Kia’s Tale
Kia’s Tale

Kia’s Tale

Kia’s Tale

The stories which initially enticed Hall to the Melville Peninsula involved an Inuit hunter named Kia, who was reported by Papa as the discoverer of the strange stone buildings in Fury and Hecla Strait. When Hall interviewed the Inuit who he found encampmed on the Ooglit Isles and Igloolik, he learned much more detail of the strange experiences of this hunter and his friends.

Unfortunately, Kia himself had been killed by a “very ugly walrus” a year after his strange encounter, but Hall learned his story from Kia’s companion of that hunting season, Koolooa, and from many others who had gathered during the following winter at Igloolik to hear him recount his experiences.

Hall learned that at some time in the past Kia and seven companions had gone hunting with their families for caribou on the west coast of Melville Peninsula. They had broken up into smaller units so as to better conduct their hunt, Kia and Koolooa formed one group and set off for the extreme northwest corner of the peninsula while the others hunted further south. Koolooa himself picked up the tale:

Koo-loo-a says at same time he was hunting wih Ki-a he had killed a deer + sat himself down on a rock + eat [sic] some of the meat. He had put his head down + just before getting his mouth to the water he heard something crack which he says was ti-ma-na-t (the same) as the crack of guns. He had heard the crack of guns when living at Too-noo-nee (Ponds Bay). He could not tell from which direction the sound came on account of his position in the act of drinking. Looked about but could see no one + did not hear the noise again. The place was near the N.W. extreme of Melville Peninsula as he (Koo-loo) points out on Parry’s Chart. Same day Koo-loo-a heard the crack as he thought of a gun while walking around he came to fresh tracks on some grass + earth the tracks longer than his … the tracks so fresh that the grass had not all regained their erect position. Some of it (the grass) was then gradually lifting up as it had been before being trod upon. The steps long + foot mark “turning out.”

These strange tracks made a great impression on Koolooa, and when he rejoined Kia he found that he also had found “a great many human footprints.”

Kia saw as he watched the stranger walking that he toed out very much. He soon after examined his tracks + found it so – the tracks showed long foot + very narrow in the middle … The tracks showed a deep place at the heel – deeper than anywhere else – the steps too not very long for the stranger seemed to be looking around to find something – some game perhaps – as he walked along.

Hall was told that the “time of year when Ki-a saw the stranger was in the summer of the year – when took-too had short hair – no snow on the ground … the tracks were in the sand for it was in the fall when snow was off the ground.” The two hunters were understandably alarmed at these strange tracks, completely unlike those made by the Inuit with their soft-soled boots and characteristic “pidgeon-toed” gait. Two days later the strange footprints and the shooting noise would be explained.

Next morning after hearing crack + seeing tracks both Koo-loo-a and Ki-a moved their tents + families away from that place – The next morning after moving Koo-loo-a went to work fixing the skin of the deer he had killed.

As Koo-loo-a was late in getting ready Ki-a started off deer hunting alone. By + by Ki-a saw a man coming up the hill on which he (Ki-a) was coming directly toward him. Ki-a thought at first the man to be Koo-loo-a but on looking longer + more observingly Ki-a saw his mistake for it was not Koo-loo-a but a strange man having a cap on his head that was distinct from his coat. He saw that he (the stranger) had strange clothes on + carried something strange in a strange way on his shoulder. Ki-a could not from his position behind the rock see much of the stranger’s face – the clothes not black nor white – coat on that came down to or almost to his knees – the make of clothes altogether different from In-nuits. The stranger had something across his shoulder running diagonally – this something was long + wide at one end + narrow at the other end. He was walking rather fast + going directly toward the point on NW ex. of Melville Peninsula as showed by K. on Parry’s Chart. Ki-a followed the stranger up for some time + looked sharp at him.

Kia, from all accounts a brave and resourceful hunter, was not ready to face this alien being alone. He had heard the elders tell of how, long ago, Indians had come from the south, killing and kidnapping, and he was sure that this stranger was trouble.

Ki-a followed after him. When ever the stranger was on smooth land, Ki-a kept him self hid among the rocks of rough land & as soon as the stranger got among hill or rough land out of Ki-a’s sight Ki-a would run across the smooth land & to the rugged land & thus get near the stranger & all the time keeping himself (Ki-a) hid behind rocks & hills.

The stranger was apparently not alone, for, according to Kudloon, shortly after seeing the stranger Kia and Koolooa had come across the tracks of a party of three men and a dog.

