cover image From the Tundra to the Trenches

From the Tundra to the Trenches

Eddy Weetaltuk. Univ. of Manitoba (Michigan State Univ., U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $27.95 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-0-88755-822-1

This memoir is a revealing account of 20th-century history as viewed through the lens of the life of one man from the Canadian North. Weetaltuk, believed to be the first Inuit man to serve in the Canadian armed forces, assumed a false identity, using the name Eddy Vital, to enlist, because at the time Inuit people were not allowed to leave the North. The book opens during Weetaltuk’s childhood, focusing on his time at a Indian Residential School in Fort George, Quebec. The bulk of the narrative recounts his 15 years in the army: training, serving in the Korean War, and later being stationed in Germany. He reflects on both the benefits (which included travel and being seen as his fellow soldiers’ equal) and disadvantages (feeling disloyal to his people, not being able to marry the woman he loved) of his assumed identity. Weetaltuk writes that he hopes his story will inspire Inuit youth to succeed in the wider world while preserving and celebrating their own culture. Several decades elapsed between the writing of this book and its publication, and the author’s struggle to publish is an interesting story in itself. Readers will wish that Weetaltuk, who died in 2005, had had time to write second volume about his return to the North. (Feb.)