When first studied by anthropologists during the 1920s, the Caribou Inuit were thought to be a remnant of an ancient way of life that existed before most Inuit groups descended to the coasts and became marine hunters. This view was based on their unique adaptation to the interior, and on the character of their Aboriginal material culture. It has since become apparent that the Caribou Inuit way of life was a recent phenomenon, originating after indirect (and, later, direct) involvement with European traders and whalers.
Until the late 18th century, CHIPEWYAN natives had occupied most of the Barren Grounds area. A few decades later, the Inuit of the west coast of Hudson Bay began to receive firearms, which allowed them to hunt caribou more efficiently, and involvement in the FUR TRADE gave them an incentive to move to the interior. The limited information regarding their traditional Aboriginal material culture is a result of the fact that by the time they were studied by anthropologists they had used and relied upon European technology for over a century.
The traditional social organization of the Caribou Inuit was based on family relationships and partnerships, and families frequently moved from one regional group to another. Religion was based on SHAMANISM, and most of their Inuktitut language and beliefs were similar to those of other central Arctic Inuit groups. Their traditional seasonal activities involved primarily fishing and hunting caribou during the spring and fall migrations. During the fall hunt, populations gathered at a few good hunting spots to replenish their food supplies for the winter. Caribou skin tents were used during the summer months, and snow houses during the winter. The descendants of the Caribou Inuit now occupy the villages of ARVIAT, RANKIN INLET, BAKER LAKE and WHALE COVE, now part of NUNAVUT.
See also NATIVE PEOPLE: ARCTIC.
Author ROBERT MCGHEE
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Old Crow: Land of the Vuntut Gwitch'in
An informative site about the geography, history, and culture of the Gwitch'in community of Old Crow. Also focuses on the historical relationship between the Gwitch'in people and the Porcupine caribou. Features great images, including one of a caribou fence and some that show caribou crossing the river. From Canada’s Digital Collections.
The Barren Lands
This site offers an extensive online collection of archival documents from two Geological Survey of Canada expditions to the Barren Lands region located in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and in the area now known as Nunavut. From the University of Toronto.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is the national Inuit organization in Canada. Represents four Inuit regions – Nunatsiavut (Labrador), Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories. Their extensive website covers regional political, economic, cultural, and environmental issues. Also offers online articles from the magazine "Inuktitut" in Inuktitut, English, and French.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...