It is easy to overlook Herschel Island – a tiny speck of land just off the Yukon coast – where the Inuvialuit hunter Nuligak once followed the great journeys of caribou, polar bears, and whales. The island lays silently on the margins of geography, entrapped in the footnotes of history, a forgotten place frozen in time.
And yet just over a century ago Herschel Island was a frontier boomtown, branded ‘the Sodom of the Arctic’ by some visitors at the time. A place cohabited by whalers, Inuit, missionaries, and police; a place of contact and conflict; a place where worlds collided and lives were changed forever.
It was on Herschel Island that a young Inuvialuit boy, Nuligak (later named Bob Cockney by the missionaries) came of age-fascinated by Herschel, but equally repelled by the excess of so-called civilization. Through Nuligak’s touching yet tragic life-story expressed through his writings and echoed by his grandchildren’s poignant return to the Island-we are offered a unique view into an often troubling past and a potentially hopeful future.