- Short-listed, The Hill Times Best Books of the Year 2023
One of the few biographies of an Inuk man from the 19th Century—separated from his family, community, and language—finding his place in history.
Augustine Tataneuck was an Inuk man born near the beginning of the 19th century on the northwestern coast of Hudson Bay. Between 1812 and 1834, his family sent him to Churchill, Manitoba, to live and work among strangers, where he could escape the harsh Arctic climate and earn a living in the burgeoning fur trade. He was perhaps the first Inuk man employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company as a labourer, and he also worked as an interpreter on John Franklin’s two overland expeditions in search of the northwest passage.
Tataneuck’s life was shaped by the inescapable, harsh environments he lived within, and he was an important, but not widely recognized, player in the struggle for the possession of northwest North America waged by Britain, Russia, and the United States. He left no diaries or letters.
Using the Hudson’s Bay Company’s journals and historical archives, historian Renee Fossett has pieced together a compelling biography of Augustine and the historical times he lived through: climate disasters, lethal disease episodes, and political upheavals on an international scale.
While The Life and Times of Augustine Tataneuck is a captivating portrait of an Inuk man who lived an extraordinary life, it also is an arresting, unique glimpse into the North as it was in the 19th century and into the lives of trappers, translators, and labourers who are seldom written about and often absent in the historical record.
"'Augustine Tataneuck never became a house- hold name, in Canada or anywhere else,' Fossett writes in her crisp, accessible prose. But his was a remarkable life, at a remarkable moment in history. Fossett has captured all of that and more in an impressively researched, thoughtfully organized, and essential work: a triumph of biography." —Literary Review of Canada
"Fans of Arctic history will find this book a highly engaging read.” —Canada's History Magazine
"Renee Fossett's careful research ensures that the life of Augustine Tataneuck, Inuk interpreter and guide, will be remembered, with respect." —Julie Rak, co-editor of Life Among the Qallunaat
"Fossett has done a formidable job." —Winnipeg Free Press