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THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska

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Author Topic: THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska  (Read 7587 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #30 on: February 05, 2009, 07:10:40 pm »









There are many theories as to why the Norse settlements collapsed in Greenland.

Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, suggests that some or all of five factors contributed to the demise of the Greenland colony: cumulative environmental damage, gradual climate change, conflicts with hostile neighbors, the loss of contact and support from Europe, and, perhaps most crucial, cultural conservatism and failure to adapt to an increasingly harsh natural environment. Numerous studies have tested these hypotheses and some have led to significant discoveries.

On the other hand there are dissenters: In The Frozen Echo, Kirsten Seaver contests some of the more generally-accepted theories about the demise of the Greenland colony. Thus Seaver asserts that the Greenland colony, towards the end, was healthier than Diamond and others have thought. Seaver believes that the Greenlanders cannot have starved to death. They may rather have been wiped out by Inuit or unrecorded European attacks, or they may have abandoned the colony to return to Iceland or to seek out new homes in Vinland.

However, these arguments seem to conflict with the physical evidence from archeological studies of the ancient farm sites. The paucity of personal belongings at these sites is typical of North Atlantic Norse sites that were abandoned in an orderly fashion, with any useful items being deliberately removed but to others it suggests a gradual but devastating impoverishment. Midden heaps at these sites do show an increasingly impoverished diet for humans and livestock.

Greenland was always colder in winter than Iceland and Norway, and its terrain less hospitable to agriculture. Erosion of the soil was a danger from the beginning, one that the Greenland settlements may not have recognized until it was too late.

For an extended time, nonetheless, the relatively warm West Greenland current flowing northwards along the southwestern coast of Greenland made it feasible for the Norse to farm much as their relatives did in Iceland or northern Norway. Palynologists' tests on pollen counts and fossilized plants prove that the Greenlanders must have struggled with soil erosion and deforestation.

As the unsuitability of the land for agriculture became more and more patent, the Greenlanders resorted first to pastoralism and then to hunting for their food.

But they never learned to use the hunting techniques of the Inuit, one being a farming culture, the other living on hunting in more northern areas with pack ice.
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« Reply #31 on: February 05, 2009, 07:11:55 pm »







A graphical description of changes in temperature in Greenland from AD 500 – 1990 based on analysis of the deep ice core from Greenland and some historical events. The annual temperature changes are shown vertical in ˚C. The numbers are to be read horizontal:



1. From AD 700 to 750 people belonging to the Late Dorset Culture move into the area around Smith Sound, Ellesmere Island and Greenland north of Thule.

2. Norse settlement of Iceland starts in the second half of the 9th century.

3. Norse settlement of Greenland starts just before the year 1000.

4. Thule Inuit move into northern Greenland in the 12th century.

5. Late Dorset culture disappears from Greenland in the second half of the 13th century.

6. The Western Settlement disappears in mid 14th century.

7. In 1408 is the Marriage in Hvalsey, the last known written document on the Norse in Greenland.

8. The Eastern Settlement disappears in mid 15th century.

9. John Cabot is the first European in the post-Iceland era to visit Labrador - Newfoundland in 1497.

10. “Little Ice Age” from ca 1600 to mid 18th century. 11. The Norwegian priest, Hans Egede, arrives in Greenland in 1721.
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« Reply #32 on: February 05, 2009, 07:16:00 pm »




             

              The Thule were skilled whalers,
              as depicted here by Norwegian
              missionary Hans Egede in the
              18th century.
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« Reply #33 on: February 05, 2009, 07:20:14 pm »








The Norse may not have been alone on the island when they arrived; a new influx of Arctic people from the west, the Late Dorset culture, may predate them.

However, this culture was limited to the extreme northwest of Greenland, far from the Norse who lived around the southern coasts. Some archaeological evidence may point to this culture slightly predating the Norse settlement. It disappeared around 1300, around the same time as the westernmost of the Norse settlements disappeared. In the region of this culture, there is archaeological evidence of gathering sites for around four to thirty families, living together for a short time during their movement cycle.

