Churchill Hudson Bay: A Guide to Natural and Cultural Heritage by Lorraine Brandson

January’s Book of the Month feature is a complete guide for the local, the visitor, or just the curious bystander which gives details and history about all the life in Churchill; people, animals, plants, even the stones, the wind, and the stars. As a member of our Book of the Month Club you are eligible to win a copy of this book, winner to be drawn at midnight on January 31, 2021. Or you could choose this author’s other publication, a full- colour art book entitled Carved From the Land (see below).

Lorraine Brandson is Curator of the Itsanitaq Museum in Churchill (formerly known as the Eskimo Museum) which had its beginnings in a small room in the Bishop’s residence in the diocese of Churchill Hudson Bay.

What began as a small exhibit of walrus tusk carvings turned into a museum (1944) when Bishop Marc Lacroix, O.M.I. in collaboration with Fathers Richard Ferron and Jean Philippe determined that a small museum devoted to the Inuit would be a meaningful endeavour.

As the focus of heritage preservation in the world of churches normally relates to ecclesiastical objects and buildings, the decision of a Bishop to promote and preserve the heritage of the people his Vicariate served was quite exceptional.

I have never seen a more complete history of a place, than this Guide to Natural and Cultural Heritage. Brandson covers everything:

  • A chronology of Churchill from 1700 BC when pre-Dorset cultures first left their marks there to present day with the plans for a new Churchill Marine Observatory run by the University of Manitoba
  • Indigenous histories with details on palaeo-Inuit, the Caribou Inuit, Sayisi-Dene (The People Under the Sun), the Maskekowininowak (Swampy Cree), and the Metis
  • Henry Hudson, British Explorer, Hudson Bay is named after him
  • The fur trade era, Prince of Wales Fort, Sloop Cove, York Factory
  • The street names of Churchill, the story of the name of each street in the town
  • The Churchill railway, the history of the railway and the importance of Churchill as an inland shipping route
  • Geology and Paleontology of the region
  • Atmospheric Science and Astronomy of the region, there are few places in the world where the northern lights are this magnificent
  • Northern Ecology, Churchill is a place which provides unique opportunities for scientists to study the north
  • Diversity of Life: pictures and scientific details about sea mammals, land mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and terrestrial arthropods of the area.

Why we love this book…

We are all guilty of overlooking the culture and history of our home and region, often too busy tending to our own daily routines and commitments.

Lorraine Brandson

Brandson describes in detail the interaction between the Indigenous people and the European settlers in the Churchill area paying close attention to the lives, histories, traditions, stories, and culture of Indigenous people. Her attention to those details and perspectives which are so often missing from other histories is refreshing and feels right.

The history of Churchill is about all the people who lived there and for Brandson it isn’t just about the people, it’s about the inter-connectedness of everything—the people, the land, the animals, the plants—the lives of all of them are all tied up together in a beautiful and complex system.

Though it sometimes reads a bit like a textbook, the book is peppered throughout with stories collected from Dene oral tradition, tea and bannock recipes given by locals, and details about the animals, plants, and sea life which thrive there.

Brandson’s book is a work of pure love and attention which, in a world where we often rush past and don’t notice the details, is valuable and unique just for that. Brandson’s mindful approach to the place she calls home can teach us all a little something about noticing the details.

What about you? Do you know the history of the place you live? Do you know any details about the plants, animals, geography, or stars of your home? Share with us in the comments below!

Banner Photo of Polar Bear by Dan Bolton

About the Author:

Lorraine Brandson is the Curator of the Itsanitaq Museum in Churchill and has a long term interest in heritage and environmental stewardship of Northern lands. A Churchill resident since 1973, she has authored two books on Inuit and Dené culture and serves as the photograph archivist for the Churchill-Hudson Bay Diocese. Brandson has contributed to a number of northern initiatives, including Chair of the Working Group Committee that negotiated the establishment of Wapusk National Park (1996).

Book Details:

Published by The Churchill Eskimo Museum and the Diocese of Churchill Hudson Bay in 2011. Reprinted with revisions in 2016. Buy the book here!

Or, the January winner may choose:
Lorraine Brandson’s full colour art book Carved From The Land: The Eskimo Museum Collection was published by The Churchill Itsanitaq Museum and the Diocese of Churchill Hudson Bay in 1994 (First Edition). It was produced for the museum’s 50th anniversary and highlights the artwork and cultural history of the North. Buy the book here!

Not a member of our FREE Book of the Month Club yet? What are you waiting for?

Book of the Month Club

Want a chance to win a free book written by a different Canadian author? Join our Free Book of the Month Club! Every month we review a book by a Canadian author and give it away to one of our email subscribers. Our goal is to share the work of other Canadian authors to help readers find other writers.

Laurie MacNevin, HF Associate Editor

Laurie is an editor, writer, and researcher. Her deep love of stories led to an Honours degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Originally from Southern Ontario, Laurie has lived in Manitoba for more than ten years, exploring the stories, landscape, plants, and people of some of the most remote parts of the province including three years in Churchill and two years in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation. Laurie and her family now live on an acreage outside of Carberry.

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