Public talk at Monash University’s Indigenous Studies Centre

Dr Scott Heyes and Dr Kristofer Helgen (Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide) will give an invited talk this week (13 September, 2017) at Monash University’s Indigenous Studies Centre in Melbourne.

hunting tools

An Arctic Landscape Revisited: Re-discovering a 130-year old Smithsonian Collection and making it relevant to today’s Arctic peoples

In this presentation we look at a story that started in 1882 when a talented young Smithsonian naturalist called Lucien McShan Turner took up residence at a tiny Hudson’s Bay Company trading post called Fort Chimo in the Eastern Canadian Arctic region of Ungava Bay. Representing the first International Polar Year, his official task was to record the weather at this station for the US Signal Army Corp. In his spare time, Turner earnestly collected physical and material cultural items belonging to the Inuit and Innu people of the region, even taking some of the earliest photos of them and their landscapes. These items were shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C and have been studied and reviewed by researchers ever since.

Our story begins with the “discovery” of a manuscript written on Arctic mammals by Turner, which was seemingly unknown to curators at the Smithsonian. We discuss in this talk how the rediscovery of this manuscript led to a re-knowing of Turner’s Collection, and how we extended Turner’s original manuscript to become a book (Mammals of Ungava and Labrador, Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2014) that incorporated Inuit and Innu perspectives on mammals in contemporary times, as well as our own accounts and understandings of human-animal interactions in the Arctic. Our presentation will feature some of Turner’s characteristic ways for describing mammals, along with legendary stories of mammals that were relayed to us by Inuit hunters while undertaking fieldwork in the Arctic where Turner was once based.