Today we visited the now deserted outpost of Hebron. For 60 to 70 years, Hebron was a missionary outpost of the German Moravian church. In the 1950s, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador forcefully relocated the Inuit living at Hebron, and the mission was abandoned. Today, several plaques mark this forced relocation event, including an official apology from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, a list of those displaced, and, the most touching— an acceptance of the apology by Inuit leaders.
Hebron is a desolate, harsh place that’s situated on a spit of land which feels like the wind would whistle across all winter long. There is no shelter from winter storms. Almost all of the buildings have fallen down, and, in their current state, are no longer useable. A few buildings have missing roofs that have obviously been blown off.
During a tour of the outpost with two onsite archaeologists and an Inuit guide (he carried a rifle and was constantly scanning the horizon), we visited the cemetery which is located a short distance from the missionary buildings. There was one cemetery for the missionaries and one for the Inuit. Apparently, people were buried according to their status—single men with single men, and married women with married women. In other words, burials didn’t follow the traditional family unit structure.
The ages of the people buried at Hebron spoke of the harshness of their lives: The oldest people in the cemetery died, on average, in their mid-fifties. The cemetery also included a lot of younger people. Many young women died in their twenties, potentially in childbirth although details were not given on headstones. We saw a lot of graves from 1918—the great Spanish flu epidemic somehow even reached this remote location.
I wondered what would make the missionaries want to come here to live. Did they realize what the conditions would be like when they arrived at Hebron? What were their first thoughts as they arrived here? Were they like missionaries in other parts of the world, trying to impose their ideas, culture and traditions on the local population?
Our archaeologist guides made an interesting discovery—arrowheads constructed of Rama Bay Chert, a beautiful stone which the original peoples in this area used and traded extensively. These arrowheads were likely at least 500 years old. Despite its harshness and desolation, this area has been inhabited for millennia, quite something to think about.
Where was Team Sedna?
Location: Hebron, Labrador
Dr. Caroline Bain
2014-2016 Sedna Epic Expedition
Date: July 16, 2014