In This Issue....From the Editor
In the News
Ladies' Ellesmere Vacation
Sled Dog Physiology: Non-Invasive Techniques
BAS Vignette: How Do You Say Good-bye?
Sledge Dog Memorial Fund Update
Report: The Chinook Project in Kimmirut
Book Review: Land of the Long Day
Behavior Notebook: On Being a Social Facilitator
Tip: Dealing with Those "Dirty" Boots
Index: Volume 10, The Fan Hitch
Navigating This Site
Land of the Long Day
by Doug Wilkinson
reviewed by Stijn Heijs
Doug Wilkinson was a writer of several books about the Arctic and creator of over forty documentary films and many arctic photographs. He died in March, 2008 at the age of 88.
One of his masterpieces was the book and film Land of the Long Day. Out of respect for his contribution to the available work on Inuit life, the ISDI asked me to write a book review in The Fan Hitch journal.
Doug Wilkinson had, in 1946 at nearly thirty years-old, never seen the Arctic nor the Inuit. Shortly after his discharge from the Canadian Army in 1945 he went to work for the National Film Board of Canada. Because of his army experience he was asked to supervise production of the joint Army-Air Force motion picture, Exercise Musk Ox, that saw ten snowmobiles and forty-seven men travel three thousand miles (4800 km) across the barrenland of Canada’s Arctic. He returned to the Arctic in 1947 to direct footage for another film, Going North, where a couple of hundred miles (325 km) north of Churchill he met his first Inuit. Here started his fascination with life in the Arctic and the Inuit way of life. He wanted to help the Inuit but was convinced that the only way to understand how they could be helped was to understand their way of living. He developed a plan to do this but, not finding support from his work, he decided to resign from his job. He sought financial assistance from private groups and found this with the Arctic Institute of North America. This enabled him to live as an Inuk among the Inuit from April, 1953 to October, 1954. Wilkinson’s book, Land of the Long Day, is the story of his transformation from a white man from the South into a real Inuk living the traditional way of Inuit life in the Arctic.
In April, 1953, Wilkinson headed for Pond Inlet on northern Baffin Island to live with the Inuit group of twenty-eight headed by the outstanding hunter and trapper Idlouk. All belonged to the Aulatseevik campsite. Already on his way to Pond Inlet, Wilkinson started to experience the North because his arrival was weeks later than planned due to the fact that the weather, not man, determines plans and schedules in the Arctic. From here, Land of the Long Day tells about his life from spring into summer and through all the seasons, and the hunting and trapping skills and tricks of the Inuit. On his last stage to Pond Inlet, his final destination, he traveled by dogsled. During this, his first trip by dogsled, he experienced the cooperative efforts of the Inuit and their dogs in a successful polar bear hunt.
On one of his first dogsled hunting trips he experienced the Inuit Dogs' temperament when passing too close to another camp resulted in a big fight with the dogs of the other camp. In the Aulatseevik camp there were twenty-nine Inuit and seventy-four dogs. Very soon Doug was given the Inuit name of Kingmik (which means dog) because his first name, 'Doug', to the Inuit sounded like dog. He became widely known in the North as Kingmik. He successfully joined the seal hunt and already in the first months on several trips learned that hunger was a frequent and normal part of life when the hunting wasn't sufficiently successful. He practiced seal hunting with the whole group as well as caribou hunting. When the summer temperature rose to where sleds were impossible to use, the sled dogs became pack dogs. Wilkinson describes in Chapter 9 the impressive way the new order in the pack was established.
In the summer, Wilkinson learned all the ins and outs of the narwhal hunt by the Inuit in kayaks. And he describes the annual trip by boat to the settlement for the yearly sales of fur and supplies with the Hudson's Bay Company for the goods not available in the North. This was followed by an intensive period of fishing for arctic char. Then, after summer, when the ice was coming back, an ice cabin was built for storage of the food supplies for winter. Constructed from blocks of ice, this cabin was meant to secure the food from hungry bears and dogs.
Life is not easy and on a hunt for arctic hare Wilkinson learns some of the risks in arctic life. When the daylight is mainly gone, the hunting and caching of food is changed into trapping for foxes and hunting seals with a net. On one of these seal hunting trips he learns that hunting in the dark can give special surprises. After a very cold and busy hunt, his group finally gets to warm up with mugs of seal tea. Only after sipping the tea and experiencing an odd taste, did they realize that one of the dogs managed to pee fully into the teapot without them noticing.
In the last chapter Wilkinson describes more elements of Inuit life around family and children. He also gives some information on the spiritual part in the Inuit life and compares the shamanist Inuit (angakok) belief with the later adopted Christian religion.
The marvelous way Doug Wilkinson describes his life with the Inuit is captivating. For the lover of the arctic way of life this book is a must.
Land of the Long Day by Doug Wilkinson (1918-2008) was first published in 1956 by Georg G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., Canada. It contains 255 pages. Twenty-six photographs, eight in full color, four of which show Inuit Dogs. The book is out of print but available via several used book internet sites such as www.Amazon.com and www.Biblio.com, costs between $5 and $10 + shipping and packing costs.
Editor's note: Doug Wilkinson's 1952 documentary film, Land of the Long Day, is available as a DVD from the National Film Board of Canada where , on their website you can find still shots, a video clip and purchase information.