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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 8147 times)
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« on: February 05, 2009, 04:17:16 pm »

The Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule culture, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 AD and spread eastwards across the Arctic, displacing the related Dorset culture (in Inuktitut, the Tuniit). Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as "giants", people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit. Researchers believe that the Dorset culture lacked dogs, larger weapons and other technologies that gave the expanding Inuit society an advantage over them. By 1300, the Inuit had settled in west Greenland, and finally moved into east Greenland over the following century.

The Tuniit survived in Aivilik, Southampton and Coats Islands, until the beginning of the 20th century. They were known as Sadlermiut (Sallirmiut in the modern spelling). Their population had been ravaged
by diseases brought by contact with Europeans, and the last of them fell in a flu epidemic caught from
a passing whaler in 1902. The area has since been resettled by Inuit.

In Canada and Greenland the Inuit circulated almost exclusively north of the tree line, the de facto southern border of Inuit society. To the south, Native American Indian cultures were well established, and the culture and technology of Inuit society that served them so well in the Arctic was not suited to subarctic regions, so they did not displace their southern neighbours. They had trade relations with more southern cultures, but as is the usual case boundary disputes were common and often a cause
of aggressive actions. Warfare, in general, was not uncommon among Inuit groups with sufficient population density. Inuit, such as the Nunatamiut (Uummarmiut), who inhabited the Mackenzie River delta area experienced common warfare whereas the Central Arctic Inuit lacked the population density to engage in warfare.

The first contact with Europeans came from the Vikings, who settled Greenland and explored the eastern Canadian coast. Norse literature speaks of skrŠlingar, most likely an undifferentiated label
for all the native peoples of the Americas the Norse contacted, Tuniit, Inuit and Beothuks alike.

Sometime in the 13th century the Thule culture began arriving from what is now Canada. Norse accounts are scant. However, Norse made items have been found at Inuit campsites in Greenland.
It is unclear whether they are the result of trade or plunder. One old account speaks of "small people" with whom the Norsemen fought. ═var Bßr­arson's 14th century account mentions that one of the two Norse settlement areas, the western settlement, had been taken over by the skrŠlings. The reason
why the Norse settlements failed is unclear, but the last record of them is from 1408, roughly the same period as the earliest Inuit settlements in east Greenland.

After roughly 1350, the climate grew colder during the Little Ice Age and the Inuit were forced to abandon hunting and whaling sites in the high Arctic. Bowhead whaling disappeared in Canada and Greenland (but continued in Alaska) and the Inuit had to subsist on a much poorer diet. Without whales, they lost access to essential raw materials for tools and architecture that were derived from whaling.

The changing climate forced the Inuit to also look south, pressuring them into the marginal niches along the edges of the tree line that Native Americans had not occupied, or where they were weak enough to coexist with. It is hard to say with any precision when the Inuit stopped their territorial expansion. There is evidence that they were still moving into new territory in southern Labrador in the 17th century, when they first began to interact with colonial North American civilization.
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