Dr Ian Whitaker

May 24, 2016

It is with great sadness we announce the passing away of Dr Ian Rice Whitaker, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology and Anthropology. 

From the Obituary Section of THE PROVINCE May 28, 2016.

Ian Rice Whitaker July 4, 1928 - May 19, 2016 Ian Rice Whitaker, 87 of Surrey, BC passed away peacefully at his home on May 19, 2016. He is survived by his wife Martha of twenty years, first wife Margaret of the UK, daughter Kythe(David), son Ronan, 3 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild and a loving extended family. Ian was a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Chairman of the Department at Simon Fraser University as well as was affiliated with the Scott Polar Research Institute. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and a friend to all. Ian was a great teacher and mentor. When not reading a book and taking notes, Ian loved to play cards and had many stories to tell, usually about his travels. Hopefully he is off herding reindeer.

One of Ian Whitaker's former students wrote, "A great friend and mentor of mine, anthropologist Dr. Ian Whitaker, passed away a couple of days ago on 19 May. ...Ian was a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University,...  I first met him as an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University and was a graduate of his at the University of Cambridge.  I was his last official student before his retirement.

Dr Ian Whitaker served Canada‚Äôs university institutions from one side of the nation to the other beginning at Memorial University of Newfoundland where he was co-founder and director of the now famous Institute of Social and Economic Research. He also contributed to teaching at the universities of Durham, Carlton and Simon Fraser University where he was initially brought in to be the Chair of three departments: sociology, anthropology and political science.  He maintained an international presence in the teaching realm throughout his career making contributions to education at the University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, University of York and the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.  His teaching career began over half a century ago in 1952.  He performed extensive fieldwork amongst the Inuit, Albanophones, Scottish and Icelandic fishers, Evenki, Tajiks and the Sami (formerly the Laplanders), where he lived as a reindeer herder for two years.  He imbued respect for other cultures to thousands of Canadian students.  When he first lived amongst the Sami people in 1951, he was the only anthropologist in the world to live amongst and study this particular group. His book on this fieldwork became a seminal and important work. The Saami themselves looked at it as an important historical document of their culture.  This always made Ian feel slightly embarrassed because he felt it could have been better. 

He also had an exemplary record of public service.  Under the leadership of former Canadian Chief Justice Thomas Berger, he served as a consultant to the Canadian MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, a renowned public process that highlighted Canada on the world stage as a caring society especially with respect to the fundamental rights of aboriginal peoples.  He served Canada through military service immediately upon arriving at Memorial University and retired from the Canadian army (militia) as a captain.  In the final stages of World War II, he employed his remarkable language skills as a young anthropologist in European villages to gather crucial information required to repatriate the remains of fallen air force pilots so that they could be buried nearer their families.  After his nominal retirement at Simon Fraser University, he continued to volunteer his time as a teacher in impoverished regions of the world and arranged for his vast personal collection of books to be donated to an assortment of libraries including the most humble of educational settings in Eastern Slovakia.

I plan to write something larger about his life and work for an anthropology journal as I had the good fortune to interview him on several occasions.  The tapes from those interviews are filled with interesting stories about his life, work and meetings with famous anthropologists and academics...

I will miss him dearly. 

Dr. Dan Small, PhD, MPhil, BA Psych., BA Soc/Anth"