Point Barrow, Alaska, USA

First Contact:


gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization

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About the Tribe


Importance of Animal Products

Food is the center of Inuit culture and takes years of education to learn how to obtain and prepare . Many points have to be included when considering our foods – the passage of our Indigenous Knowledge1 , physical, mental and regulatory accessibility to foods, weather conditions, timing of gathering and preparation, funding for equipment and fuel, sharing, language, social networks, and respect are just a few (ICC Alaska. 2015). Our foods, recipes – are a connection from past to present . As one of the authors points out, it is not possible to sum up all that is involved in food preparation in a single recipe . However, we hope the below recipes (our Indigenous Knowledge) will provide you with a sense of our niqipiaq/neqpiat (real food: Inupiaq/Yup’ik). Referred to as Inuit internationally, Iñupiat, Saint Lawrence Island Yup’ik, Yup’ik and Cup’ik make up four Inuit regions within Alaska (see figure 1). A recipe has been provided from each of these regions, by Eilene Adams (North Slope), Cyrus Harris (Northwest Arctic), Sandy and Marjorie Tahbone (Bering Strait) and Sonita Cleveland (YukonKuskokwim).

TUTTU (CARIBOU) SOUP By Eilene Adams, Barrow, Alaska

Tuttu soup is a favorite dish of all ages . People have been eating Tuttu soup for as long as we know . We all grew up eating Aaka’s (grandma’s) Tuttu soup daily – whenever caribou is available . We like to hunt caribou in the fall, when they have more fat . Caribou brings both physical and mental health to our people – we have learned to use all parts of the caribou for survival . This is part of our value system and how we respect our environment . All parts of the caribou are used for food, clothing and tools . Antlers are used to make tools, sinew is used to make boots and even as dental floss, the stomach lining is used to waterproof boots, gloves and other clothing items . Today we include ingredients that are bought from the store, such as flour. But it does not have to be made with flour and at one time no one used flour

Ingredients: Caribou meat (brisket and hind quarter are preferable, but any caribou meat will work), 1 cup of rice, ½ cup of flour, one onion. Boil caribou meat until tender - add rice, onion and cook for about ten minutes . Next add flour and cook another ten minutes. Some people like to also add noodles, potatoes, carrots or other vegetables.

MIPKUQ (BLACK MEAT IN SEAL OIL) – «IÑUPIAT SOUL FOOD» Provided by Cyrus «Naunġaq» Harris, Maniilaq Association

Mipkuq is dried ugruk (bearded seal) meat preserved in seal oil, and for thousands of years it has been essential to the diet of Iñupiat. Mipkuq perfectly suits the Arctic region. It provides a source of energy-dense lean protein, packed with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and has a long shelf life that provides Iñupiat nourishment throughout the harsh winter or, in the early days, when other foods were not readily available. In the summer, when land fast ice is gone and there are offshore ice floes,teams of hunters harvest several adult ugruk on the sea ice and bring them back to camp. Adult ugruk grow 7–8 feet (2.0–2.5 m) in length and weigh 575–800 pounds (260–360 kg), which requires teamwork to transport and process. Delicious, nutritious and energy-dense, Mipkuq is highly sought after and present at nearly every meal and shared or traded with friends and extended family. It is used as a side dish, dipping sauce, or ingredient for other types of niqipaq (real food). In addition to physically sustaining Iñupiat people, Mipkuq also sustains Iñupiat spirituality. Traditional Iñupiat stories have called for the hunter to fill their mouth with seawater, which is then transferred into the mouth of the captured ugruk to return their spirit back to the wild. This practice was said to bring good fortune in future ugruk harvests for generations to come. It is also customary to give the season’s first catch to an elder as a sign of respect and gratitude. This reflects the Iñupiat Ilitqusiat (values) and sense of community associated with preparing, sharing, and consuming niqipaq foods such as Mipkuq.


