Hugh Clarke was a fur trader who played an important early role in the establishment of both the Hudson’s Bay Company and Canalaska operations in the Kitikmeot region. He was charged with opening the HBC post at Kent Peninsula in 1920, at the time this was the most remote HBC post in the Arctic.
During his time at the Kent Peninsula post Clarke became very involved with the local people. He was fluent in Inuktitut, and took an Inuk mistress who bore him a son and a daughter. His son died young, but his daughter, born in 1922, survived. Clarke became particularly close to one local man named Angulalik, and their relationship was to be very important both to Clarke’s future work with Canalaska, and to Angulalik’s education in the fur trade.
The relationship between Clarke and Angulalik was very important to Angulalik’s education in the operation of a trading post. According to Hugh Clarke’s late wife Marjorie Robertson, Angulalik worked with Clarke at the Kent Peninsula post and it was here that he first went about the fur trading business.
KITIKMEOT FUR TRADER
Clarke must have left the north and the HBC in the summer of 1924, because he was married to Marjory Robertson in 1925 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was soon engaged by C.T. Pederson of Canalaska to build the supply ship Nigalik and Clarke sailed north with the new ship in 1926. That same year he and George Porter established the Canalaska Trading Post at Perry River.
Canalaska’s choice of Perry River (Kuugjuaq) as a location for its trading post is very likely to be a product of Clarke’s close relationship with Angulalik and his people the Ahiarmiut. According to his former wife, he thought very highly of the Ahiarmiut, and while at Kent Peninsula he heard that the Perry River area was a rich fox trapping area. There is no evidence that Clarke himself ever left the Kent Peninsula post to make the long journey along the coast to Perry River, so his knowledge of the resources of the area must have come from the Ahiarmiut themselves. Perhaps he also knew of Ahiarmiut plans to relocate to the Perry River area due to the lack of caribou around Kent Peninsula.
What is certain is that Angulalik became an important ally and was key to the success of the Canalaska post that Hugh Clark built at Perry River in 1926. Angulalik’s leadership of the local Ahiarmiut or Kuugjuarmiut ensured their allegiance to Clarke’s post. This was key, as an HBC post run by J. Livingston was also built in 1926, and was located just 7 miles down river. The relationship of reciprocity between Clarke and Angulalik is evident in the fact that Clarke built a small house for Angulalik at the Canalaska post.
C.H. Clarke, Manager Canalaska Co., Cambridge Bay, South Victoria Island. (Library and Archives Canada / PA-99652)
Angulalik was closely associated with the post at Perry River, and was occasionally employed to assist Clarke and Porter. It was during the years 1926 to 1928 that Angulalik continued the education in the fur trade he had begun with Clarke at Kent Peninsula. When the Canalaska and HBC posts at Perry River were forced to shut down operations in 1928 by Government order, the conditions were opportune for Angulalik to enter the fur trade as an independent trader. Through a combination of his own initiative, and with the encouragement and support of Clarke, arrangements were made for Angulalik to run an independent trading post supplied by Canalaska through their post at Cambridge Bay.
From Cambridge Bay Clarke ran the Kitikmeot operations for Canalaska and captained the Nigalik that he sailed to Herschel Island to pick up supplies in the summer. Clarke would make two trips. That is why he wouldn't freeze in at Cambridge Bay, he would try and freeze in at Bathurst Inlet so he could get away quick, get out and get the first load in. If there is ice around it takes quite alot.
Listen to an audio clip from an interview with Scotty Gall
(Northwest Territories Archives/ N-1988-040-0001 and 0002)