Kud-loon says that after Ki-a saw the stranger Koo-loo-a + Ki-a together tried to find the stranger but they were unsuccessful. Kud-loon says that one day or 2 days after – perhaps it may have been 3 days – he does not exactly remember which – after Ki-a had seen the strange man, he saw the tracks in sand + were the tracks of strangers – were not Innuit tracks – the tracks along side of a lake + showed the strangers to be going toward the N.W. extreme of the land south side of Adg-go [sic] Fury + Hecla Strait. The dog tracks showed that the dog belonged to the 3 strangers. From the tracks Ki-a thought those who made them carried something heavy. These three (3) men tracks of same character as those of the strange man he had a little while before seen. The sand so dry that it —- out that it did not well show, but Ki-a thought from the size – the length of the tracks that they could not be Innuits.

When the 8 men Innuit hunters all got together they consulted together + it was found no one of their number had been anywhere near where the tracks of 3 men + of dog were seen by Ki-a. At the time they (the 8) all met together Koo-loo-a told all about what he had seen + heard. Koo-loo-a told of the strange tracks he had seen + of the gun cracking noise he had heard. The Innuits felt at first some what alarmed thinking perhaps they might be Indians or Pelly Bay natives. Ki-a thought when he saw the stranger + found he was not Koo-loo-a that he was an Indian. After all of them had talked the matter all over near Ar-lang-na-zhu most of them thought the man Ki-a had seen must have been a Kod-lu-na (white man) + yet they couldn’t tell how it was possible for him to get there.

In later discussions with his friends Kia had elaborated on the details of the stranger’s dress. The stranger had “a cap + clothes on altogether different from anything he had ever seen … saw that he had on a coat of a kind of blue color – light blue … Had on a long coat that came down to his knees + shook very much in the wind.”

The stranger had on a Koo-loo-ta (coat) that had a covering for the head but this was thrown back + lying behind the head, + on his head was a cap … The hair must have been very short so short that the cap completely covered it up so that he couldn’t see it. The face the side next to him (Ki-a) white not dark like the Innuits. The coat not exactly white nor black – was long coming down almost to the knees. No tail about it – same length all around [Jo + Hannah + Kud-loon think the coat must have been a white one but had got dirty in wearing it same as the flesh side of deer skin — after long use.]

Everyone Hall interviewed knew of Kia’s encounter, each corroborated the stories of the others but most added new details.

I now ask Ar-mou-yer what Ki-a said the strange man appeared to be doing? Answer Ki-a thought the stranger an Et-ker-lin (Indian) & thought the way he acted that he was looking for deer but he kept up a smart walk all the time. The strange dress consisted of something different very different from skin clothes. The coat was of a kind that covered the legs & was even all around & shook very much as the stranger walked – altogether different from skin dress. The color of the coat not black but dark. Ki-a did not say what kind of covering the stranger had on his head. He carried something on his shoulder. On getting Ar-mou-yer to describe in what way the thing was carried as Ki-a described to him he shows that a strap passed over the right shoulder down & across the front diagonally & thence deflected back under the left arm in just the way white men sling & carry a gun.

That something on the stranger’s shoulder did not look anything like a bow & arrows; it was longer than a pit-ik-zhee (Innuits bow) Ki-a though once in a while near enough to see the stranger’s face distinctly if it had been turned around a little but all the time the stranger’s back was toward him. The Innits who heard Ki-a’s story such as had seen guns at Ponds Bay & such as had seen guns of Dr Rae’s party thought from Ki-a description that the stranger (Et-ker-lin) carried a gun on his shoulder.

Every aspect of Kia’s tale was thoroughly talked over among the Inuit. Hall, a tireless interrogator, continued to elicit details from the native traditions.

Ki-a furthermore said that the strange man had something long on his shoulders – its position diagonal. It looked as if a cover of something was on the outside – one end wider than the other. I now ask Kud-loon which end was down of the long thing Ki-a saw on the stranger’s back – the large end or small end? His answer at once comes: “Large end down.” I now show Kud-loon the Illustration of Parry’s Narrative of his voyage of 1821-2 + 3 of Western outlet of the Fury + Hecla Strait where 2 men are represented standing with their backs toward the “looker on” one having the butt of his gun on the ground + he resting on it while the other stands erect with his gun slung diagonally across his back, the butt end down. Kud-loon instantly points his fingers to the latter figure + says Ti-nee-na-tu – that is “all the same” was the long thing on the shoulder of the stranger Ki-a saw.

When Kia and Koolooa told each other of their amazing experiences curiosity outweighed fear.

