By Barbara E. Kelcey
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Additional resources for Alone in Silence: European Women in the Canadian North before 1940
Since the white European women who went north before the Second World War carried with them all the cultural baggage of the time, bulging as it was with bias and expectations, I was not surprised to discover that they had assumed native culture was primitive or that they believed they were racially superior. Neither did they change those views substantially during their stay. The evidence before them merely confirmed their preconceptions that these people were dirty, unteachable, and primitive.
43 “The awful silence” was not easy to describe. Luta Munday recorded that her pen was inadequate for the task, although she ventured that: “it seemed to descend upon us and enfold us, the grave itself could not be more quiet. QXD 8/10/2001 10:00 AM Page 24 24 alone in silence of a wolf or the bark of a fox. I would say sometimes to [my husband] Walter, I must scream. ”46 Two dimensions characterized this force. The simple inability to go anywhere else during the winter was the first. The second was more complex: a package of acceptance, all tied up with the ribbons of duty and the women’s own understanding of their role.
Shiptime was crucial, and it was fleeting, leaving those along the route exhausted – first from the waiting, then from the socializing. Along the coast of Hudson Bay and Baffin Island, supplies arrived on the hbc supply ship out of Montreal. After the ice started moving out of harbours in early summer, anxious European residents would scan the horizon daily for signs of a steamer moving slowly through the ice floes. Flossie Hirst at Pangnirtung wrote about her inability to explain her feelings the moment the boat was seen: “It is one thing to expect the boat but when expectations are finally realized, the feeling is altogether awful.