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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 8171 times)
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« Reply #75 on: March 15, 2009, 08:48:22 am »

Don't Miss

Web site: 
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The vault sits at the end of a 120-meter (131-yard) tunnel blasted inside the mountain. Workers used a refrigeration system to bring the vault to -18 degrees Celsius (just below 0 degrees Fahrenheit), and a smaller refrigeration system plus the area's natural permafrost and the mountain's thick rock will keep the vault at least -4 C (25 F).

The vault at Svalbard is similar to an existing seed bank in Sussex, England, about an hour outside London. The British vault, called the Millennium Seed Bank, is part of an scientific project that works with wild plants, as opposed to the seeds of crops.

Paul Smith, the leader of the Millennium Seed Bank project, said preserving the seeds of wild plants is just as important as preserving the seeds of vital crops.

"We must give ourselves every option in the future to use the whole array of plant diversity that is available to us," Smith told CNN.

The idea for the Arctic seed bank dates to the 1980s but only became a possibility after the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources came into force in 2004, the Norwegian government said. The treaty provided an international framework for conserving and accessing crop diversity.

Svalbard is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the world.

The Norwegian government says it has paid 50 million Norwegian Kroner ($9.4 million) to build the seed vault.
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« Reply #76 on: March 16, 2009, 08:52:53 pm »

Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine,right,
wearing headdress, watches as Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper, left, officially apologizes
to native Canadians who were taken from their
families and forced to attend state-funded schools
aimed at assimilating them, at a ceremony in the

House of Commons on Parliament Hill
in Ottawa,
Wednesday, June 11, 2008.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,
Tom Hanson)
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« Reply #77 on: March 16, 2009, 08:54:14 pm »

                                       Prime Minister Apologizes To Native Canadians

Associated Press Writer
June 11, 2008
OTTAWA - In a historic speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized Wednesday to Canada's native peoples for the longtime government policy of forcing their children to attend state-funded schools aimed at assimilating them.
The treatment of children at the schools where they were often physically and sexually abused was a sad chapter in the country's history, he said from the House of Commons in an address carried live across Canada.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country," he said, as 11 aboriginal leaders looked on just feet away.

Indians packed into the public galleries and gathered on the lawn of Parliament Hill.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indian children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society.

Hundreds of former students witnessed what native leaders call a pivotal moment for Canada's more than 1 million Indians, who remain the country's poorest and most disadvantaged group. There are more than 80,000 surviving students.

"The government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize," Harper said.

"We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, and that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize," Harper said.

Harper also apologized for failing to prevent the children from being physically and sexually abused at the schools.

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and one of the leaders seated near Harper, wore a traditional native headdress and was allowed to speak from the floor after opposition parties demanded it.

"Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry," Fontaine said.

"Never again will this House consider us an Indian problem for just being who we are," Fontaine said. "We heard the government of Canada take full responsibility."

He said the apology will go a long way toward repairing the relationship between aboriginals and the rest of Canada.

The federal government admitted 10 years ago that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs.

That legacy of abuse and isolation has been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.

Fontaine was one of the first to go public with his past experiences of physical and sexual abuse.

The apology comes months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a similar gesture to the so-called Stolen Generations — thousands of Aborigines forcibly taken from their families as children under assimilation policies that lasted from 1910 to 1970.

But Canada has gone a step farther, offering those who were taken from their families compensation for the years they attended the residential schools. The offer was part of a lawsuit settlement.

A truth and reconciliation commission will also examine government policy and take testimony from survivors. The goal is to give survivors a forum to tell their stories and educate Canadians about a grim period in the country's history.


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« Reply #78 on: March 16, 2009, 08:56:31 pm »

                                                Canadians argue for polar bear hunt

Associated Press Writer
June 23,2008
WASHINGTON - Officials from northern Canada were in Washington on Monday to make an unpopular argument: Let U.S. hunters continue to kill polar bears for sport.
The politicians from Canada's Northwest Territory asked Interior Department officials to allow U.S. sportsmen to still bring back polar bear hides after their hunts in Canada's Arctic region, despite the increased protection now afforded the bear under the Endangered Species Act.

The United States bans sport hunting of polar bears, but Canada does not, although it restricts the hunting season to two months and limits the number of kills.

