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  Group Backgrounds

Inuit

Numbers
Of the 976,305 people who identified themselves as Aboriginal in the 2001 Census, about 5%, or 45,070, reported that they were Inuit.

This was a 12% increase from 40,220 five years earlier. In contrast, the total non-Aboriginal population grew only 3.4% between 1996 and 2001.

Most of this growth is due to demographic factors — higher fertility rates and increasing life expectancy. Although the Inuit birth rate has declined in recent years, it is still twice as high as the overall non-Aboriginal birth rate.

Inuit accounted for 85% of Nunavut's population, and less than 1% of Quebec's. They represented about 11% of the population of the Northwest Territories.

According to the 2001 census of Statistics Canada, there are 1,380 Inuit people living in Ontario, representing 3.1% of the total Inuit population


Early History

A great majority of anthropologists believe the Inuit people immigrated from Asia and arrived via a narrow corridor of land across what is now the Bering Strait to Alaska and from there, some continued on towards the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada. Migration occurred in successive waves over thousands of years.

Between 18000 and 14000 BC, the glaciers of the last ice age began to melt and the land bridge across the Bering Strait was covered by the rising sea

Approximately 4000 BC, the early Palaeoeskimo (meaning "prehistoric Eskimo") expanded southward into Labrador from the high Arctic, eventually disappearing around 2000 BC
The early palaeskimo introduced arctic technology and culture to the Labrador coast and Newfoundland.

A second wave of Arctic-adapted people expanded southwards into Labrador around 2400 BC. They were named the Dorset Eskimo after Cape Dorset in Baffin Island where their artifacts were first found. They were more intensely marine-oriented than the early Palaeoeskimo. For unknown reasons, the Dorset Eskimo disappeared from the Island of Newfoundland around 1000 BC.

About A.D. 1400, a third wave of arctic people arrived in northern Labrador These were the Thule Eskimo, an Alaskan people who populated the entire Canadian Arctic.

Pattern of Settlement in Canada
The habitation area of the Inuit people extends over four countries: USA, Canada, Russian Federation and Greenland.  Settlement patterns varied according to the location of certain groups, the time of the year and subsistence opportunities in a given area

In all Inuit areas an annual cycle took place in which groups spent the winter together in a larger settlement and then dispersed into smaller, family-sized bands during the summer.
Traditional Inuit subsistence patterns were closely intertwined with the annual changing of seasons, the important feature being the appearance and disappearance of solid ice on the sea

During the winter, villages of igloos (houses built from packed snow) were constructed on the firm ocean ice of the Arctic where the Inuit people took part in seal hunting through holes in the ice

During the summer, when the sea was free of ice, the Inuit people would leave their permanent communities by open boat and lived in animal-skin tents at favorite camping spots for seal hunting, fishing and collecting birds, eggs and plants
Inuit people have a wider geographical range than any other aboriginal people and are the most sparsely distributed people on earth

Greenland Inuit:

Live on the eastern and western coasts of southern Greenland. Known as Greenlanders or Kalaallitt.

Labrador Inuit:

Occupy the coast from a point opposite Newfoundland to Hudson Bay with a few settlements on southern Baffin Island

Central Inuit:

Includes peoples in far northern Greenland and in Canada (Baffin Island and western Hudson Bay)

Banks Island Inuit:

Live on Banks Island, Victoria Island and other large islands off the central Arctic coast

Western Arctic Inuit or Inuvialut:

Groups who live along the western Arctic coast of Canada:
Alaskan Inuit, Alaskan Yuit, Siberian Yuit

Facts about Nunavut
The translation of Nunavut is "Our land" in Inuktitut. In April, 1999, the territory of Nunavut officially came into existence in Canada. Formerly part of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut is a result of a comprehensive settling of Inuit land claims by the federal government. The agreement, signed into law in 1993, was the largest land claims settlement agreement in Canada. The capital of the territory is Iqaluit. The territory comprises about two million square kilometres, one-fifth of Canada, which is twice the size of Ontario and spans three time zones.

Population

About 25,000. Roughly 85 percent Inuit. About 12,200 registered voters.

Living standard
Per capita income about $11,000 a year. Unemployment rate 22 per cent. Welfare supports one-third of residents. 

Finances
More than 90 percent of $600-million budget will come from federal government.

Legislature
19 seats. Non-party system. Members run as Independents, choose premier and cabinet from among themselves and govern by consensus. See collections.ic.gc.ca/arctic/inuit/nunavut.htm for more information.

Significant Dates in Canada
In 1977, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference was held in Barrow, Alaska and officially adopted the name "Inuit"- meaning "the people" as a replacement for the name "Eskimo"- meaning "eaters of raw meat"

Significant Events
1973: Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) began the study of Inuit land use and occupancy. Study formed geographical basis of Nunavut Territory.

1976: ITC proposed creation of a Nunavut Territory as part of a comprehensive settlement of Inuit land claims in Northwestern Territories

OCT. 1980: Annual General Meeting Delegates unanimously passed resolution calling for the creation of Nunavut

APR. 1990: Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) and representative of Federal and Territorial governments signed a land claims agreement-in-principle

OCT. 1992: TFN and government representatives sign the Nunavut Political Accord Which set the creation of Nunavut as of April 1, 1999

NOV. 1992: Inuit of Nunavut ratify Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in Nunavut-wide vote

JULY 1993: Canadian Government and representatives for Inuit of Nunavut signed the Nunavut act in Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Northwest Territories

1998: Amendments to Nunavut Act was adopted my Parliament and receive Royal Assent

FEB 1999: First election for Government of Nunavut

APR 1999: Nunavut Territory and government came into existence

PROMINENT FIGURES
Paul Okalik, Premier of Nunavut|
The Canadian Press profiled Okalik in 1999 and flatteringly called him a "boozer." Language choices aside, there is good biographical information available on this Canoe.ca page.

Clare Evelyn Clark

The first President of Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada.

Religious Beliefs

Religion was handed down from Father to son. Because the Inuit people had no written from of communication, religion was taught to them by their ancestors through series of stories. As result, religious history was not formally documented.

Summation of Beliefs and Practices
Traditional Inuit religious philosophy centres around the powers of nature, animate and inanimate, on sea and on land. Human beings are said to have several souls or spiritual substances. Some Inuit people believe in two souls, one of which remains near the dead body until it can enter that of a little child, while the other goes to one of several soul lands, either above or below the earth. The central religious figure is the Shaman. Some of the Shaman's functions is to divine the causes of poor hunting (which was often believed to be caused by a group member breaking food or hunting taboos), to diagnose and treat sickness and to serve as the general source of advice in coping with crisis.

Languages

There are several related linguistic groups for the Arctic peoples including Kalaallit in Greenland, Inuvialuit in Canada and Inupiat, Yupiget, Yuplit and Alutiit in Alaska.

The eastern branch, generally called Inupiaq in Alaska, but also Inuktitut in Canada and Kalaallisut in Greenland, stretches from eastern Alaska across Canada and through into southern Greenland.

It consists of many dialects, each understandable to speakers of neighboring dialects.

Western branch called Yupik includes three distinct languages: Central Alaskan Yupik and Pacific Gulf Yupik in Alaska and Siberian Yupik in Alaska and Canada, each with several dialects.

The Inupiaq dialects have more than 20,000 speakers in Alaska and Canada.

Inuktitut of eastern Canada:
14,000 speakers of 17,500 population

Inuktitut of western Canada:
4,000 speakers of 7,500 population

The first book in Inupiaq was published in 1742
www.tapirisat.ca/collections.ic.gc.ca/arctic/inuit/people.htm

Researched by Kelly Farnsworth

 
     
 
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