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Author Topic: Louie Kamookak - RIP  (Read 1591 times)

Jim Hunt

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Louie Kamookak - RIP
« on: April 15, 2018, 12:04:46 PM »
According to Uphere Magazine in 2014:

In Ottawa, PM Stephen Harper made an announcement: one of the wrecks of the long-lost Franklin expedition had been found near Hat Island, about 180 km from Gjoa Haven, after 166 years of searching...

And then someone noticed Harper hadn’t credited any local Inuit in his official statement, and suddenly Louie Kamookak, a high school special ed. teacher, found himself in the spotlight. Hadn’t Kamookak been researching and guiding search parties—without government support—along the route of the Franklin expedition for decades? Hadn’t he consulted with Parks Canada workers, who found the ship, for several years? If, as all the headlines read, Inuit had known where the ship was all along, why did it take 166 years to find it? If any living Inuk knew, it would be Kamookak.

Now according to The (London) Economist (and probably paywalled):

Louie Kamookak died on March 22nd. The Inuit oral historian and finder of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships was 58.

According to The (Manchester) Guardian:

Growing up in the Canadian Arctic, Louie Kamookak was captivated by tales from Inuit elders of rusted utensils strewn along a remote shore and mysterious white men using ropes to haul a large ship through the ice.

Years later, he realized there was a striking resemblance between the stories of his youth and historical accounts of the ill-fated expedition of Sir John Franklin, whose two ships – and 129 crew members – vanished while searching for the North-West Passage in the 1840s.

Kamookak compared Inuit stories with explorers’ logbooks and journals to develop a working theory of where the ships might be. He shared these thoughts with Canadian archaeologists, and was eventually vindicated in a spectacular fashion when, using his directions, divers located the HMS Erebus in 2014, and two years later, the Terror.

Both ships were found exactly where Kamookak had predicted.

As The Economist put it:

Instinct, as much as learning, led him to guide the Canadian government searchers to Erebus in 2014 and, two years later, to Terror. The official team had no idea for a while which the first ship was. With a huge grin, he knew at once: Erebus.

By this time he was himself an elder, passing on stories to the young in his deep, emphatic way, always word for word the same. Few things delighted him more than taking students out on the land in the summer, squeezing his bulky frame into a tent, eating dried fish and fried bannock (with Cheez Whiz as a favourite extra), recounting the lore of the past. Some mysteries had been solved but others remained, none more powerful than that burial of the shaman. If it was indeed Franklin it might bring fame to Gjoa Haven, and jobs for the young. It would also allow Franklin’s body to be returned to England, honouring him as an ancestor should be. He always imagined that he had been a good man.

For all his searching, he had never found the spot. But possibly his great-grandmother had. On that same journey when she had found the silver dinner knife, she had seen a mound that was the length of a human, and a stone with strange markings. The others would not go near it, or talk of it. Only her fading memory remained, in words that were blown away across the tundra. For him they were as tangible and forceful as any printed page, in any bound book.

RIP Louie.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein


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Re: Louie Kamookak - RIP
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 03:39:02 PM »
The local OAS, Ontario Archaeological Society, branch is holding a meeting next week featuring one of the archaeologists from the Erebus find. If my health holds out I'll attend and report back with what I've learned.
At the conventions I often find myself interacting more with First Nation Elders than many of the presenters. The scientists have written their discoveries down. The Elders require a level of trust to build before they reveal their oral secrets.



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Re: Louie Kamookak - RIP
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 07:25:10 PM »
Thanks for posting this, Jim.
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Re: Louie Kamookak - RIP
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 09:41:36 PM »
Why does western / 'scientific, modern' 'civilization' seem so unable to recognise and give credit to wisdom from other traditions - especially oral traditions...? Is our hubris so deeply engrained? I hope not...
Looking forward to your feedback on that meeting, Terry.
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