The recent decision to declared the polar bear threatened under the Endangered Species Act also means U.S. sportsmen may no longer bring home trophy skins — which is what hunting's high-rollers actually prize.

This "will effectively wipe out our sports hunting industry," Bob McLeod, the Northwest Territory's minister for energy, industry and tourism, said Monday in an interview. He said it will wipe out most of the income for people living in a handful of villages along the province's Arctic coast.

He said hunters, mostly from the United States, spend an estimate $1.6 million annually during the polar bear hunts, much of it going into the economies of the isolated villages where the hunts are organized and concentrated.

McLeod said people who live in the far north know about global warming and have seen the permafrost melting, the icepack shrinking and seasons changing. "We are experiencing the effects of climate change," said McLeod.

But while the polar bear may have become a symbol of global warming, McLeod insists continued hunting and protecting the species can go hand in hand. The hunts are closely controlled, with 40 permits — each for one bear — issued each season.

"The bottom line is that people rely on this. This is income for the whole year," said Jackie Jacobson, who represents the far northern area in the provincial legislature.

There are about 86 hunting guides and helpers directly involved in the polar bear hunts, he said. Villagers' livelihoods are tied to the annual trek of wealthy U.S. sportsmen seeking a bear skin trophy. Because there are few jobs in the far north, hunting season affects 3,500 people — including children — who live there, Jacobson said.

McLeod, Jacobson and several other Northwest Territory officials met with Ken Stansell, deputy director of the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service, and have scheduled meetings with a number of people in Congress later this week. Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Along with the polar bear hunting issue, McLeod is also talking up a planned natural gas pipeline that would bring Canadian Arctic gas from the far north to the United States.
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« Reply #79 on: March 16, 2009, 09:01:18 pm »

The census also details where
aboriginal people live


                                              Canadian indigenous numbers soar 


Census figures in Canada show a big increase in the number of Canadians who describe themselves as belonging to one of the country's indigenous peoples.

Data from the 2006 census shows there are now almost 1.2 million aboriginal people - 4% of the population and a 45% rise since the last census in 1996.

The survey also shows that more than half live in or near urban areas.

A record number of indigenous people took part in the 2006 census, but some populous reserves still shunned it.

There are three indigenous groups in Canada: North American Indian or First Nations people; Inuit who live in Canada's far north and Metis, who are descendants of early marriages between native people and European settlers.

The new statistics show a dramatic increase - 45% in 10 years - in those people who identify themselves as belonging to of one of those groups.

The information also reveals that 54% of the country's indigenous people now live in or near cities.

Officials at Statistics Canada, which carried out the census, say the growth and change in demographics can be attributed to a soaring birth rate driven by an unusually young population, and greater pride in aboriginal heritage.

'Not Canadians'

Canada's native peoples have a median age of 27 and almost half are under 25.

The census found that since 1996 there had been some improvement in overcrowded housing conditions in traditional communities.

But one in four people living there report that their homes are dilapidated and in need of significant repairs.

The number of aboriginal peoples refusing to take part in the census has declined, but some are still opposed to the survey.

"We are not Canadian citizens. We are North American Indians," Chief Clarence Simon of Kanesatake, a Mohawk community, was quoted as saying by Canadian media.

His reserve was among 22 not included in the census.

Census officials say that their reach has improved since previous surveys and they have rejected arguments that there has been a significant under-counting of aboriginal people.
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« Reply #80 on: March 16, 2009, 09:04:51 pm »

                                   Raising vegetables under Canada's midnight sun

By Allan Dowd
Thu Sep 4, 2008

INUVIK, Northwest Territories
(Reuters) -

Amanda Joynt reached down and picked a fresh tomato from the vine. That's no small feat when you are living 200 km (120 miles) above the Arctic Circle in Canada's Far North.
Joynt, a resident of Inuvik is a member of the town's community greenhouse, a former ice hockey arena that has been converted into an oasis of vegetables and flowers on the permafrost.

The building, shaped like a half-pipe, is North America's northernmost commercial greenhouse, and all but a necessity for anyone interested in eating a fresh vegetable in Inuvik that has not been shipped in from a warmer climate -- at a startlingly high cost.

