Elatu’s Funeral: A Glimpse of Inughuit-American Relations on Robert E. Peary’s 1898–1902 Expedition

  • Genevieve LeMoine
Keywords: Inughuit, Robert E. Peary, funeral, Matthew Henson, Fort Conger, Quttinirpaaq National Park, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut


In January 1901, American explorer Robert E. Peary was an active participant in an Inughuit funeral following the death of a young woman at his base at Fort Conger, Ellesmere Island. Peary’s unpublished account of the funeral is the most detailed description of an Inughuit funeral before the introduction of Christianity and agrees in most details with other accounts of funerals from the region. Additionally, along with Peary’s and Dr. T.S. Dedrick’s journal entries from that time, the funeral and the circumstances surrounding it provide insight into the complex relationships between Peary, his American companions, Dedrick and Matthew Henson, and the Inughuit men and women who overwintered with them at Fort Conger.