Trapped in a Human Zoo

A forgotten diary tells the story of Labrador Inuit trapped in the world of human zoos in Europe, in the 19th century. Now a new chapter is about to be written.
Available on CBC Gem

Trapped in a Human Zoo

Nature of Things

This is the story of the incredible journey of eight Inuit who came from Labrador in 1880 to Europe lured by promises of adventures and wealth, only to realize they had been trapped in a world that time has today forgotten; the world of human zoos. Thirty-five thousand indigenous people from around the world were recruited for these zoos.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Abraham and his family helped build the first exhibit in Hamburg, Germany

In this world, men, women and children were exhibited like animals. An era of scientific racism was ushered in.  And if not for one small diary found after being lost for over one hundred years, written by a man named Abraham, their tragic story would have been forgotten forever.

Listen to an interview on CBC's The Current with author France Rivet.

CBC Newfoundland and Labrador: Documentary looks at Inuit family put in human zoo.

But 130 years later, author France Rivet and Inuit Elder Johannes Lampe, will uncover the mystery of their disappearance as they discover the remains of five members of the group in Paris. They will follow Abraham’s voyage through Germany and France. In Berlin, they'll visit the zoos where our Inuit were displayed,  in Paris they'll  stroll along the museum galleries where the skeletons of five of the Inuit were put on display until the 1930’s, then, down to the vault where they will see firsthand, the remains that have laid silent for the last 130 years. 

In  2013, Canada and France signed an agreement to repatriate the human remains of Inuit back to Canada. A final chapter of Abraham’s diary is about to be written. Abraham will return to his homeland Labrador.

Credits