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In the summer of 1892, a ship drops anchor in the harbour of a Labrador village. Two white men come ashore and attempt to recruit members of the Inuit community living there. They encourage them to go to Chicago the next summer to participate in the World's Columbian Exposition, a fair honouring Christopher Columbus.
The white men promise the Inuit that they will be going to a "land of plenty" where they will never go hungry. Since survival on the land is a constant challenge, the thought of never having to be hungry again is a powerful and motivating force for this community, and a number of its members leave with the ship for Chicago when it returns the next spring.
The story is told in the first person by Pomiuk, a young orphan boy who does not have much choice but to go along with his adoptive parents to the "White City," despite his dreams and instincts, which tell him that trouble is to come. Through Pomiuk, we experience the initial exhilaration of being an exhibit at the fair as millions of people click through the turnstiles to see Eskimo Village, among the other "living cultures." The initial thrill of stardom quickly turns to despair, however, as Pomiuk breaks his leg in a game of "kick" (soccer), and never heals properly.
Alice Walsh's partially fictionalized biography of Pomiuk is especially poignant as the boy's injury and resultant inability to hunt or contribute to his community is echoed by the vanishing Inuit way of life.