Pomiuk, Prince of the North


58 pages
ISBN 0-88878-447-3
DDC jC813'.54





Illustrations by Jerry Whitehead
Reviewed by Alison Mews

Alison Mews is co-ordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services at
Memorial University of Newfoundland.


In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition (also called the Chicago
World’s Fair) makes a lucrative offer to Labrador Inuit to become part
of an Eskimo Village exhibit showcasing their culture to paying
tourists. The orphan Pomiuk travels to America with his adoptive family.
There his expertise with a dogsled whip earns him the nickname “Prince
Pomiuk.” His brief moment of fame is marred, however, when he breaks
his leg and it is improperly set. By the time the Inuit are returned to
Labrador (without their promised riches), Pomiuk is unable to walk and
in constant pain. His plight comes to the attention of Dr. Wilfred
Grenfell, who arranges for an operation and recuperative care.

The contrast between the harsh but peaceful Inuit ways in Labrador and
the unfamiliar competitive ones in the Midwest is exposed through
Pomiuk’s eyes. Simple line drawings by Cree artist Jerry Whitehead
reinforce the cultural differences. Though Walsh attempts to strike a
balance between today’s political correctness and 1890s social mores,
she cannot resist including the Elephant Man’s story to accentuate her
message about exploitation. But unlike the Elephant Man, who was
exploited because of his deformities, which later caused his death,
Pomiuk actually died of an infection that resulted from his leg injury.
Walsh omits this from her Author’s Note, perhaps to keep her fictional
ending more palatable, but it does serve to undermine her own message.
Not a first-choice purchase.


Walsh, Alice., “Pomiuk, Prince of the North,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/18323.