Painted Wooden Plaques from the MacFarlane Collection: The Earliest Inuvialuit Graphic Art

  • David Morrison
Keywords: Mackenzie Inuit, Inuvialuit, Inuit art, Inuit history, Hudson’s Bay Company, Smithsonian Institution, Roderick MacFarlane, Émile Petitot, Fort Anderson, fur trade


In the 1860s, fur trader Roderick MacFarlane amassed a large ethnographic and zoological collection from the western Canadian Arctic, mainly on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. Among the many items collected are eight hand-sized wooden plaques bearing incised polychrome scenes of traditional Inuvialuit (Mackenzie Inuit) life. The earliest significant examples of Inuvialuit graphic art in existence, these pieces provide a unique perspective on Inuvialuit culture and history at a critical period: during the first generation of sustained European contact.