This Week in History
The Interpreter with the Golden Dress
For the week of Monday September 29, 2014
On October 1, 1795, Mikak, the famous Inuit interpreter and ambassador who helped make peace between the Inuit and Europeans, died in Nain, Labrador. Born around 1740 in Labrador, her life is exceptionally well-documented for the time because of her contact with Europeans, and provides a window into Inuit life during this period.
In England, Mikak befriended many people with her charisma, including the Dowager Princess of Wales and the Moravian missionaries (a European Protestant church) who were planning to open a mission in Labrador. When Mikak returned to Labrador, she prepared the Inuit for the arrival of the missionaries, and greeted the Moravians wearing the gold embroidered dress that was given to her by the Dowager Princess.
In 1770, Mikak guided the missionaries along the coast, introducing them to many Inuit camps and helping to find a location for their first mission in Nain. Moreover, she ensured a calm transition for both the Inuit and the Moravians as new communities were built.
The relationship between the Moravians and Mikak was not always perfect, however. The Moravians disapproved of her continuing practice of Inuit cultural traditions and objected to her trading with British merchants for such things as firearms and traps. Mikak was baptized on her death bed, foreshadowing the “Great Awakening” of 1800-1805, when many Inuit decided to convert to Christianity.
Mikak is a National Historic Person and the Moravian Missions and Inuit in Labrador is a National Historic Event.
Hopedale and Hebron, two Moravian missionary communities in Labrador, are designated National Historic Sites. To learn more, please read Hopedale and Hebron: Mission Accomplished!
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