TUGLAVINA (Tuglawina, Tukelavinia, baptized William), a leader among the Labrador Inuit; b. c. 1738; m. c. 1770 to Mikak; d. 4 Oct. 1798 at Nain, Labrador.
Tuglavina was born and raised at a time when there were no European settlements in northern Labrador and when contacts between Europeans and the Labrador Inuit were of a sporadic and often hostile nature [see John Christian Erhardt*]. Although little is known of his early years, the second half of his life is well documented in the diaries of the Moravian missions which were established during his lifetime at Nain (1771), Okak (1776), and Hoffenthal (Hopedale) (1782) [see Jens Haven]. When first mentioned by the Moravians, in 1770, he was an angakok (a native religious leader) and the husband of Mikak, who was well known to the missionaries because of her recent stay in England. With Mikak he served as a pilot on the Moravian sloop sent to select a suitable location for Nain, and once the mission was established he became a frequent visitor. In 1775 he took three of the Moravians in his own boat to seek a building site for Hoffenthal, and five years later he allowed one of the missionaries to travel with him to the caribou hunting camps in the interior.
From the early years of their marriage Tuglavina and Mikak had frequent quarrels and they eventually separated after he had taken several additional wives, one of whom was Mikak’s sister. In 1782 he took a fourth wife, a mark of exceptional prestige at a time when polygyny was a common and desired form of marriage among the Labrador Inuit but when even the most successful men had only two or three spouses. Later in the same year Tuglavina made a journey to Chateau Bay (on the Strait of Belle Isle) in southern Labrador where he traded at some of the fishing and sealing posts recently established in the area. Having obtained muskets and gunpowder, which the Moravians had been unwilling to supply at their trading stores, he persuaded many of the baptized Inuit to leave the Moravian missions and follow him south on subsequent trips. He became a successful middleman, taking trade goods to the Inuit who lived north of the missions and carrying south in his large two-masted sloop valuable raw materials such as baleen. In spite of his success many of his followers left him, and he became obsessed with the fear that his enemies were plotting revenge for his part in past murders of Inuit.
Tuglavina’s southern trading journeys seem to have ceased by 1790, when his sloop became unseaworthy and he had only a single dog to pull his sled. In that year he moved with his only remaining wife to the mission at Nain. He had been baptized at Chateau Bay in 1783 while suffering from a serious illness and in 1793 he was accepted into the church congregation at Nain. He seems to have become a strong advocate of Christianity in his later years. He died of pleurisy in 1798 and was buried in the mission cemetery.
Archiv der Brueder-Unitat (Herrnhut, German Democratic Republic), Hopedale diary, 1782–84. Moravian Church Archives (London), Hopedale diary, 1784–98; Journal of the voyage of the Jersey packet to Labrador and Newfoundland taken from the papers of Jens Haven and Christian Drachard, 1770; Nain diary, 1771–98; Okak diary, 1776–98. J. G. Taylor, Labrador Eskimo settlements of the early contact period (Ottawa, 1974); “William Turner’s journeys to the caribou country with the Labrador Eskimos in 1780,” Ethnohistory (Tucson, Ariz.), 16 (1969), 141–64.
© 1979–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
J. Garth Taylor, “TUGLAVINA,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 5, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tuglavina_4E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||J. Garth Taylor|
|Title of Article:||TUGLAVINA|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||June 5, 2023|