Saturday, April 24, 2010


Map showing Greenland, Canada and the United States,
printed in 1929 by the Italian Touring Club.
Courtesy of the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Today, direct descendants of both Peary and Henson continue to lead their lives in Greenland and the two families have become quite close. This is a fitting legacy for the two men who worked closely together during life, despite their differences. Robert E. Peary was concerned with projecting an image of himself as the “epitome of manliness”, an ingredient which had proven vital to previous successful Arctic campaigns. Peary believed in traditional colonial power relationships and expected the Inuit he encountered to be subservient to him. As an African-American, Matthew Henson identified with the oppressed Inuit and actively worked to befriend them and understand their culture. His efforts have left a lasting impression on the Inuit he encountered and, even today, he is lauded among Greenlanders. Peary and Henson’s relationships with Ahlikahsingwah and Akatingwah reflect these fundamental differences between two very different men.

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