Cover image for Walking on the land
Walking on the land
Mowat, Farley.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
South Royalton, Vt. : Steerforth Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
208 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published : Key Porter Books, 2000.

Includes index.
Reading Level:
1050 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 8.5 14 Quiz: 24838 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E99.E7 M88 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E99.E7 M88 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E99.E7 M88 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E99.E7 M88 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E99.E7 M88 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Using one of his own trips through the Eastern Arctic as a starting point, Farley Mowat interweaves the stories of the Barren Ground Inuit with stunning, lyrical descriptions of the Northern landscape.

With great beauty and terrible anguish, Mowat traces the history of the Inuit, revealing how the arrival of the Kablunait -- white man -- in the early part of the century and the subsequent obliteration of the caribou herds combined to unleash a series of famines and epidemics that virtually wiped out the Barren Ground Inuit population.

Full of larger-than-life characters -- old-time Hudson's Bay company men, eccentric priests, wild bush pilots and well-meaning interlopers -- Walking on the Land is an unforgettable account by one of Canada's most committed and impassioned voices.

Author Notes

Farley Mowat's nearly forty books have sold millions of copies & have been published in more than twenty languages. His books include "Never Cry Wolf", "Sea of Slaughter", "The Farfarers", "People of the Deer", "The Dog Who Wouldn't Be", "The Desperate People", & "Ordeal by Ice".

(Publisher Provided) He is one of Canada's most popular & distinguished writers. Through the past five decades he has recorded his experiences in several highly successful books for both adults & children. He has received scores of literary awards & his works have been translated into more than 30 languages.

(Publisher Provided) Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on May 12, 1921. During World War II, he fought in the Allied invasion of Sicily. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of Captain. He studied at the University of Toronto.

Farley was an author, activist, and environmentalist. He wrote more than 40 books during his lifetime including both novels and non-fiction works. His books include Never Cry Wolf, My Father's Son, Otherwise, and Eastern Passage. He received several awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal in 1956, the Governor General's Award for Lost in the Barrens in 1956, the Leacock Medal for Humour for The Boat Who Wouldn't Float in 1970, and the Order of Canada in 1981. He died on May 6, 2014 at the age of 92.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

