1920 Inuvialuit Schooners

The Inuvialuit of the western Arctic faced hard times after the collapse of the Beaufort Sea whaling industry in the early 1900s. After ten years of poverty a new way to make money emerged and it proved even more profitable than whaling. This was the trade in white fox pelts.

The white fox trade was centered in two western Arctic communities, Aklavik (map) and Herschel Island. By the 1920s, the price paid for white fox had increased 20 fold in less than a decade and many trappers were seeing tremendous profits. This new wealth led to the establishment of a fleet of locally owned schooners. By 1924, there were at least 39 of these expensive boats based at Aklavik.

Schooners, not only an efficient way to carry goods and conduct trapping and whaling, were also a symbol of success. Owning a schooner meant you were an important person and one such owner was an Inuvialuit man named Nuligak. In his book “I, Nuligak”, he wrote, “That summer of 1926 I owned a schooner at last! It was a brand-new one, built that year, and called the Bonnie Belle. It was 40 feet long, with a Francisco Standard heavy duty ten horsepower machine-to-make-fire. It worked beautifully.”

 

Timeline Link: 1922 White Fox Fur Trade