From the Editor: Nakurmiik
Historic Polar Films at the Peary MacMillan
Museum and Arctic Studies Center
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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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Screenshot from Travelling with the Eskimos of the Far North
Historic Polar Films at the Peary MacMillan Museum and Arctic Studies Center
We’re all familiar with polar explorer Robert E. Peary (1856-1920). But did you know that Portland, Maine in the United States is where he was raised? He graduated as a civil engineer from Bodoin (pronounced BOH-din) College in nearby Brunswick. And it is in Maine that much of Peary’s and his colleague’s exploration history can be found. This collection is housed in the Peary MacMillan Museum and Arctic Studies Center at Bodoin. Another New Englander, Donald B. MacMillan (1874-1970), Rhode Island born but raised in Freeport, Maine was also educated at Bodoin. Although graduating as a geologist, he travelled widely with Peary as an ethnologist, surveying and mapping unknown land and water in the Canadian and Greenland Arctic.
The Peary MacMillan Museum and Arctic Studies Center includes a collection of several polar films. Two are for sale: The Far North: A Donald MacMillan Lecture Film “…combines nearly two hours of historic motion picture footage from Labrador and Greenland with MacMillan's own live narration.” It is available for $12.00 USD. Tautunguarnirijara - The Way I Picture It is described: “In 1948, 1950, and 1954 Donald B. MacMillan sailed the Schooner Bowdoin to Baffin Island, in arctic Canada, where he met and filmed Inuit families summering in the vicinity of Pond Inlet. A 14-page booklet contains genealogical notes and song transcriptions in English and Inuktitut.” This eleven-minute film is available for $5.00 USD and was created in collaboration with our original Inuk (in Pond Inlet on northern Baffin Island) mentor’s mother!
There’s more to explore at the Peary MacMillan Museum and Arctic Studies Center. The 1913 Crocker Land Expedition link (under the “Digital Resources” heading) has its history and images, including ones of dogs and sledging. Anyone lucky enough to visit the museum and study center can see “… nearly 30,000 images, most from the eastern North American Arctic. The core of the collection are the 15,000 images taken by Donald B. MacMillan between 1908, when he was a member of Peary's North Pole expedition, and 1954, his last expedition to Greenland…”
But wait, you don’t have to travel to Bodoin to see six historic films (1923-1926), nine to fifteen minutes each, available to view online. Two of these, Hunting Musk-ox with the Polar Eskimo and Travelling with the Eskimos of the Far North, have magnificent footage of dogs at work!
Screenshot from Hunting Musk-Ox with the Polar Eskimo
Watching these dogs performing what they had been bred to do for millennia makes me mindful of how important it is to the future of today’s traditional aboriginal Inuit Dogs to be kept, bred and used based on their ability to survive and work in their native environment. Anything less and they can very quickly, in as little as one generation, become distorted, which is just what happened back in the 1930s when aboriginal Inuit Dogs, bred “in captivity” and out of their element, metamorphosed into a cultured breed known as the Alaskan Malamute.