"The growing season is really short here. May is mud month, so June is when things begin to green-up, and by now everything is turning into fall," Joynt said.

Inuvik's annual mean temperature is minus 9.7 Celsius (14.5 Fahrenheit), according to local officials.

The facility's indoor growing season lasts only from mid-May to late September, but it protects the plants as they soak in the sunlight that for 56 days each summer keeps the town in daylight 24 hours a day.

"That's what makes things possible ... the constant light accelerates the growth. I think it either doubles or triples the growth," said Lucy Kuptana, who admits it can feel strange weeding a garden at 3 a.m. in full daylight.

The small plots are built on raised beds and host a wide range of vegetables, such as corn and squash. One garden was even adorned with a traditional scarecrow figure, and many also have a range of colorful flowers.

Part of the building is heated to allow the greenhouse to raise the starter-plants used by gardeners and to grow flowers that are sold to the town and local residents for the summer.

Inuvik, with a population of about 3,400 people, was created in the late 1950s as a center for government services, so many of the greenhouse's members are residents who moved north to work in the public sector or energy industry.

Kuptana admits that, like many people born in the Far North, she knew nothing of gardening until she began helping her stepmother -- who was one of the greenhouse's first members when the project was launched in 1998.

The greenhouse plays an educational role by teaching people about healthy foods they would normally only see in their canned or frozen form, according to Kuptana.

"A lot of people have never tried squash or zucchini. They don't know what that strange-looking vegetable is, so this is introducing new vegetables to the table," she said.

It also allows people to save money. Rising fuel costs make it expensive to transport food to the region. Many of the greenhouse gardeners are also canning the produce they do not eat during the summer.

"Food security is a huge issue in the north," Kuptana said.

Kuptana and Joynt also think the greenhouse also has potential as a tourist attraction, saying it is already become a popular stop for visitors who venture north in the summer in search of the midnight sun.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)
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« Reply #81 on: March 16, 2009, 09:09:53 pm »

                                Arctic Yields Fresh Evidence For Elizabethan Gold Swindle

(July 7, 2004) —

Canadian scientists say they've found conclusive proof that a tiny, barren Arctic island was the site of Canada's first, and perhaps greatest, mining fraud.

In 1577 and 1578, Kodlunarn Island, in what is now Frobisher Bay, was the site of British mariner Martin Frobisher's infamous Arctic Eldorado turned New World financial nightmare. Now two Laval University scientists say there's solid evidence that Frobisher and his chemists were in on a massive fraud that was an Elizabethan-era "prelude to Bre-X."

Since the scandal broke more than 400 years ago that the tons of black rock Frobisher brought back to London from the Canadian Arctic near present-day Iqaluit were worthless, there's been speculation about what happened. Was this a massive con job on Elizabeth I and her court, or did Frobisher's assayers mistakenly dupe themselves into believing they'd found gold?

One intriguing hypothesis, put forward by now retired University of Ottawa mineralogist Dr. Donald Hogarth, argued that Frobisher's assayers inadvertently contaminated their samples with gold from the lead used in the assay process.

Now, for the first time, lead samples from the assay workshops on Kondlunarn Island have been analyzed using a combination of age-old and high-tech methods in order to test the contamination hypothesis.

"We find there's not a trace of gold contamination in the lead used by Frobisher's assayers at the Kodlunarn Island site," says Dr. Georges Beaudoin, a geologist at Laval University. The results of his NSERC-funded research appear in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

The five, tarnished, grey beads of lead – the largest about the diameter of a toonie – were discovered and collected on Kodlunarn Island during an archeaological excavation of the site in 1993-4 led by Laval University archaeologist Dr. Réginald Auger.

"With these results we've now discarded the possibility that the lead was contaminated with precious metals," says Dr. Auger, co-author of the article. "So how is it that in 1578 Frobisher went so far as to load 12 ships with tons of black ore and sail it back to London? The chemists at the site must have known the ore was worthless. We have to conclude that there was a fraud."

Sixteenth century assayers knew that it was possible to contaminate their ore samples with gold and silver. The assay process, still used today, involves melting a small sample of ore in a ceramic bowl. Powdered lead is then sprinkled onto the molten rock. As the lead mixes and sinks to the bottom of the bowl it binds with other metals by a geochemical affinity. The lead bead, or button, that forms at the bottom of the ceramic bowl is then collected and any precious metals chemically separated from the lead.