Next morning Ki-a and Koo-loo-a moved their tents + families to the same place as where Ki-a saw the strange man + there they all saw the strangers tracks which showed a long foot narrow in the middle … From there (the place where the tents were — the place where strange man had been seen) Koo-loo-a + Ki-a with their families removed down to Ar-lang-na-zhu (Garry Bay) + they saw nothing more of the kind he (Koo-loo-a) has been describing.

Kia told his listeners that the place where he saw the stranger was “very near the sea-ice.” He further defined the location by noting that it was “not far from Ar-lang-na-zhoo (Garry Bay)” and described the site as “near the N.W. extreme of Melville Peninsula which is by the W. extreme of Fury + Hecla Strait not far from a river which runs into the sea from the eastward.” Koolooa confirmed this by pointing out the spot on Parry’s chart in Hall’s presence. Other Inuit corroborated this, “The place where Ki-a saw the stranger is not a great ways below Adge-go (Fury + Hecla St) near the great sea and W. side of the big land + the stranger going toward the long point near where a river is.”

The natives of Ooglit and Igloolik never tired of telling Hall of Kia’s remarkable experience. Hall interviewed Kia’s sister Arkootoo , his hunting partners Koolooa and Kudloon , and Armouyer (Tom Palmer), Kia’s longtime friend. Each time he heard the same story with almost boring sameness. The incident had been the defining moment of Kia’s short life, and one of the most memorable events of his generation.

Kia had joined most of the other Inuit the following winter at Igloolik, where he was prevailed upon to repeat his story to an ever-appreciative audience.

When winter came all the Innuits in the country about came together at Ig-loo-lik & made a large Igloo village & then it was that [Armouyer] heard Ki-a tell his story about the stranger he had seen on his preceding fall deer hunt at & about Ar-lang-na-zhoo Ar-mou-yer says he had Ki-a & many Innuits come to his Igloo that he might hear Ki-a tell his story.

When Kia told about the stranger “all the Innuits who had ever seen a Kod-lu-na before said the stranger must have been one – that is a white man.” Even Kia’s mother declared that the stranger must have been a Kobluna (white man), “she … had never seen one but had been told all about how they dressed + walked” from others who had lived “a good many years at Too-noo-nee-roo-chuk (Admiralty Inlet)” among the white whalers. When Hall asked his own informants who they thought Kia had seen “they all say without a dissenting voice that they think he was a white man.”

When Kia and the other hunters spent the following winter at Igloolik he retold his story repeatedly. He stated that “he was no man for in the fall he had seen a stranger & he (Ki-a) was afraid.” Kia’s sister Arkootoo noted that Kia was “a young man at the time he saw the stranger + made afraid very easy.”

Despite the Inuit unfamiliarity with exact dating, Hall endeavoured to determine when Kia and Koolooa had had their unforgettable experiences. The Inuit method of time determination consisted almost entirely of recalling a series of significant events in the past, labouriously back through a mental yearbook,
and it was universally agreed that the encounter had occurred the year before Kia’s untimely death.

Now 0h-30m PM + all the Innuits Koo-loo-a to get at the year when the above took place.In 15 minutes the answer comes by the show of 13 raised fingers = Thirteen years ago last fall. This brings it out that it was in 1854 that Ki-a saw what I have not the least doubt was one of Sir John Franklin’s men. In the same fall + almost at the same time Koo-loo-a, a most truthful Innuit as I believe him to be from his appearance, saw the tracks of this man + of others (of Sir J. Franklin’s) + heard the reports of their guns.)

The trustworthiness of this date was called into question by other Inuits.

How many years ago did this happen – or how may summers since Ki-a saw this stranger? She (Ar-koo-too) makes it out 7 years ago. As she is very much engaged just now with her husband’s sketching the coast from N. side — Fury + Hecla Strait to the northward, very difficult to get her mind back onto the subject of our talk. The above answer given very hastily. Each year being represented by some incident she could bring to mind required more time. When I can get her full attention + that of her husband I will try + see if the above answer is correct.

This second dating, 1861, was not in agreement with what Hall had earlier learned from other testimony. Upon further questioning Kia’s sister revised her answer.

Ar-koo-too now says: – “It was after Dr Rae saw at I-wil-lik the 2d time – (that is after 1854 the time he + party left there) that Ki-a saw this stranger.”

Hall was intrigued by these tales of white men walking along the remote coast. There was little doubt that the Inuits were telling the truth, according to Armouyer, Koolooa was “a man that talks very little but whatever he does say he speaks truth. Ki-a a very truthful man & was known to all the Innuits as a truth telling Innuit. Koo-loo-a is a man of the same kind.” Hall was utterly convinced that Kia and Koolooa had seen survivors of the Franklin party.

