Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls

Date of Award

12-2011

Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.

Department

History and Social Studies Education Department

Advisor

Dr. Cynthia A. Conides

Department Home page

http://history.buffalostate.edu/

First Reader

Cynthia A. Conides, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Social Studies Education, Director of Museum Studies

Second Reader

Lisa Marie Anselmi, Ph.D., R.P.A., Associate Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department

Abstract

Polar exploration was a large part of American culture and society during the mid to late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. The North Pole controversy of 1909 in which two American Arctic explorers both claimed to have reached the North Pole was a culmination of the polar exploration era. However, one aspect of the polar expeditions that is relatively unknown is the treatment of the native Inuit peoples of the Arctic by the polar explorers. The case of a small group of Inuit peoples who were brought back from Greenland and sold to the American Museum of Natural History highlights the attitudes of the American public and museums of this period that allowed such poor treatment of native peoples. This thesis is a historical perspective of the North Pole controversy along with a discussion of the role of native peoples in advocating reform that could have prevented the tragic treatment of the Inuit peoples at the hands of explorers and early museums.

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