One of Canada's best-known writers reworks his People of the Deer (1952) and The Desperate People (1960), adding new material. Those books, which depicted the plight of an Inuit band called the Ihalmiut ("people from beyond"), displeased officials responsible for the Arctic, some of whom sarcastically referred to Mowat as "Hardly Knowit." The new book primarily covers Mowat's 1958 plane-and-canoe trip to the district then named Keewatin, which the Ihalmiut more descriptively called the Barren Lands. Something terrible had befallen the Ihalmiut the previous winter, leaving only some dozens of survivors, one of whom, Kikik, was charged with murder. Looking into the disaster involved Mowat alighting from contraptions of dubious airworthiness at outposts scattered across the vast, flat, water-coursed land. In the recounting, he straightway notes Kikik's acquittal, then subtly integrates her case into a pithily expressive travelogue. At its center is a canoe voyage to Inuit camps with Father Choque, a Catholic missionary with a "a heron-like alertness about him" and his own mystery to investigate, which concerned a devoted but undiplomatic brother cleric. The tragedy of the proselytizing Father Buliard encapsulates Mowat's contextual theme of the corruption of the Ihalmiut's hunting culture by the encroachment of white society. Yet Mowat is too perceptive to cut his story to fit the conventions of a cultural clash. Rather than using them functionally, he individuates all the characters of his story. His skillful writing, familiar to his many fans, should also engage new readers as well as anyone concerned about indigenous peoples. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Walking on the Land, a third chronicle of the embattled, exiled Ihalmiut people of the Arctic, Farley Mowat (Never Cry Wolf) aims "to help ensure that man's inhumane acts are not expunged from memory, thereby easing the way for repetitions of such horrors." After reading Mowat's The Desperate People, an Ihalmiut woman raised after the 1957 removal of her people from their home sought him out for further information, resulting in this account of the Ihalmiut's tragic plight. His earlier reports of Ihalmiut culture and the "unwitting genocide" waged on them by government, commerce and missionaries were received with accusations of falsity, denials that the Ihalmiut existed or dismissive silence. Mowat's typically lively, sensitive, plainspoken book traces responsible and victimized parties through devastating misunderstanding and mistreatment. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Canadian naturalist and Arctic specialist Mowat started his career 50 years ago with the publication of People of the Deer, which described the lives and customs of the Ihalmuit (Barren Ground Inuit), with whom he lived for two years, and also helped bring attention to their "unwitting genocide" by establishment institutions. Some 30 years later, Mowat wrote another influential book, Sea of Slaughter, which focused on environmental destruction along the northern Atlantic seaboard. Now, in this passionate account, the prolific author of 30 books revisits the controversial subject and place and learns that his past predictions of tribal decline have been fulfilled as he again witnesses disease, starvation, and violence. Known for his extraordinary storytelling, Mowat presents a multigenerational viewpoint through his accounts of Hudson Bay men, missionaries, and other Arctic people as he subtly describes the desolate landscape. Recommended for public libraries. Margaret W. Norton, Oak Park, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Prologue On a summer's day in 1999 our aging Labrador announced the arrival of a visitor to our Cape Breton farmstead. Nothing unusual in that. My wife, Claire, and I receive many visitors. However, this was an exceptional one. The small, solidly built, black-haired woman with darting eyes and gleaming smile who stepped tentatively out of a rental car was from another time. She was Elisapee - a name given to her at three years of age when she was thrust into our world from another, older one. There she had been called Nurrahaq. Her people were Inuit whom I had met in 1947 and again in 1948. The Ihalmiut - People from Beyond - were inland dwellers with no knowledge of the sea and little of modern times. Nurrahaq was the youngest daughter of a woman named Kikik, whose tormented latter days impinged on my days for more than a decade. Although Elisapee grew up on the fringes of the ancient Ihalmiut lands, and in the company of other Inuit, she was nevertheless walled off from her origins because the few remaining adult Ihalmiut believed the phantoms of the past could best be dealt with by consigning memory of them to limbo. When Elisapee Karetak - her married name - was in her early thirties, she felt compelled to enter that place of shadows but was advised, "Leave it alone. It is all over now. It is nothing to you now." Elisapee might have obeyed these injunctions. Nurrahaq would not. So Kikik's child embarked on a search "for understanding of what I was ... of who my people were ... of why I had no past." Severe disapproval from her compatriots and peers frustrated her early efforts. Yet she persisted with such intensity as to alienate her from her own community and threaten her health. It was at this juncture that a worn copy of a book of mine, The Desperate People , published in 1959, made its way to the Arctic village of Arviat (formerly Eskimo Point), where Elisapee was living. In it she found an account of the ordeals endured by her mother and her people, and something of their history. Heartened by this discovery, she eventually travelled from her home on the western coast of Hudson Bay to mine on the eastern seaboard of North America, determined to add whatever I might know to her knowledge of a forgotten and forbidden past. Many others assisted Elisapee in her search. Foremost among them was Ole Gjerstad, a documentary film-maker from Montreal who became Elisapee's champion. Such was his capacity for sympathetic mediation that the situation in Arviat underwent a sea change and the barriers between past and present were overthrown. Elisapee and the other surviving Ihalmiut became one again, and together they resurrected memories of other times, not as tales of suffering and guilt but as testimony to the indomitable spirit of their kind. Elisapee and Gjerstad co-produced a docudrama about her mother's life.1 Much new information came to light during the filming and one day Elisapee suggested that, in view of these discoveries, I should consider retelling the tale in print. I demurred at first. After all, I had written two books about and around the subject. The first of these, People of the Deer, published in 1952, was a cri du coeur on behalf of the Ihalmiut, the last of whom were then living - and dying - in the Barren Lands of central Keewatin District. It was also an account of their ancestral way of life and, especially, of their neglect and abuse by northern agents of government, by various commercial interests, and by missionaries - the combined results of which had amounted to something akin to unwitting genocide. Not surprisingly the book came under furious assault from the established orders. Some claimed it was no more than a tissue of malicious falsehoods. Others, including the federal cabinet minister responsible for northern natives, insisted that the people I wrote about did not exist - had not ever existed, except in my imagination. So ferocious was the counter-attack from commerce, church, and state that echoes of it still reverberate and attempts are still being made to stigmatize me as a liar. People of the Deer was followed eight years later by a second book, chronicling the further decline of the Ihalmiut. This one, The Desperate People, was partially concerned with documenting my earlier work but also included a detailed account of a new and ghastly calamity that took many Inuit lives and led to the virtual dissolution of the Ihalmiut. This time the critics chose a different tack. Faced with unassailable evidence of what had happened, most defenders of the bad old days ignored the book, doubtless hoping that in time it would be forgotten. Their judgement turned out to be close to the mark. Forty years have passed since publication of The Desperate People (almost fifty since People of the Deer) and the world has forgotten what little it ever knew about the Ihalmiut. Bearing this in mind, I decided to accept Elisapee's challenge and tell the tale anew. My principal reason for doing so is the same as that of writers who continue to tell the story of the Holocaust: to help ensure that man's inhumane acts are not expunged from memory, thereby easing the way for repetitions of such horrors. But I had another reason for writing the present book. In 1958, while travelling through Keewatin gathering accounts of the Kikik tragedy, I learned of an equally grievous catastrophe that had befallen another and related Inuit group. This calamity proved to be so dark and terrible that I forbore from including it in The Desperate People for fear a surfeit of horrors would cause readers to shut the book and turn their hearts and minds away. Now I am able to make amends for that omission. About a quarter of this book's content concerns events previously depicted to some degree in People of the Deer and The Desperate Peopl e, but re-written with the addition of much new material. There may be some who will accuse me of self-plagiarism on this count, but I view what I have done as rescuing fading images from the erosion of time and have no apologies to make for that. Excerpted from Walking on the Land by Farley Mowat All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 11
Part I
1 Northflightp. 18
2 Eskimo Pointp. 30
3 Ennadaip. 39
4 The Exilesp. 52
5 The Ordeals of Kikikp. 60
Part II
6 The Old...p. 76
7 ... and the Newp. 83
8 Vatican of the Northp. 93
9 Baker Lakep. 105
10 The Landp. 119
11 Soldier of Godp. 133
12 The Snow Walkerp. 155
13 Travelling Menp. 168
14 Goodbye Ohotop. 180
Epiloguep. 192
Indexp. 199