Click on: Pryde newspaper.
(The name and date of the publication were trimmed off.)
Note: I have a few family pictures for Fiona.
2 — THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD — Monday, June 19, 1967 (Re: Georgina (Gina) Blondin, mother of Fiona)
Centennial Show On Barges
HAY RIVER, N.W.T. (CP)
The Northwest Territories’ counterpart to the Centennial train and caravans pushed into an ice-filled Great Slave Lake early Sunday from this centre 700 miles north of Edmonton . . .
Entertainers include Rick Smith, 20, of Fort Smith, an organist; the Tundra Folk, a folk-singing trio from Yellowknife, and the Centennaires, a mixed Indian, Eskimo and white rock ‘n’ roll group. They will put on shows and concerts in communities where the flotilla stops.
Indian Princess Georgina Blondin, 19, smashed a bottle of champagne against the steel side of Radium 100 at the official launching ceremonies Saturday. Among those at the launching was Northern Development Minister Laing, who, in a brief address, told the crowd they are not looking at history, but making it.
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We heard somehow that the people who organize the Miss Canada Beauty Pageant were anxious to have a candidate from the Northwest Territories. So we agreed to organize a Miss NWT Pageant.
Eileen senior been trained in Toronto at the Walter Thornton Modeling School and provided guidance and advice for our candidates on posture, walking and makeup. About twenty young ladies participated and some of them looked quite stunning. Apart from appearance and presence the panel of White, Indian and Eskimo judges interviewed all candidates and asked questions about their knowledge of their culture, traditions and stories. A young woman named Georgina Blondin, a Dogrib Indian
(Sandra: ? Gina was also identified as from Slavey First Nation. Her cousin, Ethyl Blondin, born in 1951, an MP, was born in Tulita, NWT, which is “Sahtu Dene (75.2%) who speak English and North Slavey”. It is written of her Father After moving to Behchoko, Blondin was eventually registered as a Dogrib beneficiary although he was born near Deline. Deline’s people (Wikipedia) are Sahtu Dene people speaking North Slavey)
was finally selected and first runner up was Addie Tobac, a Chippewayen, who was staying with us at the time. Addie, a beautiful woman, who was deaf, felt bitter that she was not chosen to win. Addie was writing a book and accepted our hospitality but according to Rosemary, her resentment of white people led her to include us in her hostility. A lot of Northern kids were angry and confused because of their life experiences.
Georgina went on to the Miss Canada Pageant in Montreal, a big adventure for a Northern girl. She finished second in all of Canada. Bill Wuttannee was at that pageant and afterwards told us that the buckskin costume which she wore did not look very fetching, and that in his opinion she could have won. Georgina was awarded many prizes and had to stand in for Miss Canada several times during that year. This gave her a few trips to major Canadian cities. This experience really helped her confidence and career and she finally held very responsible positions with the Territorial Government.
(Sandra speaking: I boarded with Gina and Duncan in 1971, at which time Gina worked for Gemini North, a company put together by Pat Carney.)
After we left the North, Georgina became a Bahá’í, and was a valued member of the Yellowknife community. Tragically she died at a very early age.
(Sandra: Gina was born in 1947; She passed away in 1990, I believe of pancreatic cancer.)
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Obituary: Duncan Pryde
Tuesday, 30 December 1997
Duncan Pryde, trapper, explorer, writer: born 8 June 1937; twice married (one daughter); died 15 November 1997.
Duncan Pryde, who probably knew the Arctic better than any white man of his generation, was in the middle of the massive task of compiling a dictionary of the 26 dialects of the Inuit (or Eskimo) language when he died from cancer.
He was one of five brothers and one sister, who were brought up in various orphanages in Scotland. At the age of 15 he joined the merchant navy, where he learned to be extremely tough and covered himself with lurid tattoos. Forced to resign due to an eye injury, he went to work in a Singer sewing machine factory, and was feeling bored when, aged 18 in 1955, he spotted an advertisement in the Glasgow Sunday Post looking for fur traders to go to the far north of Canada for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
He spent three years working for the company in northern Manitoba and Ontario, where he learned to speak Cree, but found the life too cushy and asked for a transfer to the Arctic. When he arrived, he was determined to learn to speak Eskimo, and was told by his boss “to learn the Eskimo way, so you will know how they feel about things”.
