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Apostle to the Inuit

Apostle to the Inuit: The Journals and Ethnographic Notes of Edmund James Peck - The Baffin Years, 1894-1905

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 420
  • Book Info
    Apostle to the Inuit
    Book Description:

    Apostle to the Inuitpresents the journals and ethnographical notes of Reverend Edmund James Peck, an Anglican missionary who opened the first mission among the Inuit of Baffin Island in 1894. He stayed until 1905, and by that time, had firmly established Christianity in the North. He became known to the Inuit as 'Uqammaq,' the one who talks well. His colleagues knew him as 'Apostle among the Eskimo.'

    Peck's diaries of the period focus on his missionary work and the adoption of Christianity by the Inuit and provide an impressive account of the daily life and work of the early missionaries in Baffin Island. His ethnographic data was collected at the request of famed anthropologist Franz Boas in 1897. Peck conducted extensive research on Inuit oral traditions and presents several detailed verbatim accounts of shamanic traditions and practises. This work continues to be of great value for a better understanding of Inuit culture and history but was never before published.

    Apostle to the Inuitdemonstrates how a Christian missionary who was bitterly opposed to shamanism, became a devoted researcher of this complex tradition. Editors Frédéric Laugrand, Jarich Oosten, and François Trudel highlight the relationships between Europeans and Inuit and discuss central issues facing native peoples and missionaries in the North. They also present a selection of fascinating drawings made by Inuit at the request of Peck, which illustrate Inuit life on Baffin Island at the turn of the twentieth century. The book offers important new data on the history of the missions among the Inuit as well as on the history of Inuit religion and the anthropological study of Inuit oral traditions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7091-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chronology
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Map – Cumberland Sound
    (pp. xiii-1)
  6. 1 The Founding of an Anglican Mission on Baffin Island, 1894—1905
    (pp. 3-30)

    In this book we present the journals and ethnographic notes of the Anglican missionary the Reverend Edmund James Peck (1850-1924), which he compiled during his stay among the Inuit of Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island, between 1894 and 1905.¹ With Joseph C. Parker, Peck opened the first Anglican mission on Blacklead Island (Uumanarjuaq), a whaling station belonging to Crawford Noble. He introduced the Anglican faith to the Inuit of northeastern Canada and played an important role in increasing literacy among the Inuit by developing and spreading syllabic writing in northern Quebec and on Baffin Island.

    Peck’s importance was widely acknowledged during...


    • 2 Eleven Years among the Inuit of Cumberland sound, 1894—1905
      (pp. 33-49)

      During his residence in Cumberland Sound, Peck maintained a journal that gave an account of daily events. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) required an annual letter summarizing these events from the missionaries. Each year it was sent to the committee of the CMS so that they could assess the progress of the mission. Brief extracts of it were published in CMS publications such as theChurch Missionary Record,theChurch Missionary Intelligencer, and theChurch Missionary Gleaner.

      All journals were handwritten. On the journals from 1894 until 1898 is written ‘Extracts from Journal of the Rev. EJ. Peck.’ The journals...

    • 3 Journal, 1894—1895
      (pp. 50-65)

      Saturday November 3,1894.

      A whale caught today. Thank God for this. Both people and dogs are starving condition and this monster of the deep will more than the wants of all. We also hope to have a supply of whale skin, is considered quite a dainty.

      Monday November 5.

      People busy cutting up whale. The total length of this huge creature is about fifty feet; height fully fifteen, and breadth of tail twelve. The thickness of blubber in some places measured fully twelve inches. Both dogs and people are now feasting away to their heart’s content they seem quite elated...

    • 4 Journal, 1895—1896
      (pp. 66-85)

      Saturday September 28,1895.

      Mr.Noble’s brig the ‘Alert’ left today. Many messages have been written to loved ones and God, we believe, will bring the little vessel home in safety with news from a far country. How well that we are in living contact with that Immortal Friend to whom time and place are nothing.

      Sunday September 29.

      Had very full meetings in our little tabernacle, and in greater comfort than we have hitherto experienced. Kind friends sent out quite a nice supply of canvas so we have been able to line our church and make it quite snug and warm....