However, the same geochemical affinity that causes the precious metals to bind with the lead in the assay process means that the lead being used can already be naturally contaminated with these metals.   
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« Reply #82 on: March 16, 2009, 09:10:56 pm »

"European lead was notorious for containing silver," says Dr. Auger, whose research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Quebec's Fond de recherche sur la société et la culture.

Using lead isotope analysis, Dr. Beaudoin determined that there were two sources of the lead used at the Kodlunarn Island site. Through electron probe and mass spectrometry analysis, Dr. Beaudoin determined that neither of the lead types had detectable levels of gold.

Frobisher's Kodlunarn Island site was re-discovered in 1860 by the American journalist and Arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall, who was searching for the missing Franklin expedition.

In the early 1990s, the University of Ottawa's Dr. Hogarth used modern analytical techniques to determine that there were only minute traces of gold in the black rocks that so many in the court of Elizabeth I believed were a New World treasure trove.

At least six assays performed on the rocks in London in 1577 and 1578 reported levels of gold concentration more than 100,000 times that actually in the rock.

"We can only conclude that the gold was added by the assayers in London," write Drs. Beaudoin and Auger.

This is the first time Beaudoin has applied his geochemical savvy to an archaeological mystery. He says there are remarkable similarities between this 426-year-old mining swindle and the Bre-X scandal of the 1990s. In that case a junior Canadian mining company claimed to have found a gigantic gold deposit in an Indonesian jungle. The news sent the company's penny stock skyrocketing to $280, only to collapse when it was revealed that the ore samples had been tampered with.

Beaudoin estimates that it took only about two ounces of gold, costing about $800 at today's prices, to "salt" the Frobisher samples and launch an investment frenzy.

Says Beaudoin, "In Bre-X they were probably using the same low-level of sophistication in the salting of the ore. It was fascinating to see how the story repeated itself."


The article "Implications of the mineralogy and chemical composition of lead beads from Frobisher's assay site, Kodlunarn Island, Canada: prelude to BRE-X?" in the June issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences is available on-line for free download @

The NSERC Newsbureau Bulletin is a window on the latest developments in Canadian science and engineering.


Adapted from materials provided by Natural Sciences And Engineering Research Council.
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 MLA Natural Sciences And Engineering Research Council (2004, July 7). Arctic Yields Fresh Evidence For Elizabethan Gold Swindle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 7, 2008, from­ /releases/2004/07/040706080233.htm
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« Reply #83 on: March 16, 2009, 09:13:06 pm »

Dog sled trail in Canada's Arctic.

Inuit trails are more than merely means to get from A to B. In reality, they represent a complex social network spanning the Canadian Arctic and are a distinctive aspect of the Inuit cultural identity.

/Ryerson Clark)

                            Inuit Trails Represent Complex Social Network Spanning Canadian Arctic

(Feb. 4, 2009)

— Inuit trails are more than merely means to get from A to B. In reality, they represent a complex social network spanning the Canadian Arctic and are a distinctive aspect of the Inuit cultural identity.

And what is remarkable is that the Inuit’s vast geographic knowledge has been passed through many generations by oral means, without the use of maps or any other written documentation. These findings are by Dr. Claudio Aporta from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Using a combination of historical documents, ethnographic research, geographic tools including GPS, GIS and Google Earth, as well as a recent journey following Inuit along a traditional trail, Dr. Aporta shows the geographic extent of the Inuit’s sophisticated network of routes.  He describes how the Inuit have made use of the Arctic environment and how their trails represent significant channels of communication and exchange across the territory.  To the Inuit, the Arctic is a network of trails, connecting communities to their distant neighbors, and to fishing lakes and hunting grounds in between.

What is remarkable is that although the trails are not permanent features of the landscape, their locations are remembered and transmitted orally and through the experience of travel.  They do not use maps to travel or to represent geographic information.  Rather the journey along the trail, or the story of the journey, becomes one of the main instruments for transmitting the information.