Ingredients: • Front straps, back straps and blubber from one adult ugruk Equipment: • Knives/Ulu/Gaffe •  Flat cutting board (for butchering the ugruk) • Iññisaq (meat drying rack) • Qavrak board (a board for separating blubber from skin) • 30 gallon rendering bucket • Breathable cover for rendering bucket (game bag, cheesecloth, etc.) • 4 ft. debarked spruce stirring stick •  Pot (for boiling meat) • 5 gallon buckets for Mipkuq storage Harvest, gut, and rinse the ugruk. Once the cleaned ugruk is hauled to camp, place it on a flat cutting board and remove the skin/blubber from around the seal meat. Let the skin/ blubber lay out on the cutting board overnight to dry. Carefully trim any additional meat attached to the blubber so that the blubber is clean. Separate the blubber from the skin (qavrak) using the qavrak board, and cut blubber into 1” x 3” looped strips. Trim and discard low quality blubber where blood has soaked into the blubber. Place good quality blubber strips in the 30 gallon rendering bucket, and cover with a breathable covering to allow for air exchange and to protect from insects. Closely monitor and stir the blubber/oil at least two times per day and let the oil render at ambient outdoor Arctic temperatures (~ 60o F or 16o C) in a protected area away from dust and rain. Oil rendering times can vary, with an approximate rendering time between one to two weeks. In the old days, blubber strips would traditionally be rendered within the intact sealskin hide called a seal ‘poke’. The black meat is made from the seal front and back straps. To prepare the black meat, hang the harvested ugruk meat to dry in the iññisaq for two to three days. This allows the meat to form a dry outer layer and develop a black color that indicates a taste that is not overly «gamey» or «fishy». The back straps are then filleted into an approximately 1/2” thick continuous blanket of meat and hung in the iññisaq to dry. Each day throughout the Mipkuq making process, the back strap meat blanket is monitored and turned over daily. For the front straps, after the initial 2-3 day drying period, they are cut into long 1” thick strips and hung back up to dry. Once the front strap strips reach 50% dryness, those strips are boiled in a large pot of water for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking, re-hang the cooked front strap strips in the iññisaq to dry for several more days. Once the cooked front strap strips and back straps have dried sufficiently, remove the black meat from the iññisaq and cut it into serving size portions (about 4 inches in length). Evenly distribute the black meat portions among 5 gallon buckets filled with the freshly rendered seal oil. The fresh Mipkuq is stored in a siġḷuaq, or underground cooler, for 3-7 days to give the black meat time to absorb the oil. Once the Mipkuq is good, it is stored in the freezer. The last step in the process is to feed your Iñupiat soul and enjoy your fresh Mipkuq with family, friends, and community members! The Maniilaq Association is currently working on a collaborative project to establish a regulatory approved process to make Mipkuq and routinely serve it to elders at our long-term care center.


It is rare (this day and age) that I will get fresh seal meat other than in spring; which is the time when many seals are harvested in our community and the majority of the meat is dried and stored in seal oil with rendered blubber. And having fresh boiled seal meat, blubber, and intestines is mouth-watering and I look forward to preparing this dish every spring. It is rather difficult, for me to explain how to cook native food. It is not like you can go to the store and pick up a few pounds of meat and intestines and they are ready to cook. If this were the case, I would say perhaps for 4 servings you would need 4 pounds of rib meat for boiling, 2 pounds of blubber, and a yard of guts! Knowledge gained through years of processing is hard, for me, to pass on in written form and trying to do it using very few words makes it more difficult. I have given directions for a person who has knowledge about processing bearded seal. Ingredients: Seal meat, Seal blubber, Seal Intestines, Onion, Potatoes (optional), Salt, Water This dish is prepared by slowly or gently boiling the meat, blubber, and intestines. The meat does not take that long to cook and is preferred medium to rare, but is okay to cook well done; so you will remove meat when done and continue cooking the blubber and intestines. The portions depend on how many people you are going to feed, so you will need to use your own judgment and common sense by adding more or less of the ingredients. When I am processing bearded seal in the spring for dry meat I dry the meat with no blubber on the meat taking the time to get every bit of fat off the meat before I hang it for drying; and save the meat that is hard to remove fat for cooking (the flap of meat that covers the ribs). I also save the ribs for cooking as well, especially if the seal is young and fat runs through the rib meat and is not good for drying. I prepare the intestines for cooking by first running water through the entire intestine for the initial cleaning then cutting them into two foot sections and turning them inside out for final cleaning. After the intestines are cleaned I cut them into 6-8 inch pieces for cooking. Prepare the blubber by removing it from the hide and if the blubber has been exposed to air for a time you will need to remove the top and cut it into 1-inch wide and 6-inch long sections for cooking. Cooking time for bearded seal meat is short not like cooking walrus. You can either use fresh or frozen seal meat, blubber and intestines. Prepare seal meat, blubber, and intestines as described above. Chop onions and quarter the potatoes. Put all ingredients in a pot and cover with water. Boil slowly, taking the meat out when desired rare/medium/etc. Continue cooking until the potatoes are cooked (fork tender). Take everything out of the pot and put on a serving platter. Serve the broth in cups and enjoy with some fresh spring greens in seal oil.

