Baffin Island Inuit
The Inuit of Baffin Island became known to the outside world as early as 1576, when Martin FROBISHER traded with the Inuit and kidnapped one of them in the bay which now bears his name; more conflict ensued on his 1577 expedition.
Baffin Island InuitBaffin Island Inuit occupy BAFFIN ISLAND in the new territory of NUNAVUT and the largest island in the ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO, and they display considerable regional diversity in both dialect and culture. Those in the extreme north belong to the IGLULIK INUIT, who also live on the mainland. The remaining groups, often lumped together and referred to as the Inuit of south Baffin Island, are concentrated along the rugged east coast, including Cumberland Sound and Frobisher Bay, and along the north shore of Hudson Strait. The latter share many cultural traits with the LABRADOR INUIT on the other side of Hudson Strait, which was frequently crossed for trading purposes.
The Inuit of Baffin Island became known to the outside world as early as 1576, when Martin FROBISHER traded with the Inuit and kidnapped one of them in the bay which now bears his name; more conflict ensued on his 1577 expedition. Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries Inuit along the south coast had occasional trade contacts with European exploration and supply vessels that stopped briefly on their way through to Hudson Bay. Farther north, the Inuit of Davis Strait did not encounter outsiders in any numbers until after 1820, when Scottish and American whalers started making annual visits to Baffin Island through the heavy drift ice of western Baffin Bay.
Inuit material culture was greatly modified by the increased flow of trade goods, including firearms, and by the large supply of wood provided by frequent shipwrecks. Contact with Europeans increased during the late 19th century when whalers started to establish permanent shore stations. Although the Inuit may have welcomed regular trade and occasional employment, it is thought that their population declined rapidly because of dietary changes and exposure to European diseases.
After the decline of commercial whaling in the early 20th century, the Inuit of Baffin Island turned increasingly to fox trapping in order to satisfy their dependence on European manufacturers. Since the 1950s the Inuit have become much more sedentary, moving into modern communities such as IQALUIT (Frobisher Bay), the transportation hub and largest settlement on the island. One of the best-known communities on Baffin Island is CAPE DORSET, now recognized around the world for the outstanding soapstone carvings, prints and drawings of its Inuit artists.
See also NATIVE PEOPLE: ARCTIC.
Peter Pitseolak and Dorothy Eber, People From Our Side: An Inuit Record of Seekooseelak (1975).