The Story of Minik, the Inuit Boy Taken From His Home and Put On Display in the Museum Ofnatural History

August 09, 2001

Yesterday, we heard part of the story of Minik, a young Inuit (which we know better as Eskimo) from northwesternGreenland. In 1897, the American explorer Robert Peary brought Minik, his father and four others to New York andpresented them to the American Museum of Natural History as one of six Eskimo "specimens." Four members of the group,including Minik’s father Qisuk, quickly died of exposure to strains of influenza to which they had little resistance.

The Museum of Natural History then put on a funeral and buried Qisuk- or that’s what Minik thought. But the funeralwas a sham, put on solely to fool Minik. The Museum actually sent Qisuk’s body to a plant which defleshed the bones.Minik discovered all of this years later, when he discovered his father’s skeleton on display in the museum. Hethen begged the Museum for his father’s bones and a proper burial, but the Museum refused. Minik decided to returnhome to Greenland.

That’s where we pick up the story. We turn now to Kenn Harper, who is the author of the incredible book, ??Give MeMy Father’s Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo. Kenn Harper has lived in the Arctic for over thirtyyears in Inuit communities in the Baffin Region and in Qaanaaq, Greenland (from where Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq spoke tous earlier). He speaks Inuktitut, the Eskimo language of the eastern Canadian Arctic, and has written extensively onthe northern history and the Inuktitut language.

I interviewed him when the book was published.


  • Kenn Harper, author of ??Give Me My Father’s Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo (SteerforthPress, 2000).