The memory of the trail is intertwined with individual and collective memories of previous trips, as well as with relevant environmental information - the conditions of the snow and ice, the shape of snowdrifts, the direction of winds - and place names in the Inuktitut language.  The trails are not permanent, but disappear when the sled tracks get covered after a blizzard and as the snow and ice melt at the end of each spring.  Nevertheless, the spatial itinerary remains in people’s memory and comes to life again when individuals make the next trip.  The trails are ‘lived’ rather than simply travelled.

By mapping the trails with modern geographic tools, Dr. Aporta is able to show that complex and intricate knowledge can be precisely and accurately transmitted from generation to generation orally for centuries.  He comments that “oral history should not be a priori dismissed as unreliable and inaccurate.”


Journal reference:

Aporta et al. The Trail as Home: Inuit and Their Pan-Arctic Network of Routes. Human Ecology, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s10745-009-9213-x
Adapted from materials provided by Springer.
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 MLA Springer (2009, February 4). Inuit Trails Represent Complex Social Network Spanning Canadian Arctic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/02/090204112237.htm
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« Reply #84 on: March 16, 2009, 09:17:02 pm »

                                                ALEUT & ALUTIIQ

Who We Are

The Aleut and Alutiiq peoples are south and southwest Alaska, maritime peoples. The water is our living, whether it’s the creeks and rivers near villages, the shore outside or the vast waters of the North Pacific and Bering Sea. Knowledge of these resources and skill in harvesting them define the cycle of life in a village. The intensity of the weather that travels through our islands governs activities more than any other factor.

The Aleut and Alutiiq cultures were heavily influenced by the Russians, beginning in the 18th century. The Orthodox Church is prominent in every village, Russian dishes are made using local subsistence food, and Russian words are part of common vocabulary although two languages, Unangax and Sugcestun, are the indigenous languages.

Main Groups

The territory of the Aleut and Alutiiq stretches from Prince William Sound to the end of the Aleutian Islands. There are also over 300 Aleuts in Nikolskoye on Bering Island, Russia. Linguists estimate that the Aleut language separated from the earlier Eskimo languages 4,000 years ago. Anthropologists have classified the Alutiiq people into three basic groups,

Chugachmiut or Chugach of the Prince William Sound area,

Unegkurmiut of the lower Kenai Peninsula, and

Koniagmiut or Koniag of the Kodiak Island and Alaska Peninsula.

The suffix "-miut" is added to names signifying “the people of” a certain place. Thus, each village has a name for its people and each regional area has a name for its people. The people of Kodiak Island, for example, were called Qikertarmiut meaning “people of the large island.”

House Types and Settlements

The Aleut and Alutiiq people lived in numerous coastal villages as well as a few inland villages located on rivers and lakes. Each settlement had defined territories for harvesting resources such as seals, sea lions, halibut, cod, birds, plants and driftwood.

The traditional houses of both cultures were semi-subterranean. The Alutiiq houses, called ciqlluaq, provided efficient protection from harsh weather conditions. For thousands of years, the house style consisted of a single room. The ulax, the basic Unangax Aleut house, is an oblong pit dwelling with wooden or whale bone frames and rafters covered by grass and sod. These dwellings were often hard to distinguish from the surrounding terrain. They were entered by means of a pole ladder through the ceiling.

Traditional Tools and Technology

The kayaks of the Aleut and Alutiiqs called, respectivley, iqyax and qayaq, were distinguished from other sea craft by the split bow, which increased the seaworthiness and speed of the craft. Aleut and Alutiiq hunters wore distinctive bentwood visors with sea lion whiskers. These visors provided protection from glare as well as a visual symbol of the status of the hunter. The number of sea lion whiskers attached showed the successes in hunting.

The Aleut and Alutiiq used various portions of sea mammals for clothing and other utensils. The skins of seal, sea lion, sea otter, bear, birds, squirrels, and marmots were all used for clothing items. Hats and baskets were woven from spruce roots and grass. Baskets were woven with geometric patterns, considered among the finest in the world with up to 2500 stitches per square inch. Women wove other goods: cords, cables and fish line from plant fibers and animal tissue.

Social Organization

Still important in Aleut and Alutiiq society are kinship and family relationships. These connections persist throughout the regions and are important in the management of the village, as well as decision-making related to everyday life. Today, many Elders reminisce about the past, mentioning the strong value of sharing and helping one another in the villages of their youth. Village members would punish those who violated the rules of conduct of the village. The most serious form of punishment was banishment.


