McNicoll, Paule, Frank Tester, and Peter Kulchyski (1999). Arctic abstersion: The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo, modernism and Inuit assimilation, Études/Inuit/Studies 23(1-2):  199-220

Keywords: camp lifeCanadian federal governmenthousekeepinghousing conditions

Produced in 1947 and reissued in 1949, The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo is illustrative of the colonial attitudes prevalent within the northern administration at the time. The book was widely distributed to Inuit in the eastern Arctic. Written in English and syllabic Inuktitut, along with illustrations, the book provides guidance on health and hygiene advice, information on governmental benefits, and directions on the care of hunting tools and game conservation.

The authors’ analysis of The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo is based on interviews with Inuit, archival research, and interviews with former health educators in the eastern Arctic. In the article, the authors do a discourse analysis on excerpts of the text. They argue the book was designed as a tool for the Canadian government’s agenda to modernize the Inuit following the Second World War.

Seven of the eighteen chapters deal with cleanliness: 'The Clean Camp,' 'The Clean Igloo,' 'Clean Air,' 'Clean Water,' 'Clean Pots and Dishes,' 'Clean Food,' 'A Clean Body.' The authors point out that the content of these chapters is inconsistent with the realities of Inuit camp life. Thus, the content is more revealing of the attitudes of northern administrators and health department officials than they are of Inuit problems. Furthermore, the government’s focus on the eradication of dirt, hints that this was what differentiated the non-Inuit (qallunat) from Inuit, thus propagating the racial stereotypes. However, the authors argue that the Inuit had an awareness of differences in degrees of cleanliness far more sophisticated, at the time, than suggested by the book.