Ada Blackjack

Ada Blackjack, an indigenous woman on a trip to the Arctic with four white men, with no previous experience in Arctic survival, might seem unlikely to be the sole survivor of the Wrangel Island expedition. Perhaps for this reason, Blackjack attracted a great deal of public attention upon her return. With so many competing perspectives on her character and role in the trip, it is difficult to tease out what is the real Ada and what is biased, framed, misrepresented. Who was Ada Blackjack? The heroine of the expedition? A woman on a journey of survival in a new world? A naive and simplistic lucky survivor? A malicious actor in Knight’s death? A deeply dedicated mother? A human being struggling with isolation? A mistreated indigenous person? In this exhibition, we explore Knight’s perspective of Ada from his own diary, Ada’s summary of the trip dictated to Noice in the Noice papers, the Knight family’s perception of Ada in their letter to Stefansson, Stefansson’s characterization of Ada published in his book on Wrangel Island, and finally Ada’s own diary from the experience. Hopefully, through the lens of these materials - from during and after the expedition; from Ada’s perspective and that of those around her - we can bring together a complex and nuanced understanding of Ada’s personality and her role in the Wrangel Island expedition.