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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Reader's Diary #1381- Duncan Pryde: Nunaga

When you're reading nonfiction and you notice there's a photo insert, do you skip ahead and look at the photos first? I almost always do. This time however, I missed that there was a photo insert ahead until I'd read about 50 pages or so. It was almost jarring. The man I pictured was older, at least my age. The man in these photos was in in his young 20s. And I have to say that it skewed the remainder of my reading.

Nunaga is the memoir of  an ex-Hudson's Bay Company man who'd lived in a few Nunavut communities (then still part of the Northwest Territories) before getting involved in politics. Venturing to northern Canada by way of Ontario, originally from Scotland, Pryde was then 21 and it was 1958. In 1971, when this book was first published, Pryde would have been 34. Still younger than I am right now.

I don't mean to be ageist, and I think people tended to mature a little faster in those days, but I found it very difficult to take some of Pryde's confidence in his assumptions seriously. Though I've now been in the north longer than Pryde was at that point, I won't deny that he more fully immersed himself into Inuit culture than I ever have and therefore he'd certainly be more knowledgeable than I. But still, the parts where he summarized and generalized Inuit culture I still took with what I hope to be a healthy grain of salt. Though he claims he was fully welcomed and accepted, I had to keep in mind that he was still a white man from Scotland. And at such a young age, perhaps a little more self-assured than he should have been or would have been later in life.

Despite the skepticism, I still quite enjoyed Pryde's account. It had northern adventure and depicted a time that will never come again. Plus, despite the over-confidence I spoke of above, I quite enjoyed his voice. One attribute that he ascribes to the Inuit people was pragmatism and its an attribute he seemed to admire above all else. Thus, he uses such an approach to his storytelling and this makes for plenty of moments involving hunting, trapping,  dog-sledding, and even sexual relations, that will be uncomfortable for many 2016 readers (especially Western, white readers). Nonetheless I appreciated that it was a consistent voice.

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