The New York Eskimo

Written by KENN HARPER

Foreword by Kevin Spacey

History - Expeditions & Discoveries

Trade Paperback, ISBN 978-1-58642-241-7 (1-58642-241-3), 304 pages

$17.00 (CANADIAN $20.00)

September 2017

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Kenn Harper lived in the Arctic for fifty years in Inuit communities in the Baffin region and in Qaanaaq, Greenland. He has worked as a teacher, development officer, historian, linguist, and businessman. He speaks Inuktitut, the Inuit language of the eastern Canadian Arctic, and has written extensively on northern history and language. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and a recipient of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He lives in Ottawa.


A true story from the great age of Arctic exploration of an Inuit boy's struggle for dignity against Robert Peary and the American Museum of Natural History in turn-of-the-century New York City.

Sailing aboard a ship called Hope in 1897, celebrated Arctic explorer Robert Peary entered New York Harbor with peculiar "cargo": Six Polar Inuit intended to serve as live "specimens" at the American Museum of Natural History. Four died within a year. One managed to gain passage back to Greenland. Only the sixth, a boy of six or seven with a precociously solemn smile, remained. His name was Minik.

Although Harper's unflinching narrative provides a much needed corrective to history's understanding of Peary, who was known among the Polar Inuit as "the great tormenter", it is primarily a story about a boy, Minik Wallace, known to the American public as "The New York Eskimo." Orphaned when his father died of pneumonia, Minik never surrendered the hope of going "home," never stopped fighting for the dignity of his father's memory, and never gave up his belief that people would come to his aid if only he could get them to understand.


   • "A tale of scientific arrogance [that] is truly unforgettable." -- Publishers Weekly

   • "The simplicity and resonance of myth. There is not a page in this book without its horrors and its wonders." -- Kevin Spacey

   • "Impeccably researched and gracefully written, this is an essential book." -- Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Air We Breathe

   • "White men have had lots of chances to override the rights of other people with indifference . . . Writing about this state of affairs can be risky . . . Kenn Harper walks this tightrope with grace." -- Patricia Nelson Limerick, past president of the Organization of American Historians, in The New York Times Book Review

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