REBELS, RASCALS & ROYALTY: THE COLOURFUL NORTH OF LACO HUNT
Yellowknife, Outcrop, c1983.
Yellowknife, Outcrop, c1983.
Volume 12 Number 5
The entertaining memoirs of LACO Hunt's life in the land of permafrost give us an insight into that breed of men who were able to adapt to the rigorous climate and unique problems found in the Northwest Territories. Rebels, Rascals & Royalty, the book's title, is rather misleading. One might conjecture that Hunt viewed the icebound portion of Canada as a haven for the miscreant or mutineer or a sort of showplace of oddnesses that would amuse the great and powerful. This would do the book an injustice, for it is full of warmth, good sense, and genuine appreciation for the peoples in those icebound latitudes. Few Canadians know of, or ever will visit the vast, solitary, north-facing side of this land; however, this book (edited by Barbara Hunt after her husband's death) will stimulate the reader to search for more books about this lonely land. Autobiographical details follow Hunt from his apprentice days with the Hudson's Bay Company to his responsibilities as a trader and fur buyer and, after World War II, as a government administrator, adviser, and bureaucrat.
If there is a protagonist in the book, it must surely be the arctic climate, the Mackenzie River, or the Beaufort Sea. True, famous names abound, from the famous bush pilots to the renowned explorer, Sir John Franklin, but humans always seem to be cut to size by the arctic winters. No one can read Hunt's fund of anecdotes, packed with recollections of a life rich in experience of events and people, without seeing the need for compromise and understanding of the conditions that prevailed at that time of sudden change for those in the arctic settlements. Indeed, the very weather called for stamina, character, and good judgment. White mores (and moral code) had to be tailored to suit the Dene and Inuit peoples, many of whom made the transition from primitive hunting at a subsistence level, to a mode of life that included much of the sophistication of twentieth-century western countries. Even the sea mammals had to be especially equipped to exist, and a few fascinating paragraphs tell us of the Golden Usuk cocktail bar. This watering place was named after the male walrus' penis bone (needed, Hunt believed, for successful mating in those frigid waters).
Hunt seemed always to temper the letter of the law with a knowledge of what is needed for the best interests of the indigenous peoples of the North. No one should miss reading this colourful and timely book.
Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, BC.
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