Edna Elias appears in a still from the documentary Edna’s Bloodline, which traces her Swedish ancestry. According to filmmaker Eva Wunderman, Elias’s great grandfather was a Swede who trapped and hunted, established a Hudson’s Bay post and sailed the Northwest Passage. (Wunderman Film Inc.)

Edna Elias appears in a still from the documentary Edna’s Bloodline, which traces her Swedish ancestry. According to filmmaker Eva Wunderman, Elias’s great grandfather was a Swede who trapped and hunted, established a Hudson’s Bay post and sailed the Northwest Passage.
Photo Credit: Wunderman Film Inc./Youtbube

Former Nunavut commissioner’s Swedish roots to be subject of documentary film


Nearly a century after Swedish explorer and fur trader Petter Norberg left his homeland for a life of adventure in Canada’s Arctic, his descendants finally reunited in Kugluktuk, Nunavut this week.

Former Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias, the great-grand-daughter of Petter Norberg, and Fredrik Norberg of Sweden, Petter’s great-grand-nephew, met in the tiny Inuit hamlet on the shores of Coronation Gulf in western Nunavut thanks to the efforts of Eva Wunderman.

(click to listen to the full interview with Eva Wunderman)


The Vancouver-based filmmaker is working on a documentary tracing Elias’s Swedish roots and Norberg’s journey to understand his great-grand-uncle’s experiences in the Western Canadian Arctic.

Speaking on the phone from Kugluktuk, where she was filming this week, Wunderman, who came to Canada from Sweden, said she first heard about Petter Norberg from a Swedish author who wrote a short book about his fascinating life.

Still image of Petter Norberg from documentary film Edna's Bloodline. Courtesy of Eva Wunderman/Youtube.

Still image of Petter Norberg from documentary film Edna’s Bloodline. Courtesy of Eva Wunderman/Youtube.

Petter Norberg left Sweden in the late 1800s in search of gold. His travels brought him to the Western Arctic where he married a Gwitchin woman and had children, became the second person in history to sail the Northwest Passage in a single vessel, established the northernmost Hudson’s Bay trading post of its time, discovered some remains of Franklin’s expedition and helped rescue Knud Rasmussen and the Danish Fifth Thule Expedition.

He eventually disappeared during a canoe trip up the Coppermine River.

“After reading about all he did, I thought this really is a story that should be told,” Wunderman said.

Later she found out that Petter’s great-grand-daughter is Elias, who at the time was the Commissioner of Nunavut, the official representative of the Government of Canada in the territory.

“When I contacted her, she told it was on her bucket list to trace her Swedish ancestors,” Wunderman said. “And then all of a sudden, I get a phone call from a Fredrik Norberg and he happens to be the great-grand-son of Petter’s brother who stayed in Sweden, and he is now writing a novel based on Petter’s life. So, all of a sudden I had this whole story coming to me.”

 Fredrik Norberg is the great-grand-nephew of Swedish explorer, fur trader Petter Norberg, he is writing a novel about this distant relative. (Wunderman Film Inc.)
Fredrik Norberg is the great-grand-nephew of Swedish explorer, fur trader Petter Norberg, he is writing a novel about this distant relative. © Wunderman Film Inc./Youtube

She flew to Kugluktuk in August last year to do more research and meet Elias and she set up a first meeting between her and Norberg over Skype, Wunderman said.

Elias invited Norberg, who wanted to experience first hand some of the things Petter would have done in the Arctic, to come to Canada.

“They certainly had a lot of experiences that I think isn’t too different from what Petter would have done: seal hunting and fishing,” Wunderman said.

And on Thursday they went to the Bloody Falls on the Coppermine River, the spot where Petter’s canoe was found, Wunderman said.

“It was very emotional and a beautiful trip,” Wunderman said.

The trip to the Canadian Arctic was an eye-opener for Norberg, Wunderman said.

“He didn’t realize how cold (it was) and how it could have been (for Petter Norberg),” Wunderman said. “Now of course they have modern clothing that is easier maybe, but the chill factor when you’re out in the wind fishing and being stranded… that people still live more or less in the same way with their fishing and hunting and a very closed community where everything has to be flown in.”

Elias, on the other hand, discovered that her great-grand-father had been sold by his parents as a farmhand, Wunderman said.

“It was really emotional and it really touched her to tears,” Wunderman said.

Wunderman said she is fascinated how the decisions of two brothers to live radically different lives have changed the lives of their descendants.

“It’s an interesting study to see what it would have been like if Petter had just stayed in Sweden,” Wunderman said. “Nothing of would have ever happened.”

Wunderman says that she expects to finish work on the film by the end of 2016.

Categories: Arts and Entertainment, Indigenous
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.