||Between 1906 and 1918, anthropologist
and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879- 1962) went on three expeditions
into the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, each of which lasted between
sixteen months and five years. He published some 24 books and more
than 400 articles on his travels and observations, including his
autobiography (1).' There is also
a voluminous literature on his life and work (2).
Stefansson was an ambitious and successful explorer and he soon
became a public figure in North America and Europe, well-known for
his description of the "Blond Eskimo" (Copper Inuit),
his discovery of new lands in the Arctic, his approach to travel
and exploration, and his theories of health and diet. His successes
in exploration, however, as Collins points out, "have tended
to obscure the fact that he was primarily an anthropologist,"
although some anthropological works have referred to his writings
and he continues to be cited in ethnographic and historical works
on indigenous peoples of the North American Arctic, particularly
("North Alaskan Eskimo") (3).
Young Vilhjálmur Stefansson
|Stefansson was born in the Canadian
Icelandic community at Arnes, Manitoba. His parents, along with
250 other Icelandic colonists recruited by the Canadian government
in 1877, left from north Iceland to settle near Winnipeg, in "New
Iceland" as the settlement came to be called. Stefansson attended
university from the age of eighteen, first at the University of
North Dakota and later at the University of Iowa and Harvard University.
Early on he developed an interest in comparative religion and anthropology
and for some time he seems to have been torn between priesthood
and anthropology. In the end he decided in favour of anthropology,
"with the mental reservation that it was to be a humanistic