    • 5 Journal, 1897—1898
      (pp. 86-105)

      Monday August 23, 1897.

      Arrived at Blacklead Island. Found my friend Mr. Sampson quite well. He speaks of the work as encouraging. We both praised God for His Goodness, and sought in united prayer His blessing for the future.

      Tuesday August 24.

      Commenced preparing a place for the house which Mr. Noble kindly allowed us to take out in his vessel. It is hard to find a suitable site on this barren island as the rocks are so uneven.

      From Wednesday August 25 to Sunday August 29.

      Busy from morning till night erecting our house. We have many puzzling problems...

    • 6 Letter, 1899
      (pp. 106-112)
      E.J. Peck

      Peck left Blacklead Island in October 1899. Sampson and Bilby took charge of the mission. There is no journal by Peck available from the fall of 1898 to the fall of 1899 in the General Synod Archives or in the National Archives of Canada. We do not know why this journal is absent from the archives, but as Lewis (1904) used it extensively in his biography of Peck, we have inserted here the most interesting entries for that period. We have also inserted a letter by Peck concerning the missionary work in 1899. Peck may have taken this letter with...

    • 7 Journal, 1900—1901
      (pp. 113-149)

      Return Journey to Cumberland Sound, 1900

      Thursday June 28th.

      Left Reading in company with my dear wife for Seamington, near which place my brother-in-law lives. How full my heart felt as I left the dear little ones. But Jesus is our stay and comfort.

      Friday June 29th.

      Spent a blessed day with Mrs. Peck. God was our stay and comfort. Parted from our loved ones at Seamington for Rugby so as to catch the mail for Aberdeen. What a wrench. What a laceration of the deepest cords of feeling. But why repine! He who gives the cross will give grace...

    • 8 Journal, 1902
      (pp. 150-172)

      As Peck’s diary for 1902 is incomplete, we first provide some additional texts by Peck that are quoted by Lewis (1904: 315-20) and then Peck’s notes on his trip to Signia.

      Sunday, February 2.

      A great day. Nongoarluk, a poor woman who has long been a great sufferer, desired to be baptized. She has learnt to read, and is, I hope, moved by the Holy Spirit to take this important step. She was, therefore, in the presence of some of her friends, admitted into the visible Church by baptism. Nothing, truly, in her surroundings to call forth or gladness her...

    • 9 Journal, 1903—1904
      (pp. 173-246)

      Journal of the Reverend E. J. Peck from July 1 to October 15,1904¹

      1903 [1]

      Take, O Holy Spirit, these records, (if in accordance with Thy will), and use them for the glory of the Father, and the Son. Amen.

      [4-1A] Records of fourth expedition to Cumberland Sound. From July 1st 1903 to (D. V.) During stay at home much troubled in spirit by the failure, humanly speaking, to extend, or rather form plans to extend Christ’s work in the Arctic region. These seeming failures, however, are not to be looked upon as final issues, but rather, through the power...

    • 10 Journal, 1904—1905
      (pp. 247-282)

      Journal of the Reverend E. J. Peck from October 16th, 1904 October 7th, 1905¹

      [2]Sunday October 16,1904.

      Thirty-one degrees of frost [this morning]. Nearly all the men were away hunting in the morning, but we had a good attendance of women. Tooloakjuak addressed the congregation in the evening. People were very attentive.

      Thursday October 20.

      Set apart this day for mutual intercession and study of the Scriptures. desire to face this trying year in the power of the Holy Spirit. We at the close of day much refreshed in soul. We have earnestly asked God for guidance as regards our...


    • 11 The Ethnography of Peck
      (pp. 285-296)

      In general, the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) were not much interested in shamanism or other aspects of Inuit beliefs and practices. In Bilby’s words (1923: 200), they were ‘a fantastic body of superstition’ Most CMS missionaries focused on translating the Scriptures spreading the Word of God.¹ Peck and Bilby were exceptional in their interest in collecting information about Inuit shamanic traditions. Bilby devoted considerable attention to shamanic practices inAmong Unknown Eskimos,published in 1923. But Bilby’s texts were usually less precise than and intended for a more general public. Peck’s texts are more ethnographic in style...

