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The Inuit (Eskimo) People and Culture

   

Inuit is the name for the people who occupied a territory stretching from Chukchi Peninsula of eastern Siberia on the west to enclaves of eastern Greenland on the east from the northern limit of forrests on the south to the Arctic Ocean on the north. The were the last of the prehistoric migrations of from Asia to North America. Despite the vast span of territory they occupied there was a remarkable homogeneity of language, culture and technology among the Inuit. While the genetic origins of the Inuit were in Asia it is just possible that the Inuit culture may have formed in Alaska and spread from there throughout the northern edge of North America and back into Siberia. This is possible but not established. Another aspect of Inuit history is their relationship with the Aleuts who occupy the Aleutian Islands. From similarities of the languages of the Inuit and the Aleuts it appears that they came from the same roots but separated many millenia ago.

Europeans first came into contact with the Inuit when the Norse made settlements in Greenland. The Norse name for them was Skraelings. The contacts between the Inuits and other people were relatively rare in that their numbers were few in their vast territory. The numbers before European contact were probably altogether somewhat less than 60,000. Hans-Georg Bandi gives the figures of 55,000 for the Inuit and 1500 for the Aleuts. This is a population in a territory that spans about six thousand miles from west to east and about an average of one thousand miles south to north. With family groups of size twenty the figures would mean about three thousand family groups total in a territory of six million square miles, or about 2000 square miles per family group. The family groups were by no means evenly spread out but if they were it would mean about fifty miles between each family group. It would be easy for peoples to miss each other entirely with that amount of space between them.

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