George Washington Porter was born in December 1895 at Herschel Island to Mary Kappak, an Alaskan from Kotzebue Sound; and W.P.S. Porter, an American whaling captain. In his youth he attended a missionary school at Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands. He began working as a sailor in 1913 when he joined the crew of the C.T. Pedersen's first whaling ship Elvira. This was the beginning of his long association with Pedersen that would eventually bring him into the Kitikmeot Region. Before arriving in the Kitikmeot however, Porter had an adventurous life that saw him travelling the world. He worked a year as a reindeer herder in Alaska. He sailed on a French cargo schooner to France by way of the Panama canal. He joined the U.S. Army during the First World War and left active duty in Europe when the war ended. After being discharged in 1919, he went on many sea voyages out of San Francisco and Seattle, mostly into the Arctic. However, in 1921 he crewed aboard a four-masted schooner carrying lumber to Sydney, Australia.
INUINNAQ FUR TRADER
George W. Porter, Martha Porter, son George Porter Jr. and daughter Mary Porter (Kikoak)], 1935. (Northwest Territories Archives / N-1988-041: 0043)
On deck Canalaska Co. schooner Emma. Left: Johnson (engineer) Right: Geo Porter, Cambridge Bay, 1928. (L.T. Burwash / Library and Archives Canada / PA 99651)
In 1926, Porter joined the Canalaska Trading Company of C.T. Pedersen, and was involved in opening a trading post at Perry River along with Hugh Clarke. He moved to Gjoa Haven in 1927, where he ran the Canalaska post for five years before returning to San Francisco. Porter remained associated with Canalaska until the company was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1936. The terms of the sale of Canalaska included specific arrangements for retaining George Porter as a trader for the Hudson's Bay Company. Before beginning his work with the HBC however, Porter worked for the RCMP as guide and dog team driver to Henry Larsen and the crew of the RCMP ship the St. Rochelles during their time in the Kitikmeot as they were navigating the Northwest Passage. Larsen was impressed with Porter and tried to get him to join the St. Roch for the remainder of their voyage to Halifax, but Porter was now permanently attached to Gjoa Haven, where he now had a wife and family.
George became manager of the HBC post at Gjoa Haven, and remained with the HBC for 25 years until his retirement in the late 1960s. Along with his wife Martha Nuliajuk, Porter raised a large family in Gjoa Haven and his many descendants continue to live in Gjoa Haven.