Social organization was based on kinship and on various types of formal partnership, and affiliation between individuals tended to be more a matter of personal choice than is usually found among other INUIT groups. Religion was based on shamanism, with the SHAMAN charged primarily with curing the sick and providing good hunting. Religion, language and most other aspects of the culture were similar to those of other central arctic Inuit groups, of whom the Copper Inuit were the most westerly.
Archaeology indicates that the Copper Inuit are descended from a group of THULE CULTURE people who moved into the area shortly after 1000 AD and adapted their maritime way of life to seal and caribou resources. During the cooler climate of the Little Ice Age of the 17th to 19th centuries, these people abandoned the permanent winter houses and other elements of their Thule ancestors. Traditionally, hunting weapons including arrows, harpoon and spear heads, and tools such as knife blades and chisels were formed from copper and used for personal use and for trade with other nations. Greater nomadism and increasing exposure and involvement with imported European technology gave rise to the distinctive culture of the historic Copper Inuit. Regular European contact began during the early 20th century, involving the Copper Inuit in a trapping economy. However, in addition to trade, the European contact brought diseases including influenza, typhoid and SMALLPOX epidemics that devastated the Copper Inuit population.
Most Copper Inuit now live in the villages of Sachs Harbour, ULUKHAKTOK (also known as Uluqsaqtuua), which means "where there is copper" in Inuktitut; KUGLUKTUK; Bathurst Inlet; and CAMBRIDGE BAY. In 1984 the communities of Sachs Harbour and Holman [Ulukhaktok] were included in the Inuvialuit Land Claims Agreement. Other settlements were negotiated as part of the creation 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.
Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art
This Virtual Museum website showcases the life, culture, and work of Inuit artists who reside in the northern Canadian community of Holman. Printmaking techniques and an extensive collection of their captivating art are also featured. Developed by the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
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.