Tookoolito, also known as Hannah, was an Inuk woman from Cumberland Sound, Nunavut. She gained notoriety as a guide in 1853 when she worked for English whaling captain, Thomas Bowlby. During that time it was quite common for Inuit guides to also be novelty show pieces for exhibitions such as the Barnum Bailey’s Circus and royalty. Tookoolito was exhibited in various venues throughout the United States and England. She was eventually brought to London, where Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle received her. Bowlby returned her back to the Arctic where, some seven years later, the explorer Charles Francis Hall met Tookoolito and her husband, Ebierbing. He then enlisted them as translators and guides.
Tookoolito, in her travel experiences became fluent in the speaking and reading of english, and became capable in the writing it. She also adopted some of their ways by incorporating teatime and other such ritualistic practices, while still maintaining her traditional ways of igloo dwelling and shamanistic values. Tookoolito and Hall formed a very close friendship though her unwillingness to convert to Christianity remained a bone of contention for Hall.
The play explores Tookoolitos’ and Halls' friendship. It was her integrity to their bond that committed her to save his crew from starvation while they floated unguided on an iceberg for six months. Hall had already been fatally poisoned by one of his own crewmembers prior to that yet, even in his death Tookoolito continued to stay true to her friend. Much tragedy occurred during this six-month period but her experience of hunting and knowledge of the area is what kept the remaining crew members alive.
Searching for Tookoolito:
Tookoolito and her husband, Eiberbing, were known as the most travelled Inuit of their time. This hasn't changed much even in her death. Reneltta began searching for Tookoolito in 2011 and has been many places since.
- 2011 - Playwright-in-residence for Gwaandaak Theatre in Whitehorse, Yukon.
- 2015 - Artist-in-resident with Arctic Circle Organization aboard the tall ship, Antigua, in Svalbard, Norway.
- 2015 - Located the Tickalicktoo Polka sheet music in London, England.
- 2015 - Member of the Stratford Festival's Playwright Retreat in Stratford, Ontario.
"The playwright gratefully acknowledges the support of the Stratford Festival's 2015 Playwrights Retreat in the writing of this play."