When George Qulaut saw a photo of his late grandmother at Calgary’s Glenbow museum last year, it was a powerful moment.
“It was quite emotional for me and my family,” he says.
Qulaut’s grandmother died more than 60 years ago, but her image lives on in an exhibit travelling across Nunavut this fall.
The project, called Qatiktalik (Fullerton Harbour) Photo Narrative Project, includes more than 1,000 photos taken by a police officer and his wife who lived in the North from 1903 to 1909.
Qulaut says he was keen to convince the Glenbow to bring the exhibit North and show the photos to people who might recognize family members, so their stories could be recorded.
“What’s really special is there are many, many portraits taken of the people in the area,” says Joanne Schmidt, acting curator of Indigenous studies at the Glenbow. “There’s some really, really amazing clear photographs of people.”
The photos, taken by Geraldine and Douglas Moodie, show Inuit hunting, at summer outpost camps, and on whaling boats.
More than a century ago, Douglas Moodie was stationed with the Northwest Mounted Police in Fullerton Harbour, Nunavut, near Chesterfield Inlet, and in Churchill, Man. Schmidt said he was there to “establish police presence in Hudson Bay.” The photos also show the couple’s travels to Quebec and Labrador.
There’s some really, really amazing clear photographs of people.– Joanne Schmidt, Glenbow
The Moodie’s great-grandchildren donated the photos to the museum in 2015.
According to Schmidt, Geraldine kept detailed diaries and notes, so the Glenbow also has some names and information about the people — but they’d like to know more.
“Maybe some stories about those people or more information about their families or where they came from, that would be really special,” said Schmidt.
Later this month and into October, she will travel to Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet and Churchill, Man., to show the photos to community members.
Gathering a written history
Schmidt hopes to record interviews with locals who knew, or are related to, the subjects in the photos.
For Qulaut, that’s the most important part of the project.
Qulaut, a former Nunavut politician from Igloolik, has known photos of his grandmother existed since the early 1990s, when he saw one in a northern magazine.
“I immediately recognized my grandmother. I had known her when I was a child. I recognized her eyes.”
He says his grandmother was mute, and though he was only a baby when she died, the 64-year-old remembers communicating with her.
“She loved children very, very much. She was a very interesting person.”
Qulaut says the touring exhibit is a chance for people to recognize their own relatives, before they pass on.
“I’m glad they’re now doing it,” he says.
“We don’t have a written history, all we have is oral history and it would have a huge impact on the younger generation, who they are, where they’re from.”
He’s encouraging other organizations that may have photos from the North long ago, like missionaries and the RCMP, to also reach out and work to identify Northerners.
“It’s important for the younger generation to see their own great grandparents. I feel these are very valuable.”
Schmidt says she’ll bring hundreds of images on her travels North. With funding from Library and Archives Canada and the Glenbow, she also has copies for the communities to keep.
“We thought that the best thing to do would be to give those back to the communities where these people are from,” she said.
“I’m so happy that people will be able to have these pictures.”
Schmidt will show her first slideshow at the Iqaluit visitors’ centre on Sept. 26. Her tour will end in Churchill, Man., in October.
With files from Eva Michael
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.