The story of the social experiment conducted by the Canadian government that played with three Inuit lives.
"I don't regret the experience, but I have never recovered from it." -- Zebedee Nungak
In 1962 and 1963, three 12-year-old Inuit boys left their families in the Canadian Arctic and travelled south to live with foster families and attend public school in Ottawa. Federal government officials called the boys “an experiment”. They were relocated, it was said, with the tacit approval of their parents and with the best of intentions. The idea was to see how the brightest young Inuit would fare in the competitive white man’s world and to prepare them for leadership positions in their communities. The boys and their families were not aware that they were participants in an attempt to see how easily Inuit children could be assimilated.
The government did not anticipate the outcome. How despite their loss of language, culture and traditional skills, the tools of their white education enabled their political activism. The three boys went on to become leaders of their people. At a time when the Inuit and aboriginal people had to assert their rights. Peter Ittinuar of Rankin Inlet was the first Inuk Member of Parliament. Zebedee Nungak of Saputiligait, became president of the Inuit-owned economic and political organization, Makivik, and Eric Tagoona of Baker Lake was president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada – the first Inuit political lobbying organization. The three men were instrumental in the establishment of aboriginal rights in Canada and around the world. The battles they fought and won led to the creation of Nunavut – the world’s largest self-governed aboriginal territory. But their achievements came at an unfathomable price.
"The Experimental Eskimos" follows the three boys as men looking back at the extraordinary upheaval in their lives, wondering how the experiment affected them and what profound long-lasting impact it has had on their identity. Featuring a wealth of forgotten archival footage, photos and government documents, the film is the untold story of how an experiment in social engineering changed not only the boys, but changed a nation.