The only dictionary he had access to was a little red book compiled by a Catholic missionary; it was so full of errors that he determined to write his own. He built up word lists and after a few weeks could communicate on a basic level, but reckoned it took him three or four years to become fluent in the language; for example there are over 25 different words for snow, because in a snow environment it is vital to be able to distinguish between the different types.
From Baker Lake he was transferred to the remote Spence Bay, before going to the even more isolated Perry River. Here he had to deal with drunkenness, laziness and murderers. He was much respected and soon adopted the Eskimo way of life, feeling part of one big family; a northern admirer wrote: “Duncan thinks and measures and becomes part of his environment just like an Eskimo.” He became involved in wife-exchange and had several children, writing that he could “always find a girl to sleep with. The problem is which one.” His obsessive womanising was the one black mark held against him: “He liked girls too much.”
He learned to trap, put together a dog-team and travel with dogs, and was taught to harpoon seal and hunt caribou in the ancient Eskimo way. He also saw shamanism and witchcraft at first hand. On various hunting expeditions he was attacked by a polar bear and even more frighteningly was once charged by a grizzly, said to be 10 times more dangerous than a polar bear. He never felt lonely in the Arctic, but equally never lost his love of the bright lights.
After 11 years with the company, Pryde left to work for the Council of the Northwest Territories, a job which involved travelling to all the settlements in the western Arctic by either sled or canoe. It also meant a much-reduced salary; realising he could not live on it, Pryde decided to live off the land with the Eskimos, as a trapper, a pattern of life he adapted to quickly. He was upset by the way the welfare system was run, feeling that it took away any work incentive.
In 1969 he married Georgina Blondin, the Centennial Indian Princess of the Northwest Territories, they had one daughter, Fiona, and lived in Yellowknife where they started a development business. Cliff Michelmore presented a television programme about Pryde in 1970 and Nunaga (“my land, my country”), a book about his life in the Arctic was published in 1972 and reprinted by Eland in 1985; whether or not he knew about the reprint will remain a mystery, as the publisher was unable to trace him. Ed Ogle, who wrote a long article about Pryde for Time magazine and helped with the book, said that many of his sexual exploits had to be cut as the original publisher was afraid that the book was “too sexy”.
In 1975 he resigned from the council and went to the Inupiat University of the Arctic, where he was commissioned to write his dictionary. He had to leave Alaska while his residency status was resolved and lived for a while with his brother Jack in London; he had so adjusted to life in the Arctic that he ate only when hungry, seeming to have lost all perspective of time.
While away he met his second wife, Dawn, and never returned to the Arctic. Instead, Duncan Pryde ended up quietly running a newsagent’s shop in the Isle of Wight, working on his dictionary between customers. He completely lost touch with his British family who tried to trace him, believing he was in Germany and never for a moment suspecting that he was living openly with a shop bearing his name, Pryde of Cowes, in the Isle of Wight.
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November 10, 2006
Taissumani: A Day in Arctic History
Nov. 15, 1997 — “The Pryde of the Arctic” Passes Away
Duncan Pryde, a fun-loving, sensual, and unreliable linguistic genius, died Nov. 15, 1997 at his last home, on the Isle of Wight. It�s unlikely the Arctic will ever again see anyone quite like him.
Duncan Pryde was a fur-trader, polyglot, legislator, writer and story-teller. He was also a legendary carouser and hard-drinking, fun-loving, unreliable rascal. For me, he was also a friend.
Pryde was born in Scotland in 1937 and raised in orphanages. In 1955 he answered a newspaper advertisement placed by the Hudson’s Bay Company: “Fur traders wanted for the far north.”
The ad asked for single, ambitious, self-reliant young men, and promised a life of isolation, hardship and adventure, all for $135 per month. Pryde was accepted and spent his first three years in Canada in northern Ontario and Manitoba. In 1958, he moved to the Arctic, serving first at Baker Lake. From there he was posted to more and more isolated locations: Spence Bay, then Perry River in 1961, and finally Bathurst Inlet in 1965.
Everywhere he lived, Pryde immersed himself in the language of the Inuit. His grasp of Inuit dialects was phenomenal, and his life’s ambition was to compile the definitive dictionary of the Inuit language as spoken in the Central Arctic.