Due to the wet maritime climate, it was crucial to have waterproof clothing. Therefore, the garments made of skin and gut were sewn with incredible precision making them very effective against the wet weather. Clothing was decorated with colorful natural dyes, feathers and puffin beaks, and in some cases elaborately carved ivory, bone or wooden figurines.


Aleuts and Alutiit are known for their skill in building the iqyax/qayaq [baidarka]. They also used the igilax/angyaq [baidar], a large open skin boat, for travel and trade. Traveling was most often done by sea in these skin boats. However, people also walked long distances. For example, on Kodiak Island, remnants of the trails used by Alutiiq people to cross the island remain visible today.


The Aleut and Alutiiq people traded among themselves as well as with others such as the Yup’ik of Bristol Bay, Dena’ina Athabascans of the Cook Inlet area, the Ahtna Athabascans of the Copper River, the Eyak and Tlingit. This trade enabled them to balance their diet as well as take advantage of foreign technology.

Subsistence Patterns

The Aleut and Alutiiq peoples are maritime people obtaining most of their food and livelihood from the sea. Historically, sea mammal hunters went to sea, sometimes traveled long distances in their skin covered iqyax/qayaq or ‘bairdarka’, as they became known in Russian. For larger groups, people traveled in a large skin covered boat called an angyaq or ‘baidar’ in Russian.

Historically, villages were usually located at the mouths of streams to take advantage of fresh water and abundant salmon runs as they are today. Besides nets, traps and weirs for fishing, people used wooden hooks and kelp or sinew lines. Today, salmon, halibut, octopus, shellfish, seal, sea lion, caribou (on the Alaska Peninsula) and deer remain important components of the Aleut and Alutiiq subsistence diet.


In Aleut and Alutiiq cultures, the winter was a time for elaborate celebrations and ceremonies. Singing, dancing and feasting took  place as part of these rituals. The festivals usually began in late fall after all the necessary food for the winter had been gathered and stored. The festivals and ceremonies were held in large communal houses, called the qasgiq, and generally fell into two types. First were those of a spiritual nature, which were necessary to guarantee continued good hunting and fishing, and second, social celebrations, such as those for marriages and other events.


During ceremonies, performers often wore elaborate costumes, some specific to certain ceremonies. Carved wooden masks, some with complex attachments were used. People had tattoos and also wore body paints and other decorative items.
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« Reply #85 on: March 16, 2009, 09:19:56 pm »

         Discovery Of Fossil Mollusks In Alaska Links Histories Of Arctic Ocean And Isthmus Of Panama

(June 12, 2000)

— Finding two fossil mollusks in a California collection led a researcher funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to undertake field work in Alaska that he says links the formation of the Isthmus of Panama approximately 3.6 million years ago to a reversal of water flow through the Bering Strait.

Louie Marincovich, of the California Academy of Sciences, is the first to produce fossil evidence that the flow of water through the strait, which separates Russia and Alaska, was reversed from southward to northward by the uplifting of the Isthmus. He also is the first to date the flow shift.

Marincovich's findings also validate computer models of Northern Hemisphere oceanography for that time period, at least as they affected the Arctic Ocean.

"This discovery was only possible because someone picked up two fossils in Alaska in the 1970's, not knowing what they were and donated them to the California Academy of Sciences, where I recognized them 25 years later," Marincovich said. "I was going through the collections with another topic in mind when I saw them and had my 'Eureka moment,' when I knew they were the first datable evidence of the Bering Strait's being open."

Astarte, the fossil mollusk, lived only in the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans until prior to the opening of the strait.

The discovery of an Astarte in southern Alaska in rocks almost 5.5 million years old led Marincovich to conclude that the Bering Strait must have first opened at that time. In order to be found in southern Alaska, Astarte must have migrated southward through Bering Strait.

What was puzzling about his find is that nearly two million years passed before mollusks from the Pacific began migrating northward through the open Bering Strait to the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. Pacific mollusks first appear in the fossil record there only 3.6 million years ago.

