Weetaltuk, Eddy

Author and soldier, born in the Strutton Islands (Nunavut) in 1923 – died in Uniujaq (Nunavik) in 2005.

Eddy or Edward Weetaltuk, also known as Eddy or Edward Vital came from the Strutton Islands in James Bay, now Nunavut. He was born in 1932 and lived with his eleven brothers and sisters in extreme poverty and experienced famine during their childhood. His parents were Arctic whale hunters. His grandfather, George Weetaltuk was a guide for Robert Flaherty, the famous American filmmaker who captured Inuit life in Nunavik, during the early 1920s and created the documentary Nanook of the North (1922). Eddy Weetaltuk and his brother David lived for a time at the Roman Catholic residential school, Sainte-Thérèse-de-l'Enfant-Jésus in Fort George (now Chisasibi), Québec. In the early 1950s, Eddy Weetaltuk left the North to work as a logger in Fort-Coulonge in western Québec, hiding his Inuit identity by taking the name Eddy Vital. He enlisted in the Canadian army, becoming the first Canadian Inuit soldier, and fought overseas in the Korean War. Fifteen years later, in 1974, he returned to the North, settling in Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik to write his memoirs and assist local youth to overcome their drug and alcohol problems, something he was all too familiar with personally.

Eddy Weetaltuk’s autobiography is unique. The original text written by Eddy Weetaltuk was adapted with the assistance of sociologist Thibault Martin and first published in French as E9-422. Un Inuit, de la toundra à la guerre de Corée (2009). There were two subsequent translations: in German as Mein Leben in die Hand nehmen. Die Odyssee des Inuk E9-422 (2015) and in English as From the Tundra to the Trenches (2016).  The English edition won the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher in 2018. The numbers in the title of this autobiography are significant. E9-422 was Eddy Weetaltuk’s disc number: in 1941, the Canadian federal government assigned each Inuk a unique number, serving as their name ; what was called the “Eskimo” disc number or ujamiit in Inuktitut was stamped on a disc or a card and it was mandatory to carry the number at all times.

Eddy Weetaltuk’s sudden death occurred in 2005, just a few days before the final version of his book was ready. His wish for his story was for it to help young Inuits to find the inspiration and strength to preserve their culture.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at imaginairedunord@uqam.ca and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.