Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 2010 Volume 2

"The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab" or When the Inuit Were Put in Zoos
Indigenous Peoples Literature Digest and Wikipedia
Condensed by Native Village

Abraham Ulrikab was an Inuk from Labrador.  In 1880, Abraham agreed to became part of a zoo exhibit in Hamburg, Germany. He was joined by his wife, two daughters and four other Inuit. The exhibit was a display of Inuit native ways.  Zoo keepers insisted that Ulrikab and the others walk, talk, wear their fur parkas and throw harpoons to earn their keep.

The Inuit arrived in Hamburg on September 24, 1880 and were immediately put on display. Those who flocked to the zoo expected to gape at "exotics" from a "primitive race".  What they found instead were Inuit who spoke 3 languages, played German hymn tunes on violins, and wrote their own notes about "uncivilised" Europeans.

Part of those writings included a diary written by Abraham Ulrikab during his captivity. Abraham's diary was recently translated into English, and the CBC broadcasted a two-part documentary based on his writings.

Ulrikab's remarkable diary was written in his native language, Inuktitut. He describes in vivid detail the hardships and humiliation they endured. He also tells about the terrible beatings his son, Tobias, received by their master, Adrian Jacobsen.

After a brief stay at the zoo, the Inuit families were sent on a European tour. They were supposed to be vaccinated against smallpox, but this was never done. Five months after their arrival, the Inuit were all dead.  Abraham died January 13, 1881 and his wife, Ulrike, the last to live, died January 16. The location of their graves is unknown.

Listen to a reading of Abraham Ulrikab's diary:

Ulrikab's family:
Abraham, 35,
Ulrike, 24, his wife
Sara, 4, daughter
Maria, infant daughter
Tobias, 20, Ulrike's unmarried nephew.

The other family, whose surname is unknown:
Terrianiak, about 40, father
Paingo, as old as 50, wife
Noggasak, their teenage daughter.


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