Former Nunavut commissioner's European roots to be subject of documentary film

An upcoming documentary will tell the story of a former Nunavut Commissioner who went from getting an email from a distant relative — in Sweden — to meeting her European extended family in Nunavut.

Edna’s Bloodline will chronicle former Nunavut Commissioner’s Swedish ancestry

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.)

A Swedish documentary maker is in Kugluktuk, Nunavut this week shooting footage for a film that will trace the European ancestry of former Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias. 

Edna's Bloodline will document how Elias goes from getting an email from a distant nephew of her great-grandfather to the pair meeting in Nunavut. 

"I just became really, really interested in the story," Eva Wunderman told CBC's Qulliq. 

According to Wunderman, Petter Norberg left Sweden for the North in the late 1800s in search of gold, and went on to lead an extraordinary life: he married 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.

Some of the details of Norberg's life were later shared in a book based on his notes about his life in Nunavut.

Nonetheless, Wunderman said, his story is not widely known in Sweden.

Now Fredrik Norberg, one of his distant nephews, is working on a novel about his life, in part by visiting the places he lived and the relatives he left behind, including Elias. 

"I had the idea that they should meet up, and he wanted to come over here and see how Petter might have lived, so that's how it started," said Wunderman.

Visit to Kugluktuk

Segments from the film show Fredrik Norberg and Elias meeting for the first time over Skype.

This week, they met in person in Kugluktuk. 

During the visit, Fredrik Norberg and his father tried ice fishing and seal hunting, took part in a ceremony inside an igloo and got a lesson in how to clean fish with an ulu, or traditional Inuit woman's knife. 

The group also filmed re-enactments of Petter Norberg's life in Kugluktuk.

"What I think it's fascinating is that so many people do travel and end up in different parts of the world," said Wunderman.

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