    • 12 The Eskimos, Their Beliefs, Characteristic, and Needs
      (pp. 297-307)

      What interest, yea, we might almost say, what romance surrounds their lives. Their early history, how obscure. Their ice-bound homes, how dreary. Their brave struggle for existence, how pathetic. And when we glance over the thrilling records of Arctic explorers, the Eskimos occupy, in not a few instances, an important place in helping open out the secrets of the Polar wastes: Davis, Ross, Parry, Kane and others speak of them and gladly recognize their help. The touching evidences of Sir John Franklin’s [sad] fate were first gathered by Dr. Rae from their hands. Admiral Peary would, we may be sure,...

    • 13 Describing ‘Heathen Customs’
      (pp. 308-336)

      ‘Eskimo Heathen Customs’ gives a rich account of shamanic beliefs practices. It discusses variety of topics such as abstainings, the Sedna feast, and the various practices of theangakkuitor shamans.

      The first part of the document discusses sickness and various ways of dealing with it. The cause of sickness was usually perceived as a transgression of an obligation to abstain from a prohibited practice. If this occurred, the offender became sick and might even die unless theangakkuq- or in the words of Peck, the conjuror - intervened. The text many rules that had to be observed -...

    • 14 Eve Nooeyout
      (pp. 337-356)

      Eve Nooeyout was one of Peck’s earliest converts in Blacklead Island. assisted him at the mission and provided him with much information. She gave an extensive account of the disaster on the ice at Blacklead Island in 1904 (chapter 9, page 213), and she may have been the author the text of ‘Eskimo Heathen Customs.’ Her name also occurs in the of helping spirits compiled by Peck (no. 224). After Peck left Blacklead Island she continued to write letters to him.

      The text reproduced in the ethnographic notes in the first part of this chapter provides an account of the...

    • 15 Oosotapik
      (pp. 357-381)

      Oosotapik’s account opens with a version of the Sedna story.¹ We do not know what question Peck posed to her, but we can expect that he asked to explain who Sedna was and that she answered him with the story. Her story is very detailed and gives a number of details we do not find in other versions. In most stories three types of animals originate from the finger of Sedna, corresponding to the three joints of fingers. In this version four types of sea animals are generated. Peck gives a literal translation of the story. To facilitate reading we...

    • 16 Qoojessie
      (pp. 382-396)

      This chapter deals almost exclusively with shamanism(angakkuuniq).Qoojessie and Oosotapik seem to have been the two informants who most knowledgeable about shamanism. Qoojessie covers many topics such as shamanic healing (including the necessity to confess transgressions and the gifts to the shaman), shamanic hunting and the procuring of game animals, shamanic incantations, the origin of shamanism, and the myth of Atungat. The explicit reference to incantations for a person being driven away on an ice floe suggests that she may have been the author of ‘Eskimo Heathen Customs,’ where this topic also plays an important part. Qoojessie explained the...

    • 17 The Tuurngait
      (pp. 397-418)

      The list of 347tuurngaitis preserved in the General Synod Archives under the heading ‘Eskimo Mythology and Customs.’ The booklet contains an introduction of about twenty-five pages and the list oftuurngait. Both documents are hand-written and form a small book of seventynine pages divided in two parts. In the present volume, we have numbered thetuurngaitto facilitate the discussion. The numbers refer to position in the list by Peck. The complete list has also been published in Inuktitut, with a few drawings from both elders and young Inuit, inRepresenting Tuurngait(see Laugrand, Oosten, and Trudel 2000)....

    • 18 List of Spirits by the Missionary E.J. Peck
      (pp. 419-468)

      The list has been copied from the original manuscript conserved in the Peck Papers (M56-1) of the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives under the heading ‘Eskimo Mythology and Customs.’¹ We present the document almost completely in its original form. Three of the columns in the list follow Peck’s categories (name, residence, appearance). Two columns have been added, the first one to number each spirit and the third one to give the equivalent in modern orthography. Some of thetuurngaitcan be identified through the translations provided by Alexina Kublu, Julia Shaimaijuq, and Louis-Jacques Dorais, or by a reference...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 469-484)
  10. References
    (pp. 485-494)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 495-498)