay close attention to information given on the census returns, especially the 1901 census.

All census returns will indicate the location where your ancestor resided, such as the town, village, major city or federal Indian reserve. Some census returns list ethnic origin, such as French, Irish, Indian, “Half-Breed”, “Scotch-Breed”, Algonquin or Mohawk. They can also list colour (“W” for White and “R” for “Red”) and first language/mother tongue, which may help your search.

Many of these terms are now considered offensive and are no longer in use today. Do not fixate on or limit yourself to modern terminology—your ancestor may have been identified under any number of labels depending on the period, location and circumstances.

Question 3. My grandfather served in the Second World War, but never spoke about it. How do I find out what he did?

Your first step in finding out details about your grandfather’s war experience is to apply to the Personnel Records Department for information from his file by filling out our Application for Military Service Information form. After you receive the available information from his Second World War service file, you can continue your research at regimental museums and by reading published regimental histories (some of which may be available in our library collection).

If you have a question that you would like to ask us, please drop by the Genealogy desk at 395 Wellington Street, in Ottawa or email us using our Genealogy Assistance Request form.

Residential Schools: Photographic Collections

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is presenting a series of galleries consisting of photographs of residential schools, federal day schools and other similar institutions attended by First Nation, Inuit and Métis children in Canada from the late 19th century to the 1990s.

Organized by province and territory, the images featured in these galleries derive from many collections held at LAC—both government and private—and represent a selection of our holdings. The majority of the photographs were taken by federal government employees who worked for the former Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. You can find photos of residential and federal day schools in Accession 1973-357, RG85 and RG10. Use Archives Search—Advanced to search for additional images not included in the galleries.

Two examples include the group of students at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Manitoba and the page of six photographs showing different views of Lejac Indian Residential School and other buildings in Fraser Lake, British Columbia.

Black and white photograph of Aboriginal girls seated at their desks with a nun standing beside them

Group of female students and a nun in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School, Cross Lake, Manitoba, February 1940 (MIKAN 4673899)

Cream-coloured page with six black and white photographs depicting views of various buildings

Views of Lejac Indian Residential School, and other buildings, Fraser Lake, British Columbia, August 1941 (MIKAN 4674042)

Some of the images are found in the collections of other government departments, including the Department of the Interior (Accession 1936-271), the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys (Accession 1960-125) and the National Film Board of Canada (Accession 1971-271).

Photographs of the students, staff and schools are also found in a number of private collections—Henry Joseph Woodside, Joseph Vincent Jacobson, Kryn Taconis and Charles Gimpel—to name a few.

Black and white photograph of a group of Aboriginal girls and boys, nuns and two men posing in front of a building

Port Harrison (Inukjuak) Federal Hostel, group of students, nuns and Aboriginal men, Quebec, ca. 1890, by Henry Joseph Woodside (MIKAN 3193392)


Colour photograph of a group of Inuit boys posing in crouched positions on a large flat rock; two of them are holding rifles

Marksmanship group, Coppermine School (Tent Hostel), Kugluktuk, Nunavut, ca. 1958, by unknown photographer, Joseph Vincent Jacobson fonds (MIKAN 3614170)

You can access additional photographs of Aboriginal students and schools using Archives Search—Advanced. For tips on searching the database, see the Online and non-digitized photographs section in Residential School Records Resources under What is found at Library and Archives Canada.

If you have information about a photograph, please let us know. We will add this information to the record in the database. You will need to include an image reference number, for example, PA-102543, e011080332, e011080332_s3 or the MIKAN number—3614170.

Albums featuring sample sets are available on LAC’s Flickr and Facebook pages.

Aboriginal Heritage Portal

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce updates to the Aboriginal Heritage portal. Representing Canada’s three Aboriginal groups: the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, the portal offers material organized by cultural group and subject, as well as resources for Indian residential school research.

Whether you are a first-time or experienced researcher, the portal will be the starting point for anyone interested in Aboriginal Heritage. It offers a wealth of resources held by LAC, ranging from archival and published materials, to research guides, tools and databases. These resources include existing material, such as the Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990, as well as a new resource called the Guide to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada “File History Cards, 1872-1984″.

Over the coming months, new research tools will be added to the portal as they become available.