TUNUQ (ANIMAL FAT) AKUTAQ By Sonita Cleveland, Quinhagak, Alaska There are many ways to make akutaq. My favorite is tunuq akutaq because it is something different and provides a gamey taste that other types of akutaq do not. We eat it often and many grow up eating different types of akutaq. I watched my grandma make akutaq and she taught me how to make it. As my grandma taught me she always told me food shouldn’t be wasted: if we have it, it should be eaten. Now when I make it, it is like I am not doing it by myself. My entire family likes tunuq akutaq and so we eat it often. We mostly make tunuq akutaq around the fall when we go moose hunting. If there is enough fat, we store it to make food, such as akutaq. Making tunuq akutaq begins with rendering the tunuq. When we first get the moose or caribou or reindeer, we cut the pieces of moose or reindeer fat into small chunks, and we lay them across a baking sheet or cake sheet and bake for 2 to 3 hours at around 250 F, until it is rendered. When it is rendered, we take it out and pour it into another baking sheet and let that harden. Then we break it into chunks with an uluaq and freeze them and wrap them in foil, saran wrap, or ziploc bags and put in the freezer. When it is time to make akutaq the tunuq is taken from the freezer and melted or if the tunuq is fresh, we can render some to use. Some people melt the tunuq in a frying pan. I don’t like the slightly burnt taste it that a frying pan gives and so we put chunks of fat in a big cake pan and bake it on a low heat for a few hours. From spring to fall, we collect different berries to store. For this recipe, we often use blackberries or cranberries. Every time we want tunuq akutaq, we just take some berries and tunuq out of the freezer. Ingredients: 1 cup sugar – melted 1 ½ Crisco 1 ½ tunuq 3 cups of berries I like to use equal amounts of Crisco and rendered fat, a hand full sugar, and berries. First, whip up the sugar and Crisco until it is blended by hand, pour in the melted rendered tunuq and keep mixing. Lastly, add the berries. While mixing all of the ingredients together, the akutaq begins to stiffen – this is when it is ready to eat. Sometimes people put in white fish. We boil the white fish first, take bones out, lay it across a cookie sheet – or just use it. Chum salmon or halibut is sometimes used in place of whitefish. Many people today make akutaq with only Crisco although this was not the case long ago, as people did use Crisco or sugar. I prefer tunuq akutaq over Crisco akutaq because it keeps us full and has a better flavor. Akutaq is nutritious, despite the Crisco – these are natural oils and it is our organic food. When going out to get wood or fish, grandma always told me to taquaq (take food with) such as dried fish and akutaq to keep you warm, full, and to have energy. The older people we invite, like the elders, really like it when we make them tunuq akutaq. It is a rare treat for them and many say, ‘I remember my mom making this when I was younger.’ I know by eating it, it will give them memories of when they were younger. I am named after my grandma’s mom. When my uncle had the akutaq that my grandma had taught me to make, he said, ‘you take after your name sake.’ This is part of our knowledge passing through our generations. Unfortunately, many of the younger generation do not know how to make tunuq akutaq. As I get older, I will teach the younger generations.

In his primitive state he has provided an example of physical excellence and dental perfection such as has seldom been excelled by any race in the past or present. We are concerned to know the secret of this great achievement since his circumscribed life greatly reduces the factors that may enter as controlling units in molding this excellence. While we are primarily concerned in this study with the characteristics of the Eskimo dentition and facial form and the effect upon it of his contact with modern civilization, we are also deeply concerned to know the formula of his nutrition in order that we may learn from it the secrets that will not only aid the unfortunate modern or so-called civilized races, but will also, if possible, provide means for assisting in their preservation.

Weston Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939)

We are particularly concerned with the foods used by these primitive Eskimos. They almost always have their homes on or near deep water. Their skill in handling their kayaks is most remarkable. During the salmon running season they store large quantities of dried salmon. They spear many of these fish from their kayaks; even young boys are very skillful. They land salmon so large that they can hardly lift them. They are expert in spearing seals from these light crafts. Seal oil provides a very important part of their nutrition. As each piece of fish is broken off, it is dipped in seal oil. I obtained some seal oil from them and brought it to my laboratory for analyzing for its vitamin content. It proved to be one of the richest foods in vitamin A that I have found.

The fish are hung on racks in the wind for drying. Fish eggs are also spread out to dry, as shown in Fig. 13. These foods constitute a very important part of the nutrition of the small children after they are weaned. Naturally, the drifting sands of the bleak Bering Straits lodge upon and cling to the moist surfaces of the fish that are hung up to dry. This constitutes the principal cause for the excessive wear of the Eskimos’ teeth in both men and women.

The food of these Eskimos in their native state includes caribou, ground nuts which are gathered by mice and stored in caches, kelp which is gathered in season and stored for winter use, berries including cranberries which are preserved by freezing, blossoms of flowers preserved in seal oil, sorrel grass preserved in seal oil, and quantities of frozen fish. Another important food factor consists of the organs of the large animals of the sea, including certain layers of the skin of one of the species of whale, which has been found to be very high in vitamin C.


Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Fat of the Land (1956, originally published in 1946)

If inexperienced in primitive cultures, one is likely to misinterpret general statements about food. I might tell you, correctly, that the chief food of a certain group of Eskimos with whom I lived was caribou meat, with perhaps 30 per cent fish, 10 per cent seal meat, and 5 or 10 per cent made up of polar bear, rabbits, birds, and eggs. This might lead one to visualize meals where there would be a fish course followed by a meat course, and where we would breakfast at least occasionally on eggs. Such is most unlikely to be the rase, with primitive peoples. If 50 per cent of the year’s food is caribou meat, the primitive likely eats practically nothing, but caribou during approximately half the year, seldom tasting this meat the rest of the twelve months. His fish percentages will come in similarly restricted periods, and they are likely to be fish exclusively. The eggs, far from being breakfasts distributed through several months, would be occasional days of nothing but eggs during only one month of the year, in the spring.

“Esquimo Teeth Prove Health of Meat Diet,” The Harvard Crimson (1929)

By means of some 90 models of Eskimo teeth, Dr. Adelbert Fernald, Curator of the Harvard Dental School Museum, has proved that eating a strictly meat diet is the ideal way in which to keep the human mouth in a healthy condition, and that it is due to the fact that civilized people do not eat enough meat that they as a rule have decayed teeth.

Commander Donald B. MacMillan, the noted Arctic explorer, obtained about 90 impressions of the teeth of the Eskimos of Smith Sound, “the meat eaters,” who live the farthest north of any human beings. He did this at the request of Dr. Fernald, who desired the models for the Dental School Museum. The impressions were made on one of MacMillan’s most recent Artic expeditions. From the impressions, models have been constructed. Commander MacMillan said that “the Smith Sound Eskimos average about four ounces of vegetable matter each year per capita.”

Only one tooth of the 616 contained in the models is deformed. All the models represent mouths and teeth wonderfully developed. A more definite proof of the efficacy of a meat diet in maintaining healthful teeth could not be desired.

Out of the 616 teeth only seven are missing, while Dr. Fernald states that of the same number of teeth in the mouths of New England people, he would expect to find more than 100 missing.

In connection with the securing of the Eskimo teeth models from Commander MacMillan, Dr. Fernald arranged with Professor Hooton of the Peabody Museum at Harvard to secure impressions of the teeth of Yucatan natives during a southern expedition. These people are famous as vegetable eaters. Most of them eat no meat whatever. It was found that their teeth were very much decayed. At a surprisingly early age, their teeth lost all semblance of even a normally healthy condition, and most of them, when middle aged, had practically no teeth, whatever. It has been the experience of most dentists that those people who have the healthiest teeth are those who eat the most meat, which points to the same conclusion as Dr. Fernald’s researches.

Many of the models of the Eskimo teeth are perfect in every way, not having the slightest defect either of form or condition. Dr. Fernald states that is the 32 years of his dental practice he has seen only one set of teeth which were perfect in every respect.

Dr. Fernald says “Studying the models of these peoples’ mouth in the interest of anthropology and ethnology, as well as from an orthodontic standpoint. I consider extremely valuable, as much more data, can be obtained from models of a living person than from skulls. For instance, if the models show that the gums are apparently firm and tight around the teeth and have not receded that alone indicates to some extent a healthy mouth. From the fact that the arches are so even and well developed I should say that these people with so large arches are not mouth breathers, and therefore are not suffering from adenoids, enlarged tousils, and so forth.

Importance of Plants

The Eskimo situation varies from ours still more when it comes to vegetables. In the Mackenzie district these were eaten under three conditions:

(1) The chief occasion for vegetables here, as with most Eskimos, was a famine. There were several kinds of vegetable things known to be edible and they were resorted to in a definite succession, as prejudices were overborne by the pangs of hunger. (True famines seldom, if ever, occurred in the Mackenzie, but small groups would get short of food through some accident and then famine practice in eating would result).

(2) Some vegetable foods were eaten because the Mackenzie River people liked them. These were chiefly berries; and among berries chiefly the salmon berry or cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The Mackenzie River people ate these only during the season; but in Western Alaska, and elsewhere, berries and some other vegetable foods were preserved in oil for winter use—sometimes as delicacies, sometimes to guard against famine, and no doubt frequently with a mixture of both motives.

(3) One form of vegetable dish is eaten strictly in connection with another that is non-vegetable—the moss, “twigs and grass from a caribou’s stomach are used as a base for oil. In my experience the commonest reason for this use was that someone from a distance arrived with a bag of oil that was either in a particularly delectable state of fermentation (corresponding to Camembert cheese that is just soft enough), or else this was an oil from a favored animal not common in the district, say white whale brought into a sealing community."

Commander MacMillan said that “the Smith Sound Eskimos average about four ounces of vegetable matter each year per capita.”

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Transition to Industrialized Food Products

Many people today make akutaq with only Crisco although this was not the case long ago, as people did use Crisco or sugar. I prefer tunuq akutaq over Crisco akutaq because it keeps us full and has a better flavor. Akutaq is nutritious, despite the Crisco – these are natural oils and it is our organic food. When going out to get wood or fish, grandma always told me to taquaq (take food with) such as dried fish and akutaq to keep you warm, full, and to have energy. The older people we invite, like the elders, really like it when we make them tunuq akutaq. It is a rare treat for them and many say, ‘I remember my mom making this when I was younger.’

Jul 20, 1585

'A People of Tractable Conversation': A Reappraisal of Davis's Contribution to Arctic Scholarship


English Explorer John Davis sails to Greenland and discovers the Inuit for the first time, noticing they were "very tractable people", however, he didn't record their eating habits.

Yet, on reading their reports, one cannot fail to be struck by the explorers’ relatively unprejudiced tone as they describe the natives’ mutual solicitude or even their fundamental honesty. It is true that Davis sometimes seems to contradict himself: commenting on the Inuit’s apparent passion for iron – which caused them to steal the ship’s anchor – Davis felt bound to denounce their ‘vile nature’. But both Davis and Janes display a genuine interest in the Arctic people they interacted with. Failing to find a new maritime route to China, Davis appears to have turned part of his attention to the Inuit instead. The Inuit often take pride of place and it looks as if the description of their mores had been substituted for the traditional list of profitable ‘commodities’ that can be found in so many travel narratives. This is all the more remarkable as the quest for a Northwest or Northeast maritime route to China partly originated in the English merchants’ desire to remedy their financial woes after the cloth trade with Antwerp and the Low Countries had become less profitable.  What is more, Davis did not content himself with listing their drinking and eating habits, or ‘the many little images’ and diverse cultural artefacts they produced. Our main contention is that Davis also approached their language with linguistic acuity. 

Encountering 'very tractable people': Arctic pre-ethnography 

Davis set sail in June 1585 with a total crew of forty-two. He was the captain of a ship called the Sunshine while the other ship, the Moonshine, was under the command of one William Bruton. John Janes was Davis’s supercargo and a member of the Sunshine’s crew. Davis and his men sighted Greenland for the first time on 20 July. He seems to have been far from favourably impressed if one is to judge by the name he chose to give it: 

The 20. as we sayled along the coast the fogge brake up, and we discovered the land, which was the most deformed rockie and montainous land that ever we saw ... the shoare beset with yce a league off into the sea, making such yrksome noyse as that it seemed to be the true patterne of desolation, and after the same our Captain named it, The Land of Desolation.

 Davis and his men then turned Cape Farewell (Uummannarsuaq) without trying to explore the coast and entered what is now the fjord of Nuuk (Nuup Kangerlua, previously Godthaab Fjord), which Davis named ‘Gilbert Sound’, at latitude 64°11’. It was there that they first encountered a group of Inuit. If the very first contact proved a little baffling and rather disconcerting, Janes tells us that surprise and diffidence rapidly gave way to ‘many signs of friendship’: 

The Captain, the Master and I, being got up to the top of an high rock, the people of the countrey having espied us, made a lamentable noise, as we thought, with great outcries and skreechings: we hearing them, thought it had been the howling of wolves ... Whereupon M. Bruton and the Master of his shippe, with others of their company, made great haste towards us, and brought our Musicians with them from our shippe, purposing either by force to rescue us, if need should so require, or with courtesie to allure the people. When they came unto us, we caused our Musicians to play, ourselves dancing, and making many signs of friendship.

 It is perhaps significant that the first interaction between the two parties should have taken such a musical form as this scene may be said to set the tone for Davis’s subsequent encounters with the different groups of Inuit he met. On the whole, it seems that concord prevailed over disharmony, though it is important not to oversimplify the necessarily complex and ambivalent feelings that both sides mutually experienced towards the other party. It should also be noted that, from the start, the Inuit’s ‘speech’ and their ‘pronunciation’ aroused Janes’s linguistic curiosity: ‘their pronunciation was very hollow thorow the throat, and their speech such as we could not understand’. If Frobisher’s first contact with the natives gave rise to a display of gymnastic virtuosity on the part of the Inuit, in Davis’s case the first encounter between the explorers and the natives concluded with music, dancing and a scene of rejoicing: ‘one of them came on shoare, to whom we threw our cappes, stockings and gloves, and such other things as then we had about us, playing with our musicke, and making signes of joy, and dauncing’.

In the rest of his narrative, Janes often insists on the feelings of ‘trust’ and ‘familiarity’ that gradually developed between the two groups. On the second day, the English gained the trust of the Inuit by mimicking their attitudes and ‘swearing by the sun after their fashion’: ‘so I shook hands with one of them, and he kissed my hand, and we were very familiar with them. We were in so great credit with them upon this single aquaintance, that we could have anything they had.’ Much like Thomas Harriot who also admired the ingenuity of the native Algonkians, Janes marvelled at the skill of the Inuit. In particular, he showed deep interest in their fine – and warm – sealskin buskins, gloves and hoses, for which he willingly exchanged his much less comfortable clothes, ‘all being commonly sowed and well dressed: so that we were fully perswaded they have divers artificers among them.’ In fact, except for their religion – or lack thereof – Janes did not find anything wrong with them, as can be seen from the following description of the first group he came into contact with: ‘they tooke great care one of another ... They are very tractable people, void of craft or double dealing, and easie to be brought to any civility or good order: but we judge them to be idolaters and to worship the Sunne.’

Mar 1, 1851

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


British explorer McClure meets the Northern Copper Inuit for the first time. The Eskimos, who have never met non-Eskimos, ask where the white men's hunting grounds are- indicating farming was foreign to them. Members of the expedition noted the Eskimos were self sufficient carnivores, living only off of hunting and fishing and using hammered copper tools collected from particular places.


Page 26:

"McClure and his men noted that these Inuit made extensive use of copper for making hunting implements and other tools: 

this knives, arrows, needles, and other cutting and piercing instruments were all made of copper--several speciments which were obtained--fashioned into shape entirely by hammering. No igneous power being had recourse to, it was surprising to see the admirable nature of the work, considering the means by which it was effected, and the form reflected great credit on their ingenuity and excellence in the adaptation of design. (Armstrong 1857:339-340).

The British and Eskimos then traded. One of the expedition members later noted:

They were all quite devoid of that mercenary spirit, and those strong thieving and other propensities so universal amongst the Esquimaux on the American coast[i.e. North Alaska]--the result of their contact with civilized man--being a few of the evils which invariably follow his footsteps over the world...They were quite ignorant that there existed any other people differing from themselves in manners and customs; and asked our party where they came from, and where their hunting ground was situated. Their entire occupation consisted of hunting and fishing, migrating to and from along this coast, fixing their temporary abode wherever success was most likely to attend their efforts; and appeared to be influenced by no other feeling than the acquistion of what was essential to their sustenance from one season to another, to afford them sufficient food and raiment for sustaining life and protecting them from the cold (Armstrong 1857:340)

The meeting--the first European contact and communication with this northernmost group of Copper Inuit--was brief. But from their written observations, it is clear that these explorers were extremely impressed with the Inuit's remarkable ability to survive in such a harsh climate, using ingenious tools and hunting implements made from the limited resources at their disposal. Since no trade items of southern manufacture had yet reached this isolated region of the Arctic, these people were totally independent and self-reliant. 

Jan 1, 1853

The First Case of Diabetic Retinopathy by Eduard von Jaeger


Dr Eduard von Jaeger of Vienna publishes the first case of diabetic retinopathy showing the dangers of high blood sugars in diabetics.

The First Case of Diabetic Retinopathy 

(Eduard von Jaeger, Vienna 1853) by FRANZ FISCHER 

We have before us the plates and documentation of a case of retinitis (retinopathy) in diabetes mellitus, the first of its kind. It derives from the Beitrage zur Pathologie des Auges by Eduard von Jaeger for the year 1855. That it was the first such case we have the best guarantor, Theodor Leber. In 1875, he collected the cases from the literature - there were 19 in all, of which Jaeger's case was the first - and coined the term retinitis diabetica. So characterized, Jaeger's case wanders through the literature. After Leber he found no-one more appreciative. We thought it stimulating as well as conducive to the continuity of research to exhibit this case. 

It is no accident that the observation was made in Vienna, and made by Eduard von Jaeger. In the second half of the 18th century and subsequently, Vienna was very fruitful medical soil, a place where the new seed of ophthalmology could flourish. We see Joseph Barth, the gifted individualist, Georg Joseph Beer (first professor, 1818), the first teacher and founder of scientific ophthalmology, Friedrich Jaeger, Ritter von Jaxtthal (Eduard's father), Professor at the military medical Joseph's Academy (Josephinum), the most sought-out eye-surgeon in Europe. In the so-called II Vienna Medical School, Eduard von Jaeger with Ferdinand von Arlt and K. Stellwag von Carion was an outstanding champion of the specialty. As the son of Friedrich von Jaeger and grandson of the great Joseph Beer, Eduard von Jaeger had glittering prospects. 

Nevertheless, and with all his personal accomplishment, he was denied what he felt to be his heart's desire: only at the age of 65 did he become Professor at the II Ophthalmic Clinic, Vienna, not long before his death (5 July, 1884). His main creative work lay in ophthalmoscopy. The best witnesses on his account are two competent ophthalmologists: Ludwig Mauthner (in the obituary): "Eduard von Jaeger's career is inextricably bound up with the history of the ophthalmoscope. He was one of the first who turned Helmholtz's discovery to practical use. He also produced an improved form of Helmholtz's instrument very soon for everyday practice. Eduard von Jaeger was the greatest ophthalmologist the world had yet seen." Then Maximilian Salzmann (in the preface to the reworked Atlas of 1890): "The time has its expectations, which Eduard von Jaeger, linked with the appearance of his Atlas has satisfied in full measure. His work is recognized as the most important in the field of ophthalmoscopy and has become a foundation on the basis of which numerous young doctors have been introduced into this important oculists' discipline." So much for the environment and personality of our author. 

And now for the case. The description begins as follows: "The gardener Wilhelm W., then 22 years old, of slender physique and medium height, had always been healthy and strong in childhood and adolescence. However, 4 years previously, through catching cold, he developed a disorder which repeatedly kept him in bed with slight fever and swelling of the right foot, loss of strength and appearance. As this continued, the phenomenon of a diabetes emerged, coupled with marked anorexia, dry throat, frequent vomiting after eating and feelings of great decline and weakness. For a short time the patient had also complained of frequent cough with much sputum and feelings of oppression and pressure in the chest. " 

We now shorten this account. 5 weeks before he had experienced a disturbance of vision: transient seeing of flashes and "slight clouding of the outer half of the visual field in the left eye". The clouding had spread to the other eye and was increasing. The sight in the left eye had temporarily improved. The disorder had steadily increased. It is stated: "The patient presently appears very ill and low, is thin and has a sallow complexion." Then a "disturbance of the visual field in the middle" with reduction of visual acuity is described. Passing to the ophthalmoscopic findings: The media had appeared quite transparent and normal. The peripheral parts of the fundus were free from lesions. 

On the other hand, the site and vicinity of the transverse section of the optic nerve (in the extent of the extravasate illustrated in the picture) is dull in color, less translucent, more blood-red, and the optic nerve cross-section is so completely covered by the aforesaid color change as to be no longer perceived and can only be recognized by the union of the retinal vessels. 

"Anomalous redness of the optic fundus" and "radiate spreading of the optic fibers in the vicinity of the optic nerve" were reported. Then it states: "In the region of this anomalous coloring of the optic fundus there are to be perceived a considerable number of apparently uniformly distributed blood-red flecks, some punctate, some striate or otherwise shaped, of the most various size, which seem to lie in the plane of the retinal vessels, i.e., deep to the retina, are predominantly elongated, and whose arrangement and orientation correspond partly to the optic expansion and partly to the paths of the retinal vessels, particularly the veins. Between the flecks, at some distance from the optic disc, there also appear numerous irregular, rounded, light-yellow spots whose brightness makes them very obvious." 

It then states that the retinal vessels in the region of the optic disc were hazy. The arteries showed an especially brilliant media. The diameters of the arteries and veins were significantly increased above normal. The description ends as follows: "The left eye exhibits objectively and subjectively exactly the same appearances, though to a lesser degree and the patient is still capable with its aid of getting about in the street and even doing some work as a gardener." 

We note that plate and text are quite consistent. The text, based on the author's principle, is descriptive, not explanatory. The illustration is quite true to life and free from any exaggeration. The lithography and color printing, carried out by the Imperial and Royal Court and State Press in Vienna is an amazing technical achievement for a hundred years ago. 

What was Eduard von Jaeger describing? At the fundus: an edema of the optic disc and adjacent retina, streaked and radially arranged hemorrhages at some distance from the disc, light-yellow spots, to be explained later, as essential features. The question whether this complied with the concept of diabetic retinitis (retinopathy), then and now, may be answered as follows. Th. Leber (1875) remarked of Jaeger's case that it resembled the retinitis occurring in albuminuria. Later, the edema (with the star figure in the macula) were counted as characteristics of albuminuric (nephritic, angiospastic) retinitis as against diabetic retinitis. What can we say today? Diabetic retinopathy embraces a whole range of retinal lesions: "blood-spots (anatomically: capillary aneurysms) at the outset, hemorrhages and white degenerative foci subsequently, and finally vascular and connective tissue proliferation, vitreous hemorrhage, retinal shrinkage, etc. (retinitis proliferans), though these stages are not always observed. As always with retinopathy, the edema is not part of the fundus picture. It is the view of not a few workers today that, when an edema appears, the case is one of nephritic and not diabetic retinopathy. We believe, however, that diabetic retinopathy can, exceptionally, imitate nephritic retinopathy. Edema formation is shown especially by young diabetics, as confirmed by R. Thiels and our own observations. Frankly, we cannot share Thiels' view (1956) that this depends on the special nephropathic forms of diabetes, the KimmelstielWilson glomeruloscleroses. The fact that most Kimmelstiel-Wilson cases are heralded by retinopathy without edema formation is an argument against. Therefore nothing prevents us from acknowledging Jaeger's case as one of true diabetic retinopathy, despite any similarity with albuminuric retinitis. Jaeger's case admits of another interpretation. The indistinct disc, the numerous radially arranged hemorrhages, the markedly reduced visual acuity - all are very suggestive of a thrombosis of the central vein of the retina. This is not at all an uncommon event in older diabetics (with advanced arteriosclerosis), in any case commoner than in non-diabetics; in young diabetics it was unknown. Now, J. Dietzel and P. White have recently observed a central vein thrombosis in a young diabetic, followed by a retinitis proliferans in the other eye. This demonstrates that the angiopathy specific to diabetes (and not just the usual arteriosclerosis) is capable of producing such a picture. Jaeger's case in a 22-year-old diabetic could be interpreted in this sense; but, frankly, the fundus picture is not at all consistent and the appearance in both eyes arouses doubts. The possibility exists. Now for the "rounded light-yellow spots" in our fundus picture. That this referred to the usual retinal degenerative foci we believe can be dismissed without more ado. K. vom Hofe was the first (1938) to point out the frequency of such a finding in diabetic retinopathy, and we confirm this from our own experience. It only surprises us how little awareness of this there was until now. Vom Hofe interpreted the picture as lipid infiltration of the deep retinal layers or choroid and proved correct. For the picture certainly is not related to "choroiditis in diabetic retinopathy" as we have recently described it. How accurate, then, were Jaeger's observations!

 If we leave the fundus picture: the patient's age of 22 years leads to the following remarks. Until some 10 years ago, diabetic retinopathy below 40 years of age was an absolute rarity. Thus we find in a world-famous textbook of ophthalmology of 1935 that only a single case is quoted from the literature. A marked change has occurred here. The number of young diabetics is large and steadily increasing, due to insulin and other modern treatment. The young diabetic is becoming older and now experiences its vascular complications, notably nephropathy and retinopathYi at the age of 30 or 40, he is confronted with a gloomy fate. For us, this is the main problem of diabetes mellitus today. On the other hand, the practicality of oral treatment of diabetes is fading. 

And now back to Jaeger's case. At that time, and for one of his age, he was certainly a rarity. And it should be considered that in the pre-insulin era young diabetics died off very quickly without exception from comai young diabetics did not live to experience vascular complications. As for the duration of the diabetes - in our case barely longer than 5 years - the following may be noted. As far back as 1858, Albrecht von Graefe was struck by the fact that the ocular disorders in diabetes mellitus belonged to "an advanced stage of the general disease". It required intensive research up to our own time to reveal the role of the duration of the diabetes in the development of retinopathy. 

Today, many workers, notably Dolger (USA) adopt the standpoint that every diabetic will experience the "vascular complications" of nephropathy, retinopathy, etc., if he lives long enough, for 20 years or more. On the other hand, Joslin's school in the USA advances the view that the vascular complications can be prevented or at least postponed by precise management of the diabetes from the outset without interruption, with proper treatment and surveillance. The advocates of the "free diet" (which actually is not a free diet) for diabetic children and adolescents rather incline to Dolger's view. We ourselves acknowledged Joslin's requirements in various articles though, like other authors, we were well aware that in by no means a few cases, and despite the best monitoring of the diabetes, a retinopathy (and nephropathy) develops after quite a short duration of the diabetes, while others remain unaffected despite continuously poor monitoring and overlong duration of the disease (30 or more years). We sought to explain the "bad" cases by a special penetrating power of the diabetes on an unherited basis. 

We are further of the opinion that, not only the diabetes as such, but also the associated vascular constition are inherited, and in a decisive manner. On this, the findings have yet to be made known. Jaeger's case, with its relatively short duration of diabetes, therefore also falls outside the rule in this respect and requires a special explanation, as given above. What does the case tell us otherwise? We may pass over the classical diabetes symptoms. Nothing is said relating to albuminuria or nephritis. Th. Leber felt this as a defect in the completion of his task. Thanks to the exact illustration, we can say with fair certainty that a nephropathy did exist, indeed in the uremic end-stage. This is not surprising, since we know how much alike are diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy, both clinically and pathologically; and it is just in young diabetics that nephropathy, as Kimmelstiel-Wilson's glomerulosclerosis, runs a deleterious course. 

That the report contains nothing about the blood-pressure only evokes the late development of blood-pressure measurement. A hypertension would not be surprising; according to our findings, it is associated just like the nephropathy with the retinopathy of young diabetics. The disease was ushered in by an infection, as we know well today. We amplify: the course of the diabetes was also unfavorably influenced by infection. Unfortunately, the eradication of focal sepsis has been pushed into the background in modern diabetes treatment. The description even suggests pulmonary tuberculosis. Over and again, this disease plays a noteworthy yet too little noted role in juvenile diabetes, being the second cause of death after uremia. 

We may conclude: The case reported by Eduard von Jaeger in 1855 is unusual as regards age, duration of diabetes and fundus findings. It withstands any check by current standards. We are right to see in it the first observation of diabetic retinopathy. The strictly scientific approach of the author has saved the case from oblivion. Yet it is quite remarkable that our acquaintance with diabetic retinopathy should have begun in such an unusual way. And what is even stranger is that in Jaeger's case we encounter the problem case of diabetes mellitus today. Eduard von Jaeger published this case in his Beitriigen zur Pathologie des Auges (1855-1856). 

Just listen, in conclusion, to what our historian, J. Hirschberg, writes on this: "No sacrifice for science was too heavy for him. For his wonderful Contributions to the Pathology of the Eye he plunged into a debt of 20,000 gulden, which he gradually paid off from his earnings." Such was Eduard von Jaeger. May he be a model to all young ophthalmologists!


The priority of the case is certified by Th. Leber (1875). That the observation was made in Vienna and by Eduard von Jaeger (1855) is not a matter of chance. Though this case of diabetic retinopathy is unusual in many respects, the diagnosis is beyond doubt and satisfies any check. The author's comprehensive and very factual approach gives us cause, even today, for valuable inferences and reflections, and not only as regars the fundus appearances. The spirit of a true natural scientist reveals itself. 


F. Fischer: Probleme der diabetischen Retinopathie. Klin. Mbl. f. Augenheilkunde 125 (1954): 666 - Einst und jetzt. Die historische Entwicklung der Retinopathia diabetica. Miinchner med. Wschr. 44 (1954)1287. - Die Retinopathie des jungen Diabetikers (unter 40 Jahren). Graefes Arch. 1957. - J. Hirschberg: Geschichte der Augenheilkunde. In Handbuch Graefe-Saemisch, Bd. XV, 1916. - Eduard von Jaeger: Beitrage zur Pathologie des Auges. 2. Lieferung, S. 33, Tafel XII. K. K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Wien 1855. - Th. Leber: Uber die Erkrankungen des Auges bei Diabetes mellitus. Arch. f. Ophthalm. 21, 3 Abtlg. (1875): 206 - Die Krankheiten der Netzhaut. In Handbuch Graefe-Saemisch, Bd. VII12 (1914): 969. -1. Mauthner: Eduard von Jaeger. Wiener Med. