The Labradorians: Voices from the Land of Cain


507 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55081-148-7
DDC 971.8'2





Edited by Lynne D. Fitzhugh
Reviewed by Olaf Uwe Janzen

Olaf Uwe Janzen is an associate professor of history at Memorial
University, reviews editor of The Northern Mariner, and the editor of
Northern Seas.


Though edited by Lynne Fitzhugh, this volume is in fact a credit to the
work of Doris Saunders and the many volunteers who, for 25 years, have
recorded the stories and recollections of Labradorians past and present
in their own words, reflecting the major cultural components of Labrador
society, both aboriginal and European. These were then preserved and
published in the periodical Them Days. Fitzhugh has assembled a
substantial selection of these memoirs, leavening them with material
drawn from other sources, such as government documents, Moravian
missionary reports, and memoirs of outsiders who passed through

The selections are arranged around Labrador’s several
subregions—from the coastal communities of the Labrador Straits north
along the Atlantic Coast past Paradise, the Moravian Coast, the Torngat
region, Esquimeaux Bay, the deep interior of Nitassinan, to Happy
Valley-Goose Bay. Only the iron-ore mining community of Labrador
City-Wabush is missing. Each section opens with a historical survey by
the editor. As literary exercises, Fitzhugh’s essays are a delight to
read as she has a gift for words and phrases (e.g., “the jazzy riff of
a fox sparrow,” “bogs set in a filagree of interconnecting
waterways”). Against this must be set the irritation of numerous
factual inaccuracies, as when Fitzhugh claims that Cabot brought back
Natives, that the North Atlantic fisheries played “a significant
role” in the development of European navies, the persistent assumption
that piracy was a recurring problem, and the assumption that a comet
seen in 1918 was Halley’s Comet.

Overall, it is an idiosyncratic book, one whose organization might
frustrate researchers accustomed to more traditional chronological
approaches, yet one that provides a worthwhile exploration into the
origins and nature of Labrador culture.


“The Labradorians: Voices from the Land of Cain,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,