Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness, Murder, and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic, 1913

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Random House, 2005 - History - 278 pages
3 Reviews
In the winter of 1913, high in the Canadian Arctic, two Catholic priests set out on a dangerous mission to do what no white men had ever attempted: reach a group of utterly isolated Eskimos and convert them. Farther and farther north the priests trudged, through a frigid and bleak country known as the Barren Lands, until they reached the place where the Coppermine River dumps into the Arctic Ocean.

Their fate, and the fate of the people they hoped to teach about God, was about to take a tragic turn. Three days after reaching their destination, the two priests were murdered, their livers removed and eaten. Suddenly, after having survived some ten thousand years with virtually no contact with people outside their remote and forbidding land, the last hunter-gatherers in North America were about to feel the full force of Western justice.

As events unfolded, one of the Arctic’s most tragic stories became one of North America’s strangest and most memorable police investigations and trials. Given the extreme remoteness of the murder site, it took nearly two years for word of the crime to reach civilization. When it did, a remarkable Canadian Mountie named Denny LaNauze led a trio of constables from the Royal Northwest Mounted Police on a three-thousand-mile journey in search of the bodies and the murderers. Simply surviving so long in the Arctic would have given the team a place in history; when they returned to Edmonton with two Eskimos named Sinnisiak and Uluksuk, their work became the stuff of legend.

Newspapers trumpeted the arrival of the Eskimos, touting them as two relics of the Stone Age. During the astonishing trial that followed, the Eskimos were acquitted, despite the seating of an all-white jury. So outraged was the judge that he demanded both a retrial and a change of venue, with himself again presiding. The second time around, predictably, the Eskimos were convicted.

A near perfect parable of late colonialism, as well as a rich exploration of the differences between European Christianity and Eskimo mysticism, Jenkins’s Bloody Falls of the Coppermine possesses the intensity of true crime and the romance of wilderness adventure. Here is a clear-eyed look at what happens when two utterly alien cultures come into violent conflict.

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User Review  - Marlene-NL - LibraryThing

Finished yesterday. Overall a good read. I felt very bad for the Eskimo's. Why do those religion people think they have to go there, interfere in their lives? It was even a battle between religions ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bnbookgirl - LibraryThing

A very interesting account of a little known event in history, the murder of two priests in the Arctic, the search for the killers, and the subsequent trial. Jenkin's provides great research and ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
15
Section 3
29
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

MCKAY JENKINS holds degrees from Amherst, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Princeton, where he received a Ph.D. in English. He is also the author of The Last Ridge and The White Death, and the editor of The Peter Matthiessen Reader. The Tilghman Professor of English and Journalism at the University of Delaware, Jenkins lives with his wife and two children in Baltimore.

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