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Salvaging on the Coast of Erebus Bay, King William Island: An Analysis of Inuit Interaction with Material from the Franklin Expedition

Dana Thacher



Over the course of the 19th century, many European explorers sailed in search of a Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. These journeys brought them into territory occupied by Inuit, who both traded with the explorers for various goods and interacted with the material that they left behind. This study examines the remains of two ship’s boats from three sites on King William Island (NgLj-2, NgLj-3, and NgLj-8) that were abandoned by members of the Franklin expedition and subsequently found and altered by an Inuit sub-group called the Netsilik to reveal the motivational factors behind their actions. It demonstrates that Inuit used these boats in a manner that reflects (1) their environment, (2) what the material afforded, (3) their past experiences with Europeans and European material, and (4) their intended uses of the material. These alterations ascribed new meaning to the material and redefine the remains of the boats in Erebus Bay as simultaneously Netsilik and European material.


Franklin expedition; archaeology; Netsilik Inuit; King William Island; salvage; Erebus Bay; boat places

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