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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918

Dr. D. Jenness

Dr. D. Jenness

Jenness came to Victoria College in 1904 with the reputation of being a particularly brilliant scholar. His scholastic record at Wellington Boy's College was one long series of successes, which culminated in his gaining the position of Head of the School and a Junior University Scholarship. His success at V. U. C. was similarly striking and rapid. In 1907 he passed his B.A degree gaining Senior Scholarships in Latin and Greek. The following year he gained the degree of M.A. with First Class Honours in the same two languages.

Some time was spent in post-graduate work at V.U.C. and then he proceeded to Oxford, the Mecca of students. At Balliol College (Oxford) his work was excellent. I am privileged to quote from a letter written by his professor, J. A. Smith, of Balliol College, on July 10th, 1910:

"In every way he has given satisfaction to the College . . . He as shown quite unusual power of arranging his work for himself and has kept both his subjects going without neglecting either. He has just satisfactory completed his course for Anthropology. One of his examiners writes:— "I think you will find that Jenness will do credit to Balliol, as a field Anthropology. We were very much stuck by his work in the Diploma Examination. He actually beat the two B.Sc. men; and beside struck us as remarkably observant, and level-headed, the two main qualities needed in an explorer.' . . . It is pleasant to see a man strike out a line for himself and thoughtfully prepare himself for it, I believe there is a good chance of his having an opportunity next year."

Next year the opportunity came and Jenness went out to Papua and spent twelve months working on the East Coast of the Island page 37 where he did valuable work, for which he was warmly congratulated by the Committee of Anthropology at Oxford.

A well-earned, if all too short holiday of five months was then spent in New Zealand. Then he was asked by the Canadian Government to join Stefansson's expedition to the Arctic regions. His position was that of Ethnologist to the party. This was in January of 1914, eight months before the outbreak of war.

He spent nearly three years in the Arctic, enduring many hardships; and his work took him away from most of the others of the party. In order to obtain absolutely accurate information he was adopted into an Eskimo family, living, eating and working with them. Of these periods he writes: "One might do it once, but never twice. The people were very good to me, and I found much in them to admire—but, their ways are not our ways."

Of his work in this region one can obtain some idea from the report on Mr. Anderson of the Southern party, Canadian Arictic Expedition, 29th July, 1915:

(a.)"Ethnologically, Mr. D. Jenness has been able to accomplish a great deal of work among the hitherto little known groups of Eskimo in this region."
(b.)"He has made good progress in linguistic work and vocabularies, made fifty or more gramophone records of various Eskimo songs and spoke words which he has had repeatedly reproduced for the natives so that he could get the text letter-perfect and translated for comparison with other Eskimo dialects."
(c.)"Mr. Jenness's facility in learning the Eskimo dialects and the customs of the people has been of great service to the Expedition in many ways."
(d.)"While at the station Mr. Jenness acted practically all the time as interpreter and purchasing agent of the party in trading with the natives for fresh dried meat, fish and skins and clothing. In doing this work he collected a large number of specimens of Eskimo tools, weapons and other implement, clothing of all kinds, stone lamps and pots—a collection which is pretty near complete for this region—and duplicates of many things.'

So far was he from what we previously term civilized countries, that the war had been in progress 15 months before he heard of its outbreak, and the next information he received was when he arrived at Nome, in August, 1916, when, upon asking "How did the war end?" was astonished to learn that it was still in progress.

He had then to spend six months in Ottawa writing up his notes. After many requests to the Canadian Government to be released in order to go to France, the Government at last allowed him to enlist in the Civil Service Artillery, but he had to sign and agreement to return for three years after the war is over.

To be short, he crossed to England and subsequently to France just after the middle of last year. "Here he was with the mules, orderly for an officer"; and now he is working three days in an O.P. and three days with guns alternately. The orderly for an officer is a delightful task and characteristic of our so-called Democratic army. But we know hat whatever Jenness may do, he will do it well, as a gunner, as a batman, or n whatever capacity he may act. May he see a speedy end of the war and a safe return to his work. Victoria University College is proud of him