Around 1200, another Arctic culture, the Thule, arrived from the west, having emerged 200 years earlier in Alaska. They settled south of the Late Dorset culture and ranged over vast areas of Greenland's west and east coasts. These people, the ancestors of the modern Inuit, were flexible and engaged in the hunting of almost all animals on land and in the ocean, including big whales.

They had dogs, which the Dorset did not, and used them to pull the dog sledges; they also used bows and arrows, contrary to the Dorset. Increasingly settled, they had large food storages to avoid winter famine. The early Thule avoided the highest latitudes, which only became populated again after renewed immigration from Canada in the 19th century.

The nature of the contacts between the Thule, Dorset and Norse cultures are not clear, but may have included trade elements. The level of contact is currently the subject of widespread debate, possibly including Norse trade with Thule or Dorsets in Canada or possible scavenging of abandoned Norse sites (see also Maine penny). No Norse trade goods are known in Dorset archaeological sites in Greenland; the only Norse items found have been characterized as "exotic items". Carved screw threads on tools and carvings with beards found in settlements on the Canadian Arctic islands show contact with the Norse. Some stories tell of armed conflicts between, and kidnappings by, both Inuit and Norse groups.

The Inuit may have reduced Norse food sources by displacing them on hunting grounds along the central west coast. These conflicts can be one contributing factor to the disappearance of the Norse culture as well as for the Late Dorset, but few see it as the main reason. Whatever the cause of that mysterious event, the Thule culture handled it better, avoiding extinction.
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« Reply #34 on: February 05, 2009, 07:22:03 pm »









In 1536, Denmark and Norway were officially merged by personal union into Denmark–Norway, and the old Norwegian land claims were taken up by the new kingdom. In the 1660s, this was marked by the inclusion of a polar bear in the Danish coat of arms. In the second half of the 17th century Dutch, German, French, Basque, and Dano-Norwegian ships hunted bowhead whales in the pack ice off the east coast of Greenland, regularly coming to shore to trade and replenish drinking water. Foreign trade was later forbidden by Danish monopoly merchants.

In 1721 a joint merchant-clerical expedition led by Norwegian missionary Hans Egede was sent to Greenland, not knowing whether the civilization remained there, and worried that if it did, they might still be Catholics 200 years after the Reformation, or, worse yet, have abandoned Christianity altogether. The expedition can be seen as part of the Danish colonization of the Americas. Gradually, Greenland became opened for Danish merchants, and closed to those from other countries. This new colony was centered at Godthåb ("Good Hope") on the southwest coast. Some of the Inuit that lived close to the trade stations were converted to Christianity. In 1733 German followers of Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf from Herrnhut founded a mission post in South Greenland; this attracted southeast Greenlanders, who subsequently abandoned that part of the coast.

When Norway was separated from Denmark in 1814, after the Napoleonic Wars, the colonies, including Greenland, remained Danish. The 19th century saw increased interest in the region on the part of polar explorers and scientists like William Scoresby and Greenland-born Knud Rasmussen. At the same time, the colonial elements of the earlier trade-oriented Danish presence in Greenland expanded. In 1861, the first Greenlandic language journal was founded. Danish law still applied only to the Danish settlers, though. At the turn of the 19th century, the northern part of Greenland was still sparsely populated; only scattered hunting inhabitants were found there.   During that century, however, Inuit families immigrated from British North America to settle in these areas. The last group from what later became Canada arrived in 1864. During the same time, the Northeastern part of the coast became depopulated following the violent 1783 Lakagígar eruption in Iceland.

Democratic elections for the district assemblies of Greenland were held for the first time in 1862–1863, although no assembly for the land as a whole was allowed. In 1888, a party of six led by Fridtjof Nansen accomplished the first land crossing of Greenland. The men took 41 days to make the crossing on skis, at approximately 64°N latitude.   In 1911, two Landstings were introduced, one for northern Greenland and one for southern Greenland, not to be finally merged until 1951. All this time, most decisions were made in Copenhagen, where the Greenlanders had no representation. Towards the end of the 19th century, traders criticized the Danish trade monopoly. It was argued that it kept the natives in non-profitable ways of life, holding back the potentially large fishing industry. Many Greenlanders however were satisfied with the status quo, as they felt the monopoly would secure the future of commercial whaling. It probably did not help that the only contact the local population had with the outside world was with Danish settlers. Nonetheless, the Danes gradually moved over their investments to the fishing industry.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, American explorers, including Robert Peary, explored the northern sections of Greenland. Peary discovered that Greenland was an island and mapped the northern coasts. These discoveries were considered to be the basis of an American territorial claim in the area. All claims in Greenland itself were ceded to Denmark by a declaration connected with the U.S. Virgin Islands purchase treaty.
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« Reply #35 on: February 05, 2009, 07:23:22 pm »



