Eminent anthropologist Jean Briggs, Inuit language expert, dead at 87

World-renowned anthropologist, environmentalist and retired Memorial University professor Jean Briggs has died in St. John's.

World-renowned anthropologist, environmentalist and retired Memorial University professor Jean Briggs, whose lengthy academic career included key work on a groundbreaking Inuit dictionary, has died in St. John's.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Jean Briggs was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Psychological Anthropology. (Chris Hammond)

Briggs passed away on July 27 at the age of 87.

Born May 28, 1929, in Washington, D.C., Briggs was raised in Maine. She received her undergraduate degree at Vassar College in 1951, and went on to complete her graduate work at Boston University and Harvard.

Briggs moved to Newfoundland in 1967, and joined the Department of Anthropology of Memorial.

In Briggs' obituary, she was described as an "ardent environmentalist," who "lived the principles of conservation of nature in her life, living simply and preserving lands for conservation." 

The groundbreaking Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family, was based on research and field work that Briggs conducted on a remote Arctic shore in the mid-1960s.

Over an 18-month period, she documented the behaviour, language and culture of the Inuit who lived there.

The book, published in 1970, continues to be a classic in its field.

Inuit Morality Play, Briggs' second anthropological book, won two prestigious awards after it was published in 1988. 

In 2015, Briggs helped to complete a dictionary of Utkuhiksalingmiut Inuktitut, a major contribution to the preservation of the Utku language. 

A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Briggs was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Psychological Anthropology.

Briggs is being waked at Carnell's Funeral Home on Freshwater Road in St. John's on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.