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The Long Exile

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  205 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
In 1952, the Canadian government forcibly relocated three dozen Inuit from their flourishing home on the Hudson Bay to the barren, arctic landscape of Ellesmere Island, the most northerly landmass on the planet. Among this group was Josephie Flaherty, the unrecognized, half-Inuit son of filmmaker Robert Flaherty, director of "Nanook of the North." In a narrative rich with ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 18th 2007 by UK General Books (first published April 3rd 2007)
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Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who imagines, as I did before reading this book, that the forced relocation of indigenous people in North America was something that happened historically--but not now, not in our lifetimes--The Long Exile is an important wake-up call. The Inuit whose story McGrath tells here were finally allowed the option to leave their involuntary imprisonment on their "reservation" (my term, not hers or theirs) in the most inhospitable lands on Planet Earth other than Antarctica, in ... wait for i ...more
Aug 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely absorbing and beautifully written, this book relates the experiences of a group of Inuit who were relocated by the Canadian government from their community on the Eastern shore of Hudson Bay, to the remotest and most uninhabitable islands in the Arctic Circle in order to bolster Canada’s claim on those lands.
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and well written. My main complaint with this wonderful book is that it lacked endnotes. (It seems strange for a work of history written in 2006 to only have a partial bibliography, yeah?) But an important and great read nonetheless - definitely worth your while.
For a people isolated not only by geography, social custom and economic development but also by language, the Inuit have had a remarkable amount of patience with the world changing around them. Unlike the other groups of Native Americans, who lashed out in retaliation at the invasive Europeans, the Inuit have always shrugged off the presence of the white men who visit their icelocked worlds. After all, they usually left.

But over time, that had to change at the hands of abuse. Melanie McGrath has
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is an excellent book about a terrible topic. McGrath takes the first half of the book to set the scene in Inukjuak in the early 20th century, how the Inuit traditionally lived and how they had adapted to the incursion of the whites. The second section deals with the forced relocation of Inujuak families to the inhospitable and nearly uninhabitable Ellesmere Island in the 1950s, the lies told to the Inuit by the RCMP and the Arctic government, the near starvation conditions they lived in, an ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear. Another book which gets me riled. Well researched non-fiction about the despicable forced movement of Inuit peoples from their homes on the eastern coast of Hudson Bay to the inhospitable northern Ellesmere Island resulting in starvation. Political decisions made to ensure that Greenland, USA and any Scandinavian country could not go in and claim the land. Justified because the Inuit' it was thought, could survive without support, and the government did not want them to become dependent ...more
Philip Girvan
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beginning in 1953, and continuing throughout the remainder of that decade, the Government of Canada forcibly removed scores of Inuit some 1,200 miles away from their families and ancestral lands to the harsh, desolate High Arctic.

McGrath's excellent research, including interviews with survivors and government officials as well as a thorough document review, combines with her strong storytelling skills to tell a grim tale of wanton, unnecessary cruelty conducted in the name of Canadian sovereign
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Before reading this book I had just learned that the Inuit people are the same as the Eskimo. I felt pretty clueless about these people and also intrigued by them. This book is about the relocation of Inuit families by Canadian law enforcement to the high Artic where the environment is essentially uninhabitable. Four months out of the year, there is complete and utter darkness. This was done to supposedly allow the Inuit to live their traditional lifestyle of living off then l ...more
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a compelling book about the Inuit in Canada and their cruel treatment by the government, who 'relocated' them to the northernmost reaches of the land with promises of abundant game, when in reality there was nothing but ice. Few survived, and few officials cared or would own up to any responsibility.
It is a shocking history. For me it highlights the arrogance of governments. The Inuits were used as political pawns, to inhabit the vast reaches of the arctic in order to claim the land. Th
William Walker
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the forcible relocation of a number of Inuit families to the high Arctic in the early 1050s in order to lend support to the Canadian claims of sovereignty to the region, including the Inuit/Caucasian son of the documentary filmmaker who made Nanook of the North. The fact that anyone survived is astonishing. The book is well written with one weakness in the lack of better maps and the somewhat confusing geographic references.
A tale of the Eskimos, including the Eskimo son of the man who filmed “Nanook of the North”. A Fascinating look into the lives of the Inuit, and how the misguided policies and interferences by the Canadian government and white people have resulted in enormous suffering and displacement over generations.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good and easily read insight into how native people have been treated even recently. Using the film "Nanook of the north" as an entry point this looks at the filmmaker the film and his illegitimate son and his family. Effectively conned into moving to a remote spot where life is barely sustainable. Moving and interesting.
Lyndsie Otto
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just wow. I often pick books at random off the shelf--sometimes they're duds, mostly they're good, and sometimes they're like this book: an absolute stunner.
Maybe it's because I'm American, and I've grown up hearing about how horrifically we treated our natives, but I feel like Canada's treatment of their natives goes largely unremarked upon. Perhaps it's the stereotype of (white) Canadians in general being so nice and polite? Anyway, this is why I read--so I can learn about these things I'
Janice Forman
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting a greater understanding of Canadian history -- not the stuff we learned in school!
In 1953, the Canadian government forcibly relocated three dozen Inuit from the east coast of Hudson Bay to the high Arctic, 1200 miles further north than their traditional home and hunting grounds. The Long Exile is their story, almost unbelievable, except there are Inuit and whites who can attest to this horrific tale of mistreatment and deprivation. I am left with the question of "How did this happen?" and "How was the general Canadian public so ignorant of what was happening in the north?"