In 1966, Pryde was elected to the Territorial Council of the Northwest Territories, the body that evolved into the present-day Legislative Assembly, for a one-year term. The next year he was re-elected for three more years. Audaciously , this man, who allegedly had a number of children in the Kitikmeot region through numerous relationships, campaigned on a slogan: “Every family should have a little Pryde in the Arctic.”
Pryde devoted his attention to those issues most important to the Inuit, hunting and game laws. He was the first to propose the sports-hunting of polar bears as a way of bringing extra dollars into Inuit communities. Charismatic and self-promoting, he was also the first person from the Canadian north to have his picture on the cover of Time magazine.
In 1969, Pryde married Gina Blondin, a Dene woman, in Yellowknife. They had one daughter, Fiona. Two years later, Duncan’s fame transcended the North and Canada when he published his autobiography, Nunaga – My Land, My Country.
It was an accurate portrayal of the life of a trader at the end of the era when Arctic posts were truly isolated. Perhaps it was too accurate. Extremely controversial, it unfortunately turned Pryde’s fame into notoriety in the North for his frank recounting of his sexual exploits. A best-seller, the book was translated into a number of languages.
Pryde’s marriage ended a few years later, and he left hastily for Alaska. There he taught Inuit languages at the fledgling Inupiat University in Point Barrow. When he ran afoul of the administration and was fired from his teaching post, he stayed on as janitor so he could remain in the academic environment. A few years later he suddenly left Alaska. And disappeared.
John MacDonald of Igloolik, who had first met Pryde in Baker Lake in 1959, eventually tracked him down. He was living in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, had a skipper’s ticket as a yachtsman, and had remarried. The man who had billed himself as “the Pryde of the Arctic” now ran a small news-agency called “Pryde of Cowes.” Appropriately, he lived at 6 Arctic Road.
With only a sixth-grade education, Duncan Pryde was fascinated by language. In addition to many dialects of the Inuit language, Cree, and some Slavey and Dogrib, Pryde spoke Gaelic, Italian and German, and a smattering of a number of other languages.
Before leaving the North, he had started often on his life-long ambition, the writing of a definitive Inuktitut dictionary, but Pryde was a poor manager of money and always the necessity to make a living – not to mention the temptations of women and booze – interfered. Indeed, “Duncan’s A’s” became a buzz-word in Canadian Inuktitut studies for, despite many starts, he had never gotten past the letter “A.”
Around 1994, Pryde was stricken with cancer. Chemotherapy put it into remission, but he was no longer as robust as before. Unable to work, Pryde returned to his dream, the compilation of his dictionary. Arctic College provided financial support for the first volume – of course it was the letter “A.” When completed in early 1997, it ran in excess of 280 pages.
Pryde was hard at work on the dictionary when his cancer returned and he suffered a stroke. Irreverent and feisty to the end, Pryde complained to his doctors that he needed four more years to complete his work. But it was not to be. He died on November 15, 1997 at the age of 60.
At the end of Nunaga, Pryde remarked: “There will never be a job such as the one which enticed me as a dreamy-eyed young man all the way from Scotland with romantic notions in my otherwise empty head. There will never be another fur trader in the old tradition, just as there will never again be an Eskimo in the old image.”
One might add that there will probably never be another linguist to match Duncan Pryde in the Canadian Arctic. Indeed John Sperry, former Bishop of the Arctic and an accomplished linguist himself, remarked to me, “We will not see his like again. I always felt humbled by his knowledge.”
Taissumani: A Day in Arctic History recounts a specific event of historic interest, whose anniversary is in the coming week. Kenn Harper is a historian, writer and linguist who lives in Iqaluit. Feedback? Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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GEORGINA BLONDIN’S FATHER, GEORGE BLONDIN
George Blondin – Footprints
George Blondin: His family, Native tradition and caring for others mattered most to Blondin
Deceased: Oct. 12. 2008
By Dianne Meili
Dene author George Blondin was one of few Aboriginal people who spoke openly about medicine power because he felt young people should know where they came from.
The prolific writer passed away at the advanced age of 87 on Oct. 12 after suffering a stroke this year in his Northwest Territories home.
Blondin was candid about the past, going so far as to reveal his own medicine power story in his first book When the World was New. At five years old he was sent to get water early in the morning when an “old man with long white hair” rose from the lake and startled him. Dropping his pail, he raced back to the family tent and his mother’s lap.
