Who was James Archibald Houston, and how did he help promote Inuit art?
James Archibald Houston (1921-2005) was a Canadian artist, author and film-maker whose interest in the culture and art of the native Inuit tribes inhabiting the Arctic regions of North America helped to popularize that art and expose it to growing numbers of Canadians, Americans, and others. Houston spent many years among the Inuit, and saw their artwork as a potentially viable source of revenue for these impoverished tribes. Much of Houston’s writing, particularly his children’s books, were inspired by the Inuit culture. During his life, he was highly-decorated for his contributions to Canadian culture and for his efforts at illuminating the Inuit way of life. His 1971 novel White Dawn: An Eskimo Saga tells of a whaling expedition conducted by European colonialists that turns disastrous, leaving the three survivors stranded among the Inuit who saved them and nursed them back to health. A story of the calamitous effects on native culture of European intervention, Houston’s novel served as an allegory for the damage done to indigenous cultures by invading outsiders.