Cleveland's Trading Post, Cleveland's Wives

Cleveland's Trading Post, Cleveland's Wives

By Nancy Wachowich

Friday, April 22, 2005


Today was the start of filming at the set designed to be George Washington Cleveland's trading post. Cleveland was an ex-whaler who, at the end of the whaling period in the Eastern Arctic, decided to stay in the Igloolik region and run an independent trading post. There he collected fox furs and exchanged them for flour, sugar, tea, tobacco, metal goods, guns, ammunition, and (at times) alcohol. Cleveland was a tall, boisterous man who lived hard. He was a drinker and a bigamist. He had three wives, numerous "girlfriends" , and was said to have fathered children all around the Eastern Arctic.

I dressed for my day out at the trading post in the Isuma building lobby, alongside the three women cast in the film as Cleveland's wives. They were trying on garish Klondike style skirts over top of their snow pants and laughing amongst themselves. The set for Cleveland's post had been built out at Zach's cabin on Ham Bay (about a mile from Igloolik). I had been there several times previous to this for writing workshops for the JKR script. At that time, Zach's cabin was a shack made from plywood and salvaged siding with a five foot window facing the bay. This time, the cabin was rebuilt to look like a trading post. A second floor and third room had been added. Small paned windows were put in and shelves were installed, lined with trade goods. White foxes covered one wall.

The scene that was planned was for the afternoon was a party at Cleveland's. In Freuchen's arctic accounts, he tells about a drunken party-- a real bust-up-- when he and his traveling companions arrived at Cleveland's post. One of the actors playing Cleveland's second wife is Carol Kunuk. She told me that her great great grandmother, Sapinaq, was actually Cleveland's second wife and that Sapinaq is Carol's Inuktitut name.

Inuit name their their children after deceased relatives and friends and people are said to inherit characteristics of the person (or people) who previously held that name. They become that person all over again. History is cyclical. If Carol was following that logic, then I certainly felt sorry for her that day. Pierre Lebeau (the actor playing Cleveland) arrived on set a few minutes after I did, looking like someone who I would not want to speak with in a bar. His costume was an crumpled old musty wool military jacket, trousers tucked into 1880s military boots, a dirty loose blouse-type shirt, and an undershirt. His tooth had fallen out before his flight to Igloolik, so he had delayed replacing it in order to stay in character. It also looked as if he had not seen a shower in a while. Poor Carol.

I sat for a few and watched the action. Lebeau brought to his character particularly slimey gravitas that I had always imagined Cleveland possessing. He sounded positively creepy. Yes, poor Carol.


This site uses the Euphemia font to display Inuktitut syllabics. You can download it for free here.
This site requires the Adobe Flash Player to view multimedia content. You can download it for free here.
This site requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to display some content. You can download it for free here.

Produced with the financial participation of
Canada logo Canadian Heritage logo Telefilm Logo