The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic - From Ancient Times to 1902

... To 1902
- Closing of Fort Anderson

In 1861, the Hudson's Bay Company expanded its operations in the area, opening Fort Anderson on the Anderson River, aimed exclusively at the Inuvialuit trade. It was an attempt, and a successful one, to bring eastern Inuvialuit into the direct orbit of the Company. These eastern Inuvialuit "dreaded their turbulent countrymen" living around the Mackenzie River and had continued to depend on indirect trade with the Hare rather than visit Peel's River Post. Now they visited Fort Anderson, and the post did well for its first few years. In 1866, however, it was abandoned due to declining revenues and a difficult overland supply route from Fort Good Hope. The orders to abandon it were issued in secret, Chief Factor Hardisty noting that because of Inuvialuit anger "care should be taken that the Esquimaux receive no intimation of our designs before they leave for the Sea Coast."

Reasons for this anger are not hard to find. The previous year the Anderson River area had been hit by a major infectious disease epidemic, probably measles. According to the missionary Emile Petitot, "...because of the measles, all the Eskimos, fleeing the shores of Anderson River, sought refuge on the shores of Liverpool Bay and Franklin Bay.... There were 28 deaths from the measles on the Anderson River...and no one can say how many died around the shores of the Arctic Sea." The Hudson's Bay Company reported that "the Esquimaux were exasperated against the Whites, on account of the number of their people who had died of the Measles, which they imagined was caused by the "bad medicine" of the Whites."

The closing of Fort Anderson seems to have caused some real economic disruption to those now accustomed to the Hudson's Bay Company and what it had to offer. Instead of reverting to a small-scale trade with the Hare, even eastern Inuvialuit now began making the annual trek to Peel's River Post. In 1866, the year Fort Anderson closed, Petitot counted 250 "Anderson Esquimaux" at Peel's River Post. Group identity seems to have been blurring, and by the winter of 1870, the "Mackenzie River and Anderson bands" were reported wintering together, both suffering from disease and "camped on the ice hunting seals." The following year they were victims of a smallpox epidemic, and year by year the toll increased. "We are all dying," reported an Inuvialuit chief in the 1870s, "we are getting snuffed out day by day."

[Opening Page | The Land | The People | From Ancient Times | 1902 | Survival |About the Researcher]