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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-10-13
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd
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A Canadian icon gives us his final book, a memoir of the events that shaped this beloved writer and activist. Farley Mowat has been beguiling readers for fifty years now, creating a body of writing that has thrilled two generations, selling literally millions of copies in the process. In looking back over his accomplishments, we are reminded of his groundbreaking work: He single-handedly began the rehabilitation of the wolf withNever Cry Wolf.He was the first to bring advocacy activism on behalf of the Inuit and their northern lands withPeople of the DeerandThe Desperate People. And his was the first populist voice raised in defense of the environment and of the creatures with whom we share our world, the ones he has always calledThe Others. Otherwiseis a memoir of the years between 1937 and the autumn of 1948 that tells the story of the events that forged the writer and activist. His was an innocent childhood, spent free of normal strictures, and largely in the company of an assortment of dogs, owls, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, and other wildlife. From this, he was catapulted into wartime service, as anxious as any other young man of his generation to get to Europe and the fighting. The carnage of the Italian campaign shattered his faith in humanity forever, and he returned home unable and unwilling to fit into post-war Canadian life. Desperate, he accepted a stint on a scientific collecting expedition to the Barrengrounds. There in the bleak but beautiful landscape he finds his purpose first with the wolves and then with the indomitable but desperately starving Ihalmiut. Out of these experiences come his first pitched battles with an ignorant and uncaring federal bureaucracy as he tries to get aid for the famine-stricken Inuit. And out of these experiences, too, come his first books. Otherwisegoes to the heart of who and what Farley Mowat is, a wondrous final achievement from a true titan. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Farley Mowat began writing for a living in 1949 after spending two years in the Arctic. He is the bestselling author of thirty-nine books, including Never Cry Wolf, Owls in the Family, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, and The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float. With sales of more than fourteen million copies in twenty-five countries, he is one of Canada’s most successful writers.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 20: People of the Deer

Gunnar finally appeared (more than a week overdue) and landed with his usual panache. Although we were greatly cheered to see him, we were angry to find he had nothing for the Ihalmiut. According to his account, the Churchill RCMP detachment (which was responsible for “native administration”) had received no authorization to release relief supplies.

I scribbled an angry telegram about this for Gunnar to dispatch to Ottawa. There was no time to do more since Gunnar was anxious to get us to our destination and return to his base before daylight ended.

Hastily we loaded our gear and ourselves (including an apprehensive Tegpa) aboard the Norseman. Without the least hesitation, Ohoto, whom we had persuaded to accompany us, climbed into the co-pilot’s seat and nodding his understanding of Gunnar’s pantomimed warning not to touch any of the controls.

Overloaded with supplies for six weeks, an extra forty-five gallons of avgas for Gunnar’s return to Churchill, and the new canoe lashed to the starboard float, the Norseman at first refused to fly.
Roaring down the bay at full throttle, we were perilously close to the Duck Islets before Gunnar was able to rock it free of the water. I thought we were goners as we passed over the islets with only inches to spare, but Ohoto, leaning as far forward as his seatbelt would allow, was ecstatic.

. . .

“There! Angikuni! The Great Lake! My people’s place!”

Gunnar set the Norseman down in a little cove backed by a naked headland near which, so Ohoto proudly told us, he himself had been born.

In a tearing hurry to be rid of us, for it was growing late and he would have to find his way back to Churchill in semi-darkness, Gunnar remained in the pilot’s seat, keeping the engine ticking over while the three of us launched the canoe and ferried ourselves and our gear to a tiny gravel beach.

We had not seen any Caribou during our flight and their absence had made Andy and me distinctly uneasy for, despite Ohoto’s assurances that vast herdswouldappear, we could not get on with our investigations of their lives while they were absent. While Andy and Ohoto pitched our two tents, I climbed the long slope of the brooding hill behind the cove for a closer look at the country. The view from the crest was stunning. To the north, west, and east the tundra rolled into infinity like gigantic billows in a frozen sea.

. . .

Rather reluctantly Ohoto accompanied me on my first exploration, which was to the nearby cove where he had been born. At first I could see nothing to indicate that the grassy bench behind the beach had ever been occupied by human beings. Then Ohoto peeled some moss away from what proved to be a ring of boulders twenty feet in diameter that had once anchored a deerskintopay— a tent.

The topay which had once stood here had belonged, Ohoto said, to his grandfather Utuwiak and both Ohoto and his father had been born in it. Poking around the rest of the site I found seven more tent circles, all apparently of about the same age. Together they may have housed fifty or sixty people.

Where had all the people gone? What had become of them?

I turned to Ohoto, but he was not his usual helpful self. He would tell me nothing except to mutter a few words about “the great dying.” And he was very anxious to be gone from this place of his ancestors. When I started scratching around inside one of the circles, he abruptly abandoned me and trotted off toward our own camp, paying no attention to my attempts to persuade him to return.

Annoyed, I continued on alone around the shore of the bay past a series of paired stone pillars that had once supported kayaks and came upon an even more extensive settlement site of more than two dozen tent rings, some as much as twenty-four feet in diamete

Excerpted from Otherwise by Farley Mowat
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