3:13 p.m., Oct. 7, 2008----The murder of two priests by Eskimos, the hunt for the men who killed them by Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and the subsequent trials of the men who confessed are the subject of Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness, Murder and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic in 1913, a nonfiction book written by McKay Jenkins, the Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English at UD, and published by Random House in 2005.
Jenkins will present a lecture about this clash of cultures in the Arctic from 12:30-1:20 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, in 303 Gore Hall, as part of the “Border Crossings: Culture, Politics and the Arts” series sponsored by the UD Area Studies Program. The talk is co-sponsored by the William S. Carlson International Polar Year Events.
The saga begins with the two priests, Father Jean Baptiste Rouvière and Father Guillaume LeRoux, on a mission to spread Christianity near the Coppermine River north of the Arctic Circle. Both men were unable to speak the native language and unprepared for the harshness of the Arctic. Whether the priests threatened the Eskimos who shot them or whether they were killed for their guns and ammunition is still in question. Jenkins will recount parts of the 3,000-mile journey by Canadian Mounties Denny LaNauze and Wynham Bruce as they followed the trail.
As part of his research, in the summer of 2003, Jenkins traveled to Kugluktuk, the Inuit outpost at the mouth of the Coppermine River, near the site of the murder, where he witnessed firsthand a number of troubles predicted by LaNauze 90 years ago, including public health concerns, widespread poverty and a growing disconnection from traditional ways of Inuit life.