Since he had not naturally embraced the spirit, his parents resigned themselves to the fact he wouldn’t be a medicine man and stopped trying to help him get power. Blondin writes that he should have welcomed the power-bringer, but instead, resigned himself to working hard in a mundane life like most people.
“My father wasn’t trying to be disrespectful when he spoke of these things,” said Blondin’s son, Ted, who explained his father grew up in times extremely different from today. Even in 1923, when he was born in the Great Bear Lake region of the Northwest Territories, people relied on medicine power – not money. Having medicine power meant having a successful life – perhaps being a good hunter or healer, or knowing about events before they happened.
“My father wrote about these things because they are important to being Dene,” said Ted, and he wanted young people to realize this part of themselves. “Medicine power is a phenomenon that is hard to understand and so it is not spoken of openly. But my father meant only to preserve this knowledge and he worked hard to explain it. He knew young people weren’t sitting around the fire listening and talking to the old people so much anymore, and so he wrote down stories so they could read them.”
Blondin preserved countless stories of life before contact in minute detail, indicating how precise his memory was right up until his passing.
“A lot of his stories describe how people could interact with animals, and how the spirit of a man could change into a caribou, for example. This man would then learn of caribou nature – how they reacted to certain things, how they moved on the land and where they liked to stay. Then, back in his human spirit, he would have a good idea of where to hunt for them,” Ted explained.
Due to mutual compliance, good hunters never failed to perform certain rituals for animals when they died so they could be reborn, thanking them for sacrificing their lives so humans could live.
Interpretation of the way the world works has been lost, Blondin believed, and so he published three books conveying stories with spiritual themes. The public is receptive to them, and his latest title, Trail of the Spirit; Mysteries of Dene Medicine Power Revealed, published in the fall of 2006, sits on publisher NeWest Press’s bestseller list.
“I found more of my father’s papers in a briefcase when I cleaned out his apartment,” said Ted, explaining his father was an incessant writer who had a fourth book in the works and enough material for a fifth. Many of his stories were also printed in a long-running weekly column in Yellowknife’s News/North.
“My father might be washing the dishes and thinking about something when he’d get the urge to write it down,” said Ted. “One time he left the water running and sat at the table scribbling away. When the water wet his feet, he just lifted them up and kept writing, that’s how focused he was.
“And he had a story for everything. At a bookfest in Whitehorse, he was interacting with his audience when someone asked him what earthly good were mosquitoes. Not missing a beat, he was able to launch into a story about a hunter sitting on top of a hill, near a lake, on a very warm day, looking to hunt a moose to bring meat to his family. Pretty soon, the swarms of mosquitoes drove the poor moose into the lake’s water and the hunter made his kill there. He was able to illustrate to the crowd how the mosquito is a hunter’s best friend.”
For his storytelling efforts, Blondin received the Ross Charles award in 1990 for Native journalism and was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.
Keenly interested in the future as well as the past, Blondin attended political meetings dealing with issues from land protection to jobs in the Northwest Territories.
“He was set to attend an economic conference just before he died,” explained Ted. “He really cared about his people and he made sure all of his children were educated so we could go on to help people.”
But Blondin’s first love was the land, and he abandoned hunting and trapping only when he lost his first son to pneumonia in 1958. After that, he moved to Yellowknife to be closer to the hospital and schools for his other children. He holds no malice over the fact he was given underground jobs at Giant Mine that no one else wanted to do, because he was Aboriginal he surmised, and simply moved back to Deline (Fort Franklin) to resume hunting and trapping as soon as his children finished school. It didn’t take long for him to be elected chief of the Deline First Nation in 1984, and to serve as Dene Nation vice president later.
At the time of his death Blondin was living independently in Behchoko (Rae-Edzo) just outside of Yellowknife, though residential management didn’t want him cooking for himself.
“I took him a fresh whitefish and when I got to his unit, no one was there. Except there was this pot smoking away on the stove,” Ted recounted. “When I saw dad later, he laughed and said he had heard about a drum dance in the community – then just grabbed his coat and left.”
That was just like dad, getting all excited about a cultural event and forgetting about everything else, Ted said.
Predeceased by his wife Julia, sons Walter and John, and daughter Georgina, Blondin is survived by his children as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was laid to rest in Yellowknife on Oct. 15, 2008.