Aglooka - The Creative Works of David C. Woodman
Supunger’s Tale

Supunger’s Tale



Supunger was a Netsilik (Boothian) Inuit who heard of the Franklin disaster from relatives who had met with McClintock. He confirmed to Hall that until  McClintock returned to the Fox at Bellot Strait the natives had no idea that there was anything related to the dead white men to be found north of Erebus Bay (this, by the way, explains why everything was still waiting in a virgin state for McClintock to find in 1859). Now that McClintock had given them the “heads up” Supunger and his uncle decided to go check out the NW coast of KWI themselves to scavenge some goodies. They believed they were the first Inuit to do so, even so they did not go on their trip until 1862.


“From Spence Bay he & uncle pass westward & southward til 1 half way to King William Land then turn due south & passing through Rae Strait down themiddle of it just after doubling the point of land called by Rae “Matheson Island” go S.W. to Pt. Booth & thence along on the ice (which was the element on wh. they travelled from Neitchille) westward to “Pt Jas. Ross” where they passed onto K.W. Land thence the track goes due N. till near the 69th parallel where it turns W for 10 or 15 miles. Then a stop was {made?} indicated on the chart or map by heavy pencilling. Thence the track runs up almost N by NW through the middle of the Island to Wall bay & thence along the coast to Cape Felix. Thence the track runs along down on the W. side of King Williams Land to Back’s Bay & thence to the place where the stop had been made in the outward journey. Near there they meet with Neitchille Inuits.” (Hall Collection, Journal 58919-N #11) interview conducted 14 July 1866)



A little way inland from this tupik wh. was not erect but prostrate he & his uncle came to place where they found a skeleton of a Kob-lu-na (white man) some parts of it having clothing on while other parts were without any it having been torn off by wolves or foxes. Near this skeleton they saw a stick standing erect wh. had been broken off – the part broken off lying close by.

From the appearance both he & his uncle thought the stick, or rather small pillar or post, had been broken off by a Ni-noo (polar bear) on taking hold of that part of the wooden pillar wh. was erect they found it firmly fixed – could not move it a bit.

But what attracted their attention the most on arriving at this pillar was a stone – or rather several large flat stones lying flat on the sandy ground & tight to-gether. After much labor one of these stones was loosened from its carefully fixed position & by great exertions of both nephew & uncle the stone was lifted up a little at one edge just sufficient that they could see that another tier of large flat stones firmly & tightly fitted together was underneath. This discouraged them in their purpose wh. was to remove the stones to see what had been buried there for they was [sic] quite sure that something valuable was underneath. On my asking Su-pung-er to take a long handled knife wh. I handed to him, & make out on the snow about the shape & size of the spot covered by these flat stones, he at once did as I desired – & the spot marked was some 4 feet long & 2 feet broad. The pillar of wood stood by one side of it – not at the end but on one side. The part of the stick or pillar standing was about 4 feet high as indicated by Su-pung-er on my person & the whole height on replacing the part broken off, about six feet from the ground. As nephew & uncle were in want of wood they spent a good deal of time in digging the part erect loose. It was deeply set in the sand. The shape of this stick or pillar was a peculiar one to these natives. The part in the ground was square. Next to the ground was a big ball & above this to within a foot or so of the top the stick was round. The top part was about 3 or 4 inches square. No part of it was painted – all natural wood color.

Su-pung-er & his uncle found what Too-koo-li-too says are many graves of the Kob-lu-nas not far from the place just described. From the description of Su-pung-er, as given to-day with Rae’s map before us, he & uncle saw a great pile of clothing further N. on King Williams Land than the graves – & at  The large tent seen, & the flat stones convering something that they sought to get but couldn’t was above that is N. of the big or long bay wh is south of Ross’s “Point Victory”. They saw very many rein-deer in various parts of King Williams Land except at the extreme N. point of it. There game was very scarce & for this reason could not prolong their search along down the W. side of the Island as far as they desired.

The land very low & sandy at the Northern part of the island & down as far as they followed the coast on W. side wh. was to Back’s Bay. The ice very heavy & very much broken wherever they could see when to the westward & northward at the upper part of the island while at the same time the channel bet[ween] King Williams Land & Boothia was clear of ice. No water to be seen at all on the N & W sides – all ice there. No Innuits live that side – saw no Musk oxen.” (Interview with Supunger Friday, May 4th, 1866).


“They found a hole of the depth from the feet up to the navel & of a length more than a man’s height & wider than the width of a man’s shoulders & this was all nicely walled with flat stones placed on or above another, flatwise.

In this vault they found a clasp knife, a skeleton bone of a man’s leg & a human head (skull). There was much water, mud & sand at the bottom of the vault. The sand had been carried in by the water, as they thought, running in at the hole that had been made by the wild animal on one side of the vault. Near this vault they saw parts of a human skeleton with fragments of clothing on the limbs. There was no head about these skeleton bones & See-pung-er & his uncle concluded that the same wild animal that had made the hole in the vault had taken these skeleton bones out of the vault & dragged them to where he & his uncle saw them.” (Hall Collection, document 58919, 4 June 1866.)


“Su-pung-er has just told us that when he & his uncle were on Ki-ik-tung (as the natives denominate King Williams Land) they saw something that was a great curiosity to them & they could not make out what it was for. From his description of it, Too-koo-li-too suggests that it was a cook stove – it was very heavy & all iron. It had on one side or end a great many small pieces of iron close enough together to make it look something like spears – fish spears. By his language & symbolizing, these pieces of iron can be none other than a grate in the stove for burning hard coal. There were several heavy Oot-koo-seeks (Kettles) with handles on bales … The place where this curiosity (stove) was, was close by the large tu-pik (tent). The tent they found was close by the coast above Back’s Bay, not far from Victory Point as Su-pung-er has shown on the chart that I placed before him.” (Hall Collection, document 58919, 4 June 1866.)