Nov 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Jill
Beleaguering details slow the pace and bog down the essential story of survival and betrayal. I think the book would have been more successful as a series of short stories, à la Hemingway's Nick stories. The overarching connection of the Flaherty family to the relocation of the Inuit could then have been more clearly established without having to provide intervening history to tie the chronology together.

The language was sometimes so unique that whole sentences were undecodable. One such senten
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book. It describes the treatment of Inuit families by the Canadian government and, to a certain extent, Western culture. While most of the dramatic and disturbing parts take place toward the end of the book, the early parts, setting up the disparity of view between the government/whites and the Inuit over approximately 100 years, are equally important. It's a stark portrait of discrimination and judgment. The most appalling aspect of the story is that it took place in the se ...more
Amanda Dodge
Real Talk: I didn't finish this book. I tried to power through for book club but I fell short.

The bad: the writing is incredibly dry, and the story gets repetitive after a while. I know it's non-fiction, but it seems like a million ships got stuck over a million winters within the first 50 pages.

The good: The message of this book is important. The treatment of indigenous people is something America and Canada needs to remember and ask forgiveness for, and is a lesson we're still learning today.
Keith Eldridge
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This non-fiction book starts with Robert Flaherty venturing to Canada to make a film about the Inuit (Eskimos), the 1920 silent movie, Nanook of the North. His film is considered to be the first documentary and by some, including Martin Scorsese, the greatest documentary ever made. From here the book totally changes in tone and them. The Inuits are moved, by the Canadian government, to a harsh land about a 1000 miles north. This movement and abandonment parallels what the United States did to th ...more
Susan Robertson
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my. The sins visited on innocent folk in the name of sovereignty, and the arrogance of white people making terrifying decisions for other men, women and children. Everyone of us should read this and know this story.
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really good book. It deals with an aspect of Canadian history which I'm sure we all would rather not exist. What I like about the book is that it introduces all the persons involved in the relocation of Inuit in the early 1950s. From the film-maker who fathered one of the men who relocated, to the officials in Ottawa, to the new RCMP officer given the job of finding "volunteers," and of course to those who moved. It shares the extremely mismanaged execution of the move. It shares the physical ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-canada
A qualified two-star review, as the final third of the book is by far superior to the purple prose that bogs down the first third of the book and spills over into the middle. Once McGrath finally allows the terrible experiences of the Inuit to speak for themselves, rather than dressing up their pasts with paragraph after paragraph of turgid descriptions and unnecessary fictionalisation, the story becomes that much more gripping and painful to read. Stick with an actual history book, or skip the ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, gripping non-fiction account of terrible injustice and human rights violations of the worst kind against several Inuit families who were, in 1953, forcibly relocated by the Canadian government, from their home on the Hudson Bay to the barren, arctic landscape of Ellesmere Island, 1,200 miles to the north, the most northerly landmass on the planet. Extremely informative and very moving.
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read to understand what the Canadian government did to the Inuit 1920's to 1960's. There was no retribution until early '90's.
It may be fictionalized to be easier to read, but the story is shocking.
The challenges and the impossible that this kind and gentle people of the north endured due to Canadian government and an encroaching civilization that was not the way of the Inuit.
Kathryn Joy
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a difficult book to read...the treatment of the Inuit by Canada's government and their representatives was abysmal...actions, relocations, treatment were all done with no effort at understanding the native culture, family structures or even the weather conditions of proposed relocations...a very sad tale.
Apr 07, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have a new abreviation: TTBRMMWTRT, or "The Time Book Review Made Me Want to Read This". The story of a group of Inuit who were forced by the Cannadian government to spend fifty years living on the most god-forsaken island in the far, far north.
Rena Jane
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True story of a group of First Nations peoples on the east coast of Canada, relocated to a remote area on Ellesmere Island. One was the half-native son of a famous photographer.

Their struggles to survive and to be reunited with their families are beautifully documented.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The true history of Canada and Nunavut. The stories in this book are thoughtfully told, heartbreaking, and essential. The Long Exile is incredible contribution to the growing pool of first nations/indigenous/native people's literature.
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up off of my cousin's shelf when I was visiting her in Toronto and it caused some problems because I promptly became anti-social since I couldn't put it down. It's a fascinating mix of history, film, anthropology and family.
May 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book detailing the forced migration of the Inuit in Canada. Their story is told by telling the history of one family in particular. I learned a lot about Inuit culture and I also learned about how awful they were treated by the Canadian government.
Melissa Williams
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched history of the forced relocation of Inuit to the uninhabitable Ellesmere Island in the 1950s by the Canadian government. A haunting and consuming read backed by documented evidence and personal interviews. I think this should be a must read for Canadian students.
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Aka M.J. McGrath

Melanie McGrath was born in Essex. Her first book, Motel Nirvana, won the John Llewelyn-Rhys/Mail on Sunday award for Best New British and Commonwealth Writer under 35. She is also the author of Hard, Soft and Wet: The Digital Generation Comes of Age, and Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir. She writes for The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Evening Standard and Conde N
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