I am almost certain [Kia’s stranger] was a white man – even more, that he was one of a party of white men that had found their way in a boat from the low land ( — Simpson Peninsula) near Pelly Bay, across Committee Bay to Fury + Hecla Strait. A few very few days may open out the whole mystery, for to-morrow, God willing, I with my Chosen Co. will start for the most N.W. part of Melville Peninsula.

The Monument

Kia and Koolooa had undoubtedly seen a strange white man, the footprints of a party, and heard the shots fired while hunting. Their testimony was clear and consistent, and even without any physical evidence to support it, it was corroborated by the testimony of Kudloon and others to such an extent that there can be no reasonable suspicion of falsehood. But there was some physical evidence.

Hall was shown at least one thing which was probably the handiwork of white men. For the day after Kia saw his stranger, the “same day” that the two of them came across the tracks of three white men and a dog, Koolooa found a curious monument.

Kudloon told of this discovery (although he thought that it had been found the next year.)

After the death of Ki-a, Koo-loo-a thought he would go deer hunting in that part of the country where Ki-a had seen the strange person, as he believed he might find something that would be useful to him thereabouts and as he wanted some wood with which he might make arrows + spear heandles [sic] between Ar-lang-naz-u + the NW Cape of Melville Peninsula. He hunted but found nothing that he sought for. Here I asked if he (Koo-loo-a) during his search found any piles of stone called In-nook-shoo, by the natives. He replied that he did. I then got Rae’s chart + placed it before us. Koo-loo-a soon comprehended its nature + then said that the extreme NW part of the Melville Penn + sea by it of the chart was not as the land + water really are. He said that quite a large river runs from the eastward nearly parrelel [sic] with Adge-go (Fury + Hecla Straight [sic]) + empties its waters into a Bay very near to Cape Ellice of Rae’s discovery in 1847. Near the river south side of it Koo-loo-a found a monument of stone on the crest of a piece of rising ground + a little to one side west of the monument he found where a curious kind of cache had been made of stones. The cache had been opened + the stone all thrown on one side. The monument + the cache stones all shewed [sic] a great degree of freshness. He did not think they were the work of any Innuit. He looked carefully about where the cache had been made for the object to learn what had been deposited there. No signs that any meat had ever been put there. He does not think that any Innuit had ever before been so high up from Ar-lang-na-zhu (Garry Bay of Rae’s chart).

Koolooa believed that the Innookshoo and cairn which he had found were associated with Kia’s stranger. His description of the strange marker and the cache excited enough interest in Hall that he determined to visit the site. Koolooa gladly offered to act as guide, and with Tookoolitoo and Ebierbing as interpreters, Hall’s small party set off in late April of 1868 for the western shore.

On the way they encamped on Brevoort River near the place where the tracks of white men had been seen (Hall’s 5th encampment of 20 April). Hall’s track-chart confirms that these tracks were, as Koolooa had said, near the N.W. corner of Melville Peninsula, about four miles to the south of the Strait. This is far from the known route of any European explorer.

Four days later Hall’s party arrived at the site of the monument itself, which was located eighteen miles to the south of the Strait in the depths of Parry Bay. Hall’s editor Nourse considered the event significant enough to render Hall’s fieldnotes verbatim.

Literal copy of Hall’s notes: “APRIL 24. – Koo-loo-a requested today that I would take a look with my spy-glass in a certain direction, after we had tramped for four hours over hill, lake, ravine, and through deep snow. I looked, and sighted a monument above the snow. Koo-loo-a and Frank [Lailor] took a look through the spy-glass, the former declaring that the monument he saw was at the head of a bay not then in sight … To-morrow morning, I remove with my party to the monument. Koo-loo-a told Hannah [Tookoolitoo] that when he first saw this monument thirteen years before, it was then fresh, and now looks old. When he found it and the cache-stones under the bank, he told all the Innuits of his strange discovery. No Inuit could have made it. A hole was dug out of the rocks and something deposited in it. Afterward, the stones covering the cache were thrown all in a pile on one side, and the deposit, whatever it was, taken out.

The next day the party moved down to the site of the monument itself. Hall gave a detailed description of the site: “On either side of the plain on which it stands is a river, and hills of delta are northeast of it. It is 100 feet above the sea, and near a hill upon the south side of the plain. The hill looks not unlike an inverted whale-boat when seen at a little distance from the northwest.”

APRIL 25. — This morning we leave our seventh igloo here and move down to the monument, to make all investigations possible relating to it, and try our best to find the cache-stones buried in a huge snow-bank that lies over the steep bank of ground running alongside of the plain on the margin of which is the monument.

