Case Three - Reading Inuktitut

Inuit living in Labrador in the 19th and early 20th century were among the most literate peoples in Canada. The Labrador Inuit were the first Canadian Inuit to write in their own orthography, and the records of eastern Arctic explorers contain many vivid descriptions of reading as an integral part of Inuit life. This case contains many original examples of the books that these early Labrador Inuit read on a daily basis.

In A Shepherd in the Snow, Moravian minister and doctor, S. K. Hutton describes his delight at discovering the ubiquitous bookshelf that could be found in nearly every Labrador Inuit dwelling:

"It is worth our while to look more closely at the little shelf from which the man took down the well-worn book ... The shelf itself is a homemade affair, a little piece of rough wood strung on strings or supported on brackets; the owner may even have tried to give it an ornamental look by sticking on it an edging of coloured paper. On the shelf stand the books, well worn volumes, most of them. The books are not many; in some Eskimo households you might find half-a-dozen; in some, only one or two" (138).

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