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Avataq Cultural Institute Reports Ancient Engravings not Damaged

Refutes 2006 story of destruction by conservative Christians

The website of the Avataq Cultural Institute in Canada has a short article by archaeologist Daniel Gendron on the Qajartalik Petroglyphs, ancient engravings which were last year erroneously reported to have been vandalised by local Christians offended by their pagan origins:

Louis Gagnon, curator at Avataq, and I were finally able to visit to the Qajartalik petroglyph site near Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik at the end of September 2007 to verify its condition. This is in response to the publication of an article by the CANWEST newspaper network over a year ago concerning the possible destruction of the Dorset petroglyphs. The news item itself was announced with an outrageous headline blaming Christians in the local Inuit community for this presumed destruction. The article should never have been published in the first place, since it was based entirely on rumour, as I mentioned in my response to CANWEST journalist Randy Boswell, published in Nunatsiaq News on September 29, 2006. Boswell was clearly informed of this fact, and despite being unable to substantiate the rumour beyond a reasonable doubt in August 2006, he nevertheless proceeded to publish the story. The news item was quickly picked up without further verification by several other papers (in print and electronic formats), including Nunatsiaq News in Iqaluit.

We are pleased to report that the site has neither been destroyed nor damaged beyond some deterioration and a small amount of graffiti that had already been noted in 2001…

This follows a letter Gendron had published in the Nunatsiaq News in September of last year (scroll down):

…It is unfortunate that Mr. Boswell has taken upon himself to make the news instead of reporting it. The emphasis on the “religious” aspect of our conversation was but one single element of it, and it was mentioned only to put the site and its turbulent history into perspective. I would have much preferred that he emphasized the role of the federal government (or lack of it) in this case…I do find regrettable that this has come out in this way. My intent has never been to blame innocent people, and I do apologize to the entire Nunavik population for this, and especially to the Kangirsujuammiut…

Boswell’s story – under the headline “Christian Zealots Destroy Ancient Artic Petroglyphs” – spread widely across the internet, including on this blog, where I looked (here and here) at the wider context of the spread of neo-Pentecostalism among the local Nunavut and Nunavik peoples. The religious revival has brought some very conservative politics to the region, as well as social changes including a dramatic decrease in alcoholism. However, while the story of the alleged damage to the engravings received wide dissemination, Gendron’s subsequent rejection of the report which used him as its source inevitably failed to get anywhere near as much publicity.

(Hat tip: Pastor Roger Armbruster of Canada Awakening Ministries, who brought Gendron’s reactions to the story to my attention)

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