             

              THULE AIRBASE
              Established after World War II,
              is the northernmost base of the
              US Air Force








After Norway regained full independence in 1905, it refused to accept Denmark's sovereignty over Greenland, which was a former Norwegian possession severed from Norway proper in 1814. In 1931, Norwegian whaler Hallvard Devold occupied uninhabited eastern Greenland, on his own initiative. After the fact, the occupation was supported by the Norwegian government, who claimed the area as Erik the Red's Land. Two years later, the Permanent Court of International Justice ruled in favour of the Danish view.

 
The Thule Air Base, established after World War II, is the northernmost base of the US Air ForceDuring World War II, when Germany extended its war operations to Greenland, Henrik Kauffmann, the Danish Minister to the United States — who had already refused to recognize the German occupation of Denmark — signed a treaty with the United States on April 9, 1941, granting the US Armed Forces permission to establish stations in Greenland. Because of the difficulties for the Danish government to govern the island during the war, and because of successful export, especially of cryolite, Greenland came to enjoy a rather independent status. Its supplies were guaranteed by the United States and Canada.

During the Cold War, Greenland had a strategic importance, controlling parts of the passage between the Soviet Arctic harbours and the Atlantic, as well as being a good base for observing any use of intercontinental ballistic missiles, typically planned to pass over the Arctic. The United States therefore had a geopolitical interest in Greenland, and in 1946, the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark did not agree to sell.

In 1951, the Kauffman treaty was replaced by another one. The Thule Air Base at Thule (now Qaanaaq) in the northwest was made a permanent air force base. In 1953, some Inuit families were forced by Denmark to move from their homes to provide space for extension of the base. For this reason, the base has been a source of friction between the Danish government and the Greenlandic people. Tensions mounted when, on January 21, 1968, there was a nuclear accident — a B-52 Stratofortress carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed near the base, leaking large amounts of plutonium over the ice.

Although most of the plutonium was retrieved, natives still make claims about resulting deformations in animals.
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« Reply #36 on: February 05, 2009, 07:30:41 pm »









The colonial status of Greenland was lifted in 1953, when it became an integral part of the Danish kingdom, with representation in the Folketing. Denmark also began a program of providing medical service and education to the Greenlanders. As a result, the population became more and more concentrated in the towns. Since most of the inhabitants were fishermen and had a hard time finding work in the towns, these population movements may have contributed to unemployment and other social problems that have troubled Greenland lately.

As Denmark engaged in the European cooperation later to become the European Union, friction with the former colony grew. Greenlanders felt the European customs union would be harmful to their trade, which was largely carried out with non-European countries such as the United States and Canada. After Denmark, including Greenland, joined the union in 1973 (despite 70.3% of Greenlanders having voted against entry in the referendum), many residents thought that representation in Copenhagen was not sufficient, and local parties began pleading for self-government. The Folketing granted this in 1978, the home rule law coming into effect the following year. On February 23, 1982, a majority (53%) of Greenland's population voted to leave the European Community, which it did in 1985, the only governmental entity to have done so.

Self-governing Greenland has portrayed itself as an Inuit nation. Danish placenames have been replaced. The center of the Danish civilization on the island, Godthåb, has become Nuuk, the capital of a close-to-sovereign country. In 1985, a Greenlandic flag was established, using the colors of the Danish Dannebrog. However, the movement for complete sovereignty is still weak.

International relations, a field earlier handled by Denmark, are now left largely, but not entirely, to the discretion of the home rule government. After leaving the EU, Greenland has signed a special treaty with the Union, as well as entering several smaller organizations, not least with Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and with the Inuit populations of Canada and Russia. It was also one of the founders of the environmental Arctic Council cooperation in 1996. Renegotiation of the 1951 treaty between Denmark and the United States, with a direct participation of self-governing Greenland, is an issue, and the 1999–2003 Commission on Self-Governance suggested that Greenland should then aim at the Thule Air Base eventually becoming an international surveillance and satellite tracking station, subject to the United Nations.

Modern technology has made Greenland more accessible, not least due to the breakthrough of aviation. However, the capital Nuuk still lacks an international airport (see transportation in Greenland). Television broadcasts began in 1982.
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« Reply #37 on: February 05, 2009, 07:34:45 pm »





             

              INUIT MAN
              circa 1906
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« Reply #38 on: February 05, 2009, 07:38:24 pm »











                                                           A L A S K A






The Inupiat (plural) or Iñupiaq (singular) (from Inupiaq- people - and piaq/t real, i.e. 'real people') are the Inuit people of Alaska's Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region.

Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, is in the Inupiat region.

Their language is known as Inupiat.

There is one Inupiat culture-oriented institute of higher education, Ilisagvik College.

Inupiat people continue to rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing, including whaling. The capture of a whale benefits each member of a community, as the animal is butchered and its meat
and blubber allocated according to a traditional formula. Even city-dwelling relatives thousands of miles away are entitled to a share of each whale killed by the hunters of their ancestral village. Maktak, which is the skin and blubber of Bowhead and other whales, is rich in vitamins A and C and contributes to good health in a population with limited access to fruits and vegetables.

In recent years oil and other resources have been an important revenue source for the Inupiat. The Alaska Pipeline connects the Prudhoe Bay wells with the port of Valdez in south central Alaska.

Inupiat people have grown more concerned in recent years that climate change is threatening their traditional lifestyle. The warming trend in the Arctic affects the Inupiaq lifestyle in numerous ways, for example: thinning sea ice makes it more difficult to harvest Bowhead Whales, seals, walrus, and other traditional foods; warmer winters make travel more dangerous and less predictable; later-forming sea ice contributes to increased flooding and erosion along the coast, directly imperiling many coastal villages.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council, a group representing indigenous peoples of the Arctic, has made the case that climate change represents a threat to their human rights.

Inupiaq groups in common with other Eskimo/Inuit groups, often have a name ending in "miut." One example is the Nunamiut, a generic term for inland Inupiaq caribou hunters. During a period of starvation and influenza (brought by American and European whaling crews, see John Bockstoce's 1995 Whales, Ice, & Men: The History of Whaling in the Western Arctic) most of these moved to the coast or other parts of Alaska between 1890 and 1910. A number of Nunamiut returned to the mountains in the 1930s. By 1950, most Nunamiut groups, like the Killikmiut, had coalesced in Anaktuvuk Pass, a village in north-central Alaska. Some of the Nunamiut remained nomadic until the 1950s. More Nunamiut information can be found in Nicholas Gubser's 1965 The Nunamiut Eskimos, Hunters of Caribou and Nunamiut; among Alaska's inland Eskimos by Helge Ingstad, published in 1954.
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« Reply #39 on: February 05, 2009, 07:46:23 pm »










                                                       E S K I M O S





There are two main groups referred to as Eskimo: Yupik and Inuit. A third group, the Aleut, is related.

The Yupik language dialects and cultures in Alaska and eastern Siberia have evolved in place beginning with the original (pre-Dorset) Eskimo culture that developed in Alaska.

Approximately 4,000 years ago the Unangam (also known as Aleut) culture became distinctly separate, and evolved into a non-Eskimo culture.

Approximately 1,500-2,000 years ago, apparently in Northwestern Alaska, two other distinct variations appeared.

The Inuit language branch became distinct and in only several hundred years spread across northern Alaska, Canada and into Greenland. At about the same time, the Thule Technology also developed in northwestern Alaska and very quickly spread over the entire area occupied by Eskimo people, though it was not necessarily adopted by all of them.

The earliest known Eskimo cultures were Pre-Dorset Technology, which appear to have been a fully developed Eskimo culture that dates to 5,000 years ago. They appear to have evolved in Alaska from people using the Archaic Small Tools Technology, who probably had migrated to Alaska from Siberia at least 2 to 3 thousand years earlier; though they might have been in Alaska as far back as 10 to 12 thousand years or more. There are similar artifacts found in Siberia going back to perhaps 18,000 years ago. It is believed that the Mongols, Eskimos, and probably the Korean people too all share a common ancestor in northern Asia.

Today the two main groups of Eskimos are the Inuit of northern Alaska, Canada and Greenland, and the Yupik, comprising speakers of four distinct Yupik languages and originating in western Alaska, in South Central Alaska along the Gulf of Alaska coast, and in the Russian Far East.
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« Reply #40 on: February 05, 2009, 07:49:39 pm »










The Eskimo-Aleut family of languages includes two cognate branches: the Aleut (Unangam) branch
and the Eskimo branch.

The Eskimo sub-family consists of the Inuit language and Yupik language sub-groups.

The Sirenikski language, which is virtually extinct, is sometimes regarded as a third branch of the
Eskimo language family, but other sources regard it as a group belonging to the Yupik branch.

Inuit languages comprise a dialect continuum, or dialect chain, that stretches from Unalakleet and Norton Sound in Alaska, across northern Alaska and Canada, and east all the way to Greenland.

Speakers of two adjacent Inuit dialects can easily understand one another, but speakers of dialects
at the extreme distant ends of the range have significant difficulty.

Seward Peninsula dialects in Western Alaska, where much of the Inupiat culture has only been in
place for perhaps less than 500 years, are greatly affected by phonological influence from the Yupik languages.

Eastern Greenlandic, at the opposite end of the Inuit range has had significant word replacement due
to a unique form of ritual name avoidance.

The four Yupik languages have existed in place, which probably includes the locations where Eskimo culture and language began, for much longer than the Inuit language. Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Naukan (Naukanski), and Siberian Yupik, are distinct languages with limited mutualintelligibility.Even the dialectic differences within Alutiiq and Central Alaskan Yup'ik sometimes are relatively great for locations that are relatively close geographically.

While grammatical structures of Yupik and Inuit languages are similar, they have pronounced differences phonologically and differences of vocabulary between Inuit and any of one of the Yupik languages is greater than between any two Yupik languages.
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« Reply #41 on: February 05, 2009, 07:53:15 pm »










In Canada and Greenland the term Eskimo is widely held to be pejorative and has fallen out of favor, largely supplanted by the term Inuit.

However, while Inuit describes all of the Eskimo peoples in Canada and Greenland, that is not true in Alaska and Siberia.

In Alaska the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat (which technically is Inuit). No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples.

The primary reason that Eskimo is considered derogatory is the false perception that it means "eaters
of raw meat". There are two different etymologies in scientific literature for the term Eskimo. The most well-known comes from Ives Goddard at the Smithsonian Institution , who says it means "Snowshoe netters". Quebec linguist Jose Mailhot, who speaks Innu-aimun (Montagnais) (which Mailhot and Goddard agree is the language from which the word originated), published a definitive study in 1978 stating that it means "people who speak a different language".

Nevertheless, while the word is not inherently pejorative, since the 1970s in Canada and Greenland Eskimo has widely been considered offensive, owing to folklore and derogatory usage. In government usage the term has been replaced with Inuit. The preferred term in Canada's Central Arctic is Inuinnaq, and in the eastern Canadian Arctic Inuit. The language is often called Inuktitut, though other local designations are also used.

The Inuit of Greenland refer to themselves as Greenlanders or, in their own language, Kalaallit, and to their language as Greenlandic or Kalaallisut.

Because of the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural differences between Yupik and Inuit peoples there is uncertainty as to the acceptance of any term encompassing all Yupik and Inuit people. There has been some movement to use Inuit, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, representing a circumpolar population of 150,000 Inuit and Yupik people of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, in its charter defines Inuit for use within the ICC as including "the Inupiat, Yupik (Alaska), Inuit, Inuvialuit (Canada), Kalaallit (Greenland) and Yupik (Russia)."

However, even the Inuit people in Alaska refer themselves as Inupiat (the language is Inupiaq) and do not typically use the term Inuit. Thus, in Alaska, Eskimo is in common usage, and is the preferred term when speaking collectively of all Inupiat and Yupik people, or of all Inuit and Yupik people of the world.

Alaskans also use the term Alaska Native, which is inclusive of all Eskimo, Aleut and Indian people of Alaska, and is of course exclusive of Inuit or Yupik people originating outside the state. The term Alaska Native has important legal usage in Alaska and the rest of the United States as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

The term "Eskimo" is also used world wide in linguistic or ethnographic works to denote the larger branch of Eskimo-Aleut languages, the smaller branch being Aleut.
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« Reply #42 on: February 06, 2009, 12:33:30 am »

Wow  Shocked Bianca you've sure been busy.  I haven't had a chance to read all of this, but what I have read is interesting.   As I was reading though I couldn't help but recall this story.

Once upon a time there lived an Eskimo - girl named Chanyee. She lived with her family in the northeastern shore of Greenland, where their Inuit small community was isolated from everyone, and believed themselves the only people in the world until the beginning of the 19th century. They built large snow domes to be used as singing, dancing, and wrestling competition halls for the community during the long night of winter.

During the long winter months she created many images of her people. In all of her images - life always came 'full circle'.
One night a white light appeared in Chanyee's igloo. The Ancient One manifested before her. The Ancient One showed her igloos forming a stargate . . .and told her that she was from the stars .The Ancient One told her that now is the time of the Merging
when all things would appear as double becoming One
The Black and the White Opposites that now attract.

The Ancient One told her the Inuit legend of The Origin of Light
In the early times, there was only darkness; there was no light at all. At the edge of the sea a woman lived with her father. One time she went out to get some water. As she was scraping the snow, she saw a feather floating toward her. She opened her mouth and the feather floated in and she swallowed it. From that time she was pregnant.
Then she had a baby. It's mouth was a raven's bill. The woman tried hard to find toys for her child. In her father's house was hanging a bladder that was blown up. This belonged to the woman's father. Now the baby, whose name was Tulugaak (Raven), pointed at it and cried for it. The woman did not wish to give it to him but he cried and cried. At last she gave in and took the bladder down from the wall and let the baby play with it.
But in playing with it, he broke it. Immediately, it began to get light. Now there was light in the world, and darkness, too.
When the woman's father came home, he scolded his daughter for taking the bladder down from the wall and giving it to the child. And when it was light, Tulugaak had disappeared.

The Ancient One showed her the ancient city of Thule as it once existed in another time and place.
He told her this was the time of Atlan -AtlantisChanyee saw herself living in Atlantis, when Thule was not covered in snow.
The land was fertile and there existed a highly evolved societyThe heavens were different - as were the seas. The cities were built in the shape of the spiral of creation, fibonacci.
It was there that she worked as a healer using crystal harmonics to balance the energies of all sentient life forms.
When destruction fell upon Atlantis and the Earth cried out in a mighty roar - she could no longer heal those who came to her. She knew it was a time to move on to another soul experience.
She placed the ancient wisdom into crystals which the Ancient One turned into ice.
The land quickly froze preserving the knowledge until it was time for her to release it once again as the world was ready to move forward to another soul experience.
The Ancient One showed her that one day the Earth would thaw and the knowledge buried for all time would turn to water which would flow into the oceans and into the collective consciousness of humanity. Humanity would remember what happened in Atlantis and what will occur in their time line.

I just found this interesting Smiley   I'm sure it's probably already been posted somewhere on the forum, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.   I am sure though that this will add fuel to Marios fire Grin LOL

Wind

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« Reply #43 on: February 26, 2009, 10:05:18 am »










Such a lovely tale, Wind!!!


Thank you.



No, I had not heard it before, so I am pretty sure it was not here.....
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« Reply #44 on: February 26, 2009, 10:08:12 am »



Kara Sundstrom
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                                Inukpasuit, Inuit and Viking contact in ancient times






RONALD BROWER
February 12, 2009

There are many stories of ‘Qavlunaat,’ white-skinned strangers who were encountered in Inuit-occupied lands in times of old. Stories of contact between these foreign people and Inuit were passed down the generations and used mostly to scare children to behave “or the Qavlunaat will get them.” 

This sparked my curiosity to explore both sides of the encounters from written records and Inuit oral legends to see if some of these events can be correlated. One must recall that these legends were passed down orally in the Inupiaq language.

Inuit myths and legends of contact with other people were passed from one generation to the next through story telling traditions. Many people have heard Pete Sovalik, a well-known Inupiaq story-teller tell this shortened version of a story relating to Qavlunaat and other races.

Taimaniqpaa_ruk - In Times of Old – Qavlunaat were one of the children of an Inuk woman who refused to marry; a Ui_uaqtaq. Her name was Sedragina, also known as Sedna in other Inuit regions. In her youth she was just an ordinary person – A young Inuk girl (agnaiyaaq) who grew up disliking men because of abuse committed to her as a child.

Having grown into a beautiful marriageable maiden, niviaq_siaq, men from many lands sought to marry her but she rebuked all men.

One time she was courted by a rich shaman’s son to no avail. Angered by her reluctance, the rich shaman called upon other equally strong shamuses to punish her. Together they cast a great spell upon her father’s lead dog that was transformed into a handsome young man by night but by day, he was just an ordinary lead dog.

Every evening he relentlessly pursued her for sexual favors until she was worn and tired for lack of sleep wherein she, in a weakened state, gave way to his wishes. In due time, she bore a litter of human and dog-like children having a variety of skin colors as many litters often do. These became the other races of man.

As they grew, she decided to send her children away toward the East, for they became a menace to the surrounding communities because of their wild behavior. Her father had also decided to end her miserable existence - to be rid of her and the shame she brought to his house.

In Inupiat legends her story is seen as the beginning of all other human races and of the sea animals. Hence modern Qavlunaat now know her as the Mother of the Sea, a Goddess deity, but in reality Inuit do not have gods. They believe that the visible world is pervaded by Anirniit, the powers, invisible forces or spirits that affect the lives of the living.

The story teller weaves in a passage of time when the children of Sedragina would return to their kin the Inuit. Their return would mark a time of change for the Inuit but the story tellers would not say what kind of change was to follow.

As hundreds of centuries passed, vague stories were heard of the return of these people now known as Qavlunaat but they slowly faded from legends passed down over the generations.

During the time when we lived in our little village of Iviksuk, our great uncle Owen Kiiriq would also tell tales during the dark months of winter in our little dwelling. Recalling a time that Inuit encountered another kind of race who already lived in our lands.

Kiiriq recalled that elders would call them Tunnit or Inukpasuit, the giants. They were treated as fearsome coastal dwellers and were considered enemies of Inuit. They spoke an Inuit language of an archaic type understandable to our ancestors.

Kiiriq would continue his tale and describe how Inupasuit were viewed as unkempt and unclean by Inuit standards. They were considered a danger to Inuit because they at times waylaid and captured unwary hunters.

Being smaller then them, our ancestors were considered a delectable prey. Once captured, they would be cooked and eaten with relish. Thus Inuit feared these giant beings and would attempt to wipe them out if they could. They were considered slow of thought but clever in their means of pursuit of game.  Inuit were ever moving eastward and the Inupasuit soon fell into the lot of myths and legends in our great grandparents’ time.

My research led me to Farley Mowat, author of Westviking, who includes descriptive appendices called “The Vanished Dorset”.

Mowat provides a description by the Norse who encountered the Dorset (Tunnit) around A.D.1000 as being swarthy and ill looking with remarkable eyes.

Mowat refers to another encounter of the Tuniit in the Floamanna Saga where the Viking Thorgisl Orrabeinsfostri shipwrecked in Baffin Island around 997. There, he and his men encountered a giant people, describing the Tunnit.

The Tunnit had lived in the Arctic for a long period of time before contact with either Inuit or Vikings. They developed a culture based on seal hunting and wherever their sod houses are found they show a long period of occupancy as noted by their middens of mostly seal remains.

As climate changed, seals moved further north following the sea ice. Mowat suggest that as seals shifted their range, so did the Tunnit following their primary food source. This may be why Erik the Red did not encounter Inuit or Tunnit when he explored the Greenland coast around 981.

Inuit myths and legends have passed through generations of story tellers. Many have changed but a little over time. A number of Inuit legends are being studied by scholars to see if they can be historically correlated to evidence found in archeological sites in several locations.

Look for an interesting conclusion of this exposition in part two.

Ronald Brower is an Inupiaq language professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.



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