Tag Archives: Baffin Island

Not Cowboys & Indians: Part 1

A fellow blogger asked me recently about “Indian wars” in Canada. And so the next few posts are my replies.  Not a complete listing of wars and skirmishes, and definitely over simplified, but enough to get a decent picture, I hope.

L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Norse long house recreation, L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson.

   Before the 17th century,  there were two main conflicts.  The first was around the year 1006, between the Norsemen and the Skraeling, at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. We know this because Helge Marcus Ingstad and his wife, Anne Stine, uncovered the remnants of a Viking settlement in 1960; and from the sagas of Erik the Red; and from  indigenous accounts from the Inuit Peoples which tell of the Norse interactions and travels to their land. It proves that the Norsemen were here roughly 500 years before Christopher Columbus and John Cabot.

Sir Martin Frobisher

Portrait of Sir Martin Frobisher by Cornelis Ketel, dated 1577. Oil on canvas, 211 cm x 98 cm. Courtesy of the collections of the University of Oxford.

The second was in the late 1570s,  There were skirmishes between English sailors under Martin Frobisher and the Inuit on Baffin Island. Frobisher arranged to have one the Inuit as a guide. Then he sent five men in a boat, telling them to stay a distance away from the Inuit. The crew disobeyed, and were taken captive. Frobisher searched for them, but failed to find them. So he took the guide as a hostage, hoping to make a trade. The men were never seen again, so Frobisher returned home. Inuit legend tells that the men lived among them for a few years until they died attempting to leave Baffin Island in a self-made boat.

My next post will cover skirmishes in the 17th century.


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“Look What I Found!”

English: Title: Lawren Harris at his studio So...

Title: Lawren Harris at his studio Source: Archives of Ontario Date: April 25, 1926 Creator: M.O. Hammond (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second artist in my Group of Seven series is Lawren Stewart Harris.

He was born on October 23, 1885 in Brantford, Ontario.  Harris is the eldest member of the group.  He was born into a wealthy family.

Harris became friends with J.E.H. MacDonald in 1911, and together they formed the Group of Seven.  Harris, and friend Dr. James  MacCallum, funded the construction and use of a studio where artists could work and live either cheaply or for free.

An interesting fact about Harris’ career, is that at one point he stopped signing his paintings, and dating them.  He did this because he wanted the public to judge his work on their own merit, not who it was painted by or when it was painted.

Harris passed away on January 29, 1970, at age 84, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

On May 29, 2001, Harris’ Baffin Island painting was sold for $2.2 million, a record at the time.  His Algoma Hill was stored in the back-room closet in a Toronto hospital for years, and was forgotten until a cleaning staff worker found it!  The hospital sold it to the Sotheby’s auction in 2005 – where it was bought for $1.3 million.

For more information about Lawren Harris, you can go to CBC Archives (don’t forget to view the video), and then Art Country for a gallery of his work, and lastly, there’s the


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The Arctic Charms Explorer

English: A sketch of explorer Vilhjamur Stefan...

A sketch of explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an opportunity to outline the story of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, one of the greatest Arctic explorers, who was born at Arnes, Manitoba, in 1879.  His parents were among the Icelanders who settled in Canada so successfully, although the Stefanssons moved to the United States after Vilhjamur was born.  He was educated there and spent three years at Harvard.

It was on February 20, 1915, that Stefansson set out on an expedition that took him along the coast of Banks Land to Alfred Point, and then to Prince Patrick Island.  He and his assistants found land that had never been seen bofore and claimed it for Canada.s  This expedition was only one of a number of achievements Stefansson  recorded between 1913 and 1918 when he was employed by the Canadian government to explore the Arctic. The five-year expedition above the Arctic Circle was the longest on record and Stefansson and his men lived like Eskimos, depending on hunting for their food.

During his ten winters and thirteen summers in the Arctic, he claimed many islands for Canada, including Borden, Brock, Meighen, and Lougheed.

Stefansson’s great claim to fame, however, was his insistence that the Arctic was habitable by white men, and even hospitable.  He wrote a book called The Friendly Arctic which was heartily criticized by other explorers including Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole.

He not only exploded many myths about the Arctic, but claimed that it was capable of commercial development.  He forecast the use of air transport and submarines for getting over and under icy wastes.  His argument that there was mineral wealth in the Arctic was confirmed not long ago by the discovery of the world’s richest deposit of iron or on Baffin Island.

Want more interesting reading about Stefansson?  I would first suggest reading Eskimos Prove An All Meat Diet
Provides Excellent Health
, an article he wrote for Harper’s Monthly Magazine in November 1935. There is an interesting article on Enchanted Learning website. For even more, go to White Pine Pictures and watch the trailer for their documentary “Arctic Dreamer: The Lonely Quest Of Viljhalmur Stefansson.”


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L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Wayfarer888 does a really good job here to cover Canada’s first known European visitors!

1 Comment

Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Canadian-related Links, First, Native, Reblogged


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