Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic
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Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic

Author: Jake Ootes

In 1967, Stuart Hodgson, a pugnacious British Columbia labour leader, was the newly-appointed Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, responsible for establishing a fledgling government in the frontier capital of Yellowknife. Written by his former aide and confidante, Umingmak is a first-hand account of Hodgson’s indefatigable and often controversial efforts to introduce self-government and improve the lives of Northerners.  

Beginning with an unprecedented and harrowing winter tour of remote Arctic communities, Hodgson’s initiatives ranged from the practical (helping Inuit citizens choose surnames to replace government-issued ID numbers) to the visionary (founding the Arctic Winter Games) to the grandiose (organizing three Royal visits). Determined to empower Arctic communities, Hodgson had to balance Dene, Inuit and Métis aspirations with those of non-indigenous residents, business interests and the shifting priorities of the federal government. His actions fundamentally shaped both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and continue to reverberate throughout the Arctic.

  • Non-fiction
  • ISBN 978-1-7770101-0-2 (softcover)
  • ISBN 978-1-7770101-1-9 (html)
  • 6″ x 9″
  • Publication date: May 2020
  • CAD $ 29.95

In February 1967, Prime Minister Lester Pearson brought Stuart Milton Hodgson into his office to present the new commissioner of the Northwest Territories with his marching orders. Pearson told the tough, charismatic labour leader that he wanted big results. “In return, I will give you my full support,” Pearson said. “No one else in this country will have the kind of authority you will. Not even me.”

And so Hodgson, armed with dictatorial powers and the personal support of the prime minister, set out to ignite a revolution.

Jake Ootes, Hodgson’s former executive assistant, tells the story of how that happened in an intimate first-person account of those times, titled Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic.

Ootes writes in the first person, building his narrative through detailed anecdotes and personal observations, conveyed by long stretches of dialogue in which the people of that time talk to each other like characters in a work of fiction.

That means it’s definitely not the kind of tedious academic text that will put you to sleep in five minutes.

Jim Bell, Nunatsiak News
This is an interesting read about the Arctic just when it was beginning to change and open up. It’s about the 1960s and 1970s, the communities and the people, and about Stu Hodgson who put the North on the map while connecting Inuit throughout the Arctic and the polar world – Alaska, Northwest Territories, Greenland.
Peter Irniq, Former Commissioner of Nunavut; First Cabinet Minister, Government of the Northwest Territories
Stu was not always in agreement with young Inuit leaders. But without him I don’t think we’d have Nunavut. In a dozen years, he brought the government from Ottawa to Yellowknife, moved the appointed Council to fully elected, and in days of truly primitive communication (“Do you copy? Over”) made a point of trying to visit each community yearly to hear the concerns of people.
Monica Connolly, Former editor, Nunatsiaq News

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