8 a.m. — Passing along frem [sic] seventh encampment toward Cape Crozier, the monument is distinctly visible with the glass. I and Frank commenced at once with our snow-shovels to cut out snow-blocks from the heavy bank just west of the monument in search of the cache-stones. Koo-loo-a, from his remembrance of the situation of the monument and cache-stones, has shown us where to dig.

10.5 a.m. — Hannah has found the tenting-place of white men — an oblong tent and four fresh upturned stones, one at each corner, to make fast the lines of the tent; the stones show an age since turned up our of their bed the same as the monument stones.

10.30. — Joe, in searching around, has found another tenting-place. Frank and myself were busy raising blocks when Joe called, and then we all ran where he was, and have just made our investigations. These stones are in a circular form, and evidently the tenting-place of Innuits within ten to fifteen years. Hannah said if a fire-place could be found within the tent-circle then they were Innuit tenting places, and at last a fire-place was found within one of the circles — black on the back of the fire-place; a stone that had formed one side was loosened and turned up by Hannah and found black with smoke. Koo-loo-a found a large stone in proper position for holding the line keeping up the entrance to the tent; as Ig-loo-lik people make their tents. Joe, Hannah, and Koo-loo-a are sure the oblong-shaped tenting-place and the stones at the corners and outside row of small stones tell the truth, that Innuits never did that work. The contrast particularly striking between the tenting-place of the whites and that of the natives. A small stump of a tree found in the circle of an Innuit tenting-place, and not decayed, but white with age, showed hard life among the ice of the sea of Ak-koo-lee.

EVENING NOTES. — All day we have been hard at work cutting out snow-blocks in search of the cache-stones, but in vain. One would be greatly delighted to see the excavations and upturned blocks all around made in searching for lost cache stones.

26th. — Joe and Hannah, being well acquainted with white men’s ways, are as certain as is Koo-loo-a that white men had an encampment here.

The “white man’s” tent had measured 9 feet by 6. The heavy corner stones weighed between 25 and 35 pounds. The contrast between this tenting place and the circular one of Inuit design was overwhelming. As loathe as Hall was to abandon the effort to find the cache, the party’s food was running perilously short and it was time to return. Koo-loo-a “was the most disappointed one of the party, for he expressed honest fears that he would be thought to have told a falsehood. Yet his character for entire truthfulness had been and still remained unquestioned … He left the spot with the assurance that his search for the evidence of white men’s having lived a struggling life in those regions had not been in vain, for they had found a monument and tenting-place made by WHITE MEN.”

Who made the camp and built the cairn? If the invariable testimony and the physical evidence is to be believed then they must be the product of white men. By Toolooa’s account he found the monument thirteen years before Hall’s visit, in 1854, and at that time it was remarkably fresh. Most historians believe that in that year it was, in fact, seven years old.

Hall was well aware that, as we shall see, John Rae had explored the same coast to the north of Garry Bay in 1847, but noted that Rae had not reached the extreme northwest corner of the peninsula during his travels. Yet Rae himself was sure that he was the man seen by Kia, and most historians since have endorsed his opinion. It would seen that a detailed comparison of Kia and Koolooa’s experiences with Rae’s 1847 expedition is in order.


i. Hall Collection, Book A, pp 61-2. The hunters were named Kia, Koolooa, Kud-loon (Hall’s informant), O-kay, Suk-bar-bing, Muk-ta, Kop-poo, and Soo-blu-ar-u.
ii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 36-7.
iii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 34.
iv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 54.
v. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 54.
vi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 34-5.
vii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 36-9.
viii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 115.
ix. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 64-6.
x. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 51-2.
xi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 63.
xii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 115-17.
xiii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 63-4.
xiv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 115.
xv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 115.
xvi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 114.
xvii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 35.
xviii Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 52.
xix. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 50.
xx. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 36.
xxi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 60.
xxii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 113-7.
xxiii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 114.
xxiv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 52.
xxv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 53.
xxvi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 39.
xxvii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 50.
xxviii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 39-40.
xxix. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 54-5.
xxx. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 57-8.
xxxi. Hall, Hall Collection, Book B, p 117.
xxxii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 39.
xxxiii. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 39.
xxxiv. Hall, Hall Collection, Book A, p 1-3.|
xxxv. Nourse p 342, 547.
xxxvi. Nourse, p 346.
xxxvii. Nourse, p 344.
xxxviii. Nourse, p 346-7.
xxxix. Nourse, p 345.
xl. Nourse, p 347-8.