MP-0000.597.186 | Inuit standing at outdoor religious service, about 1919

Inuit standing at outdoor religious service, about 1919
Captain George E. Mack
About 1919, 20th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Gelatin silver process
8 x 11 cm
Gift of Mrs. R. Mack
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The arrival of Qallunaat (white people) in Nunavik brought many changes to the Nunavimmiut, and this photograph from 1919 shows Inuit in European-style clothing attending a Christian religious service. European missionaries arrived soon after the whalers and traders to convert the local populace. They met with little resistance it seems; by the early 20th century the Inuit's shamanistic traditions had virtually disappeared. Reports from 19th century explorers tell us that both men and women who showed a particular psychic disposition could become shamans. They were credited with the ability to communicate with spirits and the dead, and were asked to treat illnesses, which were caused by evil spirits (it was thought). Very wise and talented shamans were able to acquire significant social status and power. They also played a leadership role in their communities, making sure that rules and taboos were observed and disputes resolved, and influencing decisions on hunting grounds and migrations.

  • What

    This photograph shows a group of Inuit in European-style clothing attending an outdoor religious service given by the Reverend Edmund J. Peck.

  • Where

    As early as 1894, Rev. Edmund J. Peck (1850-1924) established an Anglican mission on Blacklead Island in the Cumberland Sound area of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island). He stayed there on and off until 1902, at which point he became the senior clergyman of the diocese of Moosonee Synod.

  • When

    The photograph was taken in about 1919, in summer.

  • Who

    The Inuit in the photograph are unidentified. The photograph was taken by George E. Mack (1887-1941), captain of the S.S. Nascopie. He commanded the ship from 1905 to 1927 (and later became Superintendent of Bay Transport for the Hudson's Bay Company).