Wednesday, November 27, 2013


There's been plenty of speculation -- and disagreement -- over the possible role of internecine conflict among Inuit bands in the fate of the Franklin expedition. There certainly does seem to be evidence that, by the early 1860's if not somewhat earlier, a particular band of Netsilingmiut were acting aggressively toward neighboring bands, scaring away many members of (for instance) the Utjulingmiut, and raising such fear that Hall's guide Ebierbing at first refused to conduct him further into the more westerly areas. This hostility may well have originated, I suspect, with the conflict over the enormous wealth that even a single Franklin vessel would have represented to the Inuit, in terms of metal, wood, and other useful items.

But there is another possibility: conflict between Inuit and the more southerly sub-Arctic tribes that they called the "Itqilit" (a word Hall mis-transcribed many ways, most often as "Et-ker-lin"). The animosity between Inuit and their southerly sub-Arctic neighbors was of great age and well-known -- Hearne witnessed an example of it firsthand at the Bloody Falls -- and pervasive. It's also possible the these sub-Arctic tribes had conflicts with some of Franklin's men who wandered into their hunting areas; indeed, there are a several stories in Nourse's edition of Hall's second expedition narrative in which Inuit described an attack on Franklin's men by "Et-ker-lin." In one story, "Aglooka" is said to have gotten a cut on his face during such an attack. These stories are somewhat vague, and are tied up with the problematic second-hand evidence offered via "the cousin" (Too-shoo-art-thariu) so I'm not sure how much faith can be put in them -- but still, they are suggestive. There's even an account, written by Hall at the end of his second expedition, which suggests that he believed that the last two survivors -- "Aglooka" and one other man -- may have been murdered while trekking down the western shores of Hudson's bay by Et-ker-lin. Could Franklin survivors have been mistaken for Inuit by hostile neighbors? David Woodman has shown that it's quite possible that small  groups of Franklin's men were mistaken for Itqilit by Inuit; certainly the reverse is possible.

1 comment:

  1. Good article. Is a interesting question about the fate of the crew and his encounters with Inuit people.

    Greetings from Chile.