Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Inuit is a noun, the singular is Inuk. The Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo-Aleut family, Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate spoken in Nunavut. In the United States and Canada, the term Eskimo was commonly used to describe the Inuit and Alaskas Yupik, however, Inuit is not accepted as a term for the Yupik, and Eskimo is the only term that includes Yupik, Iñupiat and Inuit. However, aboriginal peoples in Canada and Greenlandic Inuit view Eskimo as pejorative, in Canada, sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 classified the Inuit as a distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians who are not included under either the First Nations or the Métis. These areas are known in Inuktitut as the Inuit Nunangat, in the United States, the Iñupiat live primarily on the Alaska North Slope and on Little Diomede Island. The Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of migrations from Canada. In the 21st century they are citizens of Denmark, although not of the European Union, Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule culture, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE. They had split from the related Aleut group about 4,000 years ago and from northeastern Siberian migrants, possibly related to the Chukchi language group and they spread eastwards across the Arctic. They displaced the related Dorset culture, the last major Paleo-Eskimo culture, Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as giants, people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit. Less frequently, the legends refer to the Dorset as dwarfs, researchers believe that the Dorset culture lacked the dogs, larger weapons and other technologies of the Inuit society, which gave the latter an advantage. By 1300, Inuit migrants had reached west Greenland, where they settled, faced with population pressures from the Thule and other surrounding groups, such as the Algonquian and Siouan to the south, the Tuniit gradually receded. They were thought to have become extinct as a people by about 1400 or 1500. But, in the mid-1950s, researcher Henry B. Collins determined that, based on the ruins found at Native Point, the Sadlermiut population survived up until winter 1902–03, when exposure to new infectious diseases brought by contact with Europeans led to their extinction as a people. In the early 21st century, mitochondrial DNA research has supported the theory of continuity between the Tuniit and the Sadlermiut peoples and it also provided evidence that a population displacement did not occur within the Aleutian Islands between the Dorset and Thule transition. In contrast to other Tuniit populations, the Aleut and Sadlermiut benefited from both geographical isolation and their ability to adopt certain Thule technologies, in Canada and Greenland, Inuit circulated almost exclusively north of the Arctic tree line, the effective southern border of Inuit society. The most southern officially recognized Inuit community in the world is Rigolet in Nunatsiavut, south of Nunatsiavut, the descendants of the southern Labrador Inuit in NunatuKavut continued their traditional transhumant semi-nomadic way of life until the mid-1900s. The Nunatukavummuit people usually moved among islands and bays on a seasonal basis and they did not establish stationary communities
Image: Qamutik 1 1999 04 01
A European ship coming into contact with the Inuit in the ice of Hudson Bay in 1697.
Hudson's Bay Company Ships bartering with Inuit off the Upper Savage Islands, Hudson Strait, 1819