Houston, a young Canadian artist, was on a painting trip to Moose Factory at the south end of Hudson Bay in 1948. A bush pilot friend burst into his room with the news that a medical emergency meant that he could get a free flight into the heart of the eastern Arctic. When they arrived, Houston found himself surrounded by smiling Inuit - short, strong, utterly confident people who wore sealskins and spoke no English. By the time the medical plane was about to leave, Houston had decided to stay.
It was a decision that changed his life. For more than a dozen years he spent his time being educated by those kindly, patient people who became his friends. He slept in their igloos, ate raw fish and seal meat, wore skin clothing, traveled by dog team, hunted walrus, and learned how to build a snowhouse. While doing so, he helped change the North.
Impressed by the natural artistic skills of the people, he encouraged the development of outlets in the South for their work, and helped establish co-ops in the North for Inuit carvers and print-makers. Since that time, after trapping as a way of gaining income began to disappear, Inuit art has brought millions of dollars to its creators, and has affected art galleries around the world.
In the one hundred short chapters that make up this book, James Houston tells about his fascinating and often hilarious adventures in a very different culture. He tells of raising a familyin the Arctic (his sons bursting into tears on being told they were not really Inuit), and of the failure to introduce soccer to a people who refused to look on other humans as opponents. He tells about great characters - Inuit and kallunait - who populated the Arctic in these long-lost days when, as a Government go-between, he found himself grappling with Northern customs that broke Southern laws.
A remarkable, modestly told story by a truly remarkable man.
|Publisher:||McClelland & Stewart Ltd.|
About the Author
Among his writings, The White Dawn has been published in thirty-one editions worldwide. That novel and Ghost Fox, Spirit Wrestler, and Eagle Song have been selections of major book clubs. Running West won the Canadian Authors Association Book of the Year Award, while his novel, The Ice Master, also appeared in Spanish translation. Author and illustrator of seventeen children’s books, he is the only person to have won the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award three times. His most recent children’s book is Fire and Ice, about creating glass sculpture. He has also written screenplays for feature films, has created numerous documentaries and continues to lecture widely.
His drawings, paintings, and sculptures are internationally represented in many museums including the St. Petersburg Museum in Florida and private collections including that of the King of Saudi Arabia. He is Master Designer for Steuben Glass, with one hundred and ten pieces to his credit. He created theseventy-foot-high central sculpture in the Glenbow-Alberta Art Museum. In 1999 Canada’s National Museum of Civilization devoted its show “Iqqaipaa” to the art of the Arctic in James Houston’s time, and he played a central role in organizing the exhibition.
He and his wife Alice divided their time between a colonial privateer’s house in New England and a writing retreat on the bank of a salmon river on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, where he has written a large part of his trilogy of memoirs, Confessions of an Igloo Dweller, Zigzag, and Hideaway.
James Houston passed away in 2005 at the age of 83.