Corporal Wall describes the health differences of various Copper Inuit settlements noting that those with access to the country meat foods (instead of the white man's tea, sugar, flour, and jam) were "a fine healthy looking bunch." He also notes the influence of Christianity and how people would rather sing hymns on Sunday than hunt for needed meat.
February 2, 1932
RCMP Patrol Report 1933 - The Northern Copper Inuit - A History
One of the first RCMP officers to make repeated visits to the trading posts and Inuit camps on Victoria Island was Corporal G. M. Wall. In February 1932, Wall left Coppermine with two guides and traveled to Rymer Point, Read Island, Prince Albert Sound, Minto Inlet, and Walker Bay. In his report, written upon his return to Coppermine, Wall made a number of interesting observations regarding the conditions of the Inuit groups he encountered. On islands off the north shore of Minto Inlet, Wall met a large group of Inuit and reported:
This was the largest encampment visited in the country patrolled through, comprising 21 families. Some of the houses were joined together and others had passages leading off a main one to their own igloo. One native here had put up a 10 x 12 foot tent and built a snowhouse over it (RCMP Patrol Report 1932:4).
Wall's observations indicate that the large snowhouse settlements that had always been a feature of traditional Copper Inuit life that were still in use even after traders had entered the region and encouraged people to take up trapping rather than seal hunting. Wall encountered the same group the following year, this time finding fourteen families camped on the ice in the middle of Minto Inlet (RCMP Patrol Report 1933:2).
Wall offers an interesting comparison between the Prince Albert Sound people and the Copper Inuit living around Read Island and Rymer Point:
The natives on the southwest coast of Victoria Land had all done well trapping and in all the camps there was ample evidence of this. They were all well supplied with tea, sugar, biscuits, jam, etc. These natives are also getting away from the use of the seal oil lamps and although they had them they would use the primus lamps they had bought this winter, this may only be for a year as long as they can buy coal oil from the traders. The continual use of primus stoves does not tend towards cleanliness, and the houses are very dirty as was the clothing which had been purchased from the traders. The calico artigues and the men's trousers have been covered in grease and are dirty…. There was a remarkable difference in the Prince Albert Sound natives. These peoples did not have the white man's food and clothing, depending on the country for food. The houses were all clean and tidy and they were all well clothed with deer skins, only using a very little white men's clothing. All the sleds, harpoons and equipment was all of the best and in good repair, also all the dogs were in fine condition. The people themselves were all a fine healthy looking bunch and there was only one case of sickness; this was a very old woman. These natives only go into Read Island once a [year] to trade, usually at the end of April and stay on the south coast of Victoria Land three or four weeks visiting the other relatives and then return again (RCMP Patrol Report 1933:7).
Wall's comments are echoed in later reports. By and large, those Copper Inuit who were in less direct contact with white traders seemed to be healthier and better clothed than those living closer to trading posts. Wall believed that the people of Minto Inlet ranked somewhere in between the people of Prince Albert Sound and the Inuit of southwest Victoria Island, possibly due to the influence of both the westerners and the two trading posts at Walker Bay.
"The influence of the missionaries is very noticeable and at all the camps visited the natives would show me their hymn books. The Minto Inlet natives held a service while I was there which consisted of singing six hymns. They observe Sunday very closely and will not do a thing, spending most of the day singing hymns even if the camp is out of meat" (RCMP Patrol Report 1933:7).
Another observation made by Wall during his 1932 patrol is fascinating. In assessing game conditions for the regions visited, Wall notes that caribou are very scarce, and that the people subsist primarily on seal, fish, and small game. To the north of Prince Albert Sound, he notes, "the natives hunt in the summertime and get a few caribou, but live chiefly on fish." Wall continues:
The Minto Inlet natives spend the summer around the post at Walker Bay and last summer they killed about 60 caribou roughly 20 miles north of the post.