Marincovich's research on fossil mollusks in the North Pacific, Arctic and North Atlantic oceans led him to conclude that the direction of seawater flow through the Bering Strait gateway must have changed from a southerly flow to a northerly one around 3.6 million years ago. This reversal in flow direction had been theorized by computer models of past ocean flow, and was thought to have been caused by formation of the Isthmus of Panama as a land barrier where a broad tropical seaway between North and South America had existed for millions of years.

The formation of this tropical isthmus caused drastic shifts in Northern Hemisphere ocean currents, and initiated the flow of the Gulf Stream. However, just when these changes took place and affected the Arctic Ocean was a mystery not predicted by the computer models.

Marincovich's work was funded by the Arctic natural sciences section of NSF's Office of Polar Programs. An article about his findings may be found in the June issue of Geology, a publication of the Geological Society of America.

Editors: For a PDF file of the research article, see: http://


Adapted from materials provided by National Science Foundation.
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« Reply #86 on: March 16, 2009, 09:25:28 pm »

What Thomas Gilbert calls a "Coke can-size" hair sample has provided the first
genetic insight into Greenland's ancient Eskimos.

Courtesy Bjarne Grønnow
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« Reply #87 on: March 16, 2009, 09:26:52 pm »

                                   Ancient Hair Reveals Greenland Eskimos' Roots

Morning Edition,
May 30, 2008 ·

A 3,000-year-old clump of human hair found frozen in Greenland may have solved a scientific mystery: Where did
all the ancient Eskimos come from?

The ancient clump of hair looks like something you'd sweep off a barbershop floor. "It's kind of brown, got a bit
of dirt in it, a bit of twigs, but ... it looks [in] remarkably good condition," says biologist Thomas Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen researchers had spent months in Greenland trying to find human remains, with no success. They then learned of this hair sample, which was discovered in the 1980s in Disko Bay, in western Greenland, and was being kept in a museum collection.

And the hair yielded something extremely rare — the DNA of some of the earliest humans to live in the Arctic. By studying that DNA, researchers say they've been able to answer a longstanding question: Are modern Eskimos descended from ancient Native Americans, or did they come from somewhere else?

The answer, according to a new study published in the current issue of the journal Science, is somewhere else — probably eastern Asia.

Gilbert says researchers have found almost no ancient human remains in Greenland and the northern reaches of North America. Other artifacts dating back thousands of years have been discovered — but the hair is the first to contain usable DNA.

Past discoveries of hunting and fishing tools at archaeological sites proved that ancient Eskimos lived in Greenland, Gilbert says. But the sites didn't contain much biological evidence — like teeth, bones or hair — that could provide DNA samples.
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« Reply #88 on: March 16, 2009, 09:28:50 pm »

Where in the World?

Now, with DNA from the hair, Gilbert's team has been able to compare ancient DNA with existing populations around the Arctic. The closest matches, he says, "came from the Bering Sea region." Some current residents of the southern Aleutian Islands and the Chutchi Peninsula of Siberia carry similar DNA, he says.

However, Gilbert says, this doesn't prove that the ancient Eskimos migrated from the Bering Sea area. But it is evidence of a pretty specific geographical link.

Since they aren't ancestors of Greenland's current Eskimos, Gilbert speculates, these ancient people may have later migrated from the Arctic due to climate changes that made survival difficult.

A Hair Fascination

As a researcher, Gilbert admits to having a bit of a hair fascination — he has studied the locks of mammoths, woolly rhinos and mummies — but those, he says, are "actually quite common" compared to this clump of human hair.

And it's the most interesting hair he's worked with, he says.

"Because these human remains from this period are so rare," he says, "we were really stuck not being able to do any genetic work until this one came along. It really opened up a horizon for us."


Related NPR Stories

Aug. 11, 2007

Tracing Human Migration Through DNASep. 28, 2007

Scientists Glean Clues from Ancient Mammoth HairJuly 29, 2007

Is Ancient People's End a Warning for the Future?
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« Reply #89 on: March 16, 2009, 09:34:09 pm »

Kara Sundstrom
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    Inukpasuit, Inuit and Viking contact in ancient times
« on: February 16, 2009, 11:59:45 pm » Quote 

Inukpasuit, Inuit and Viking contact in ancient times

February 12, 2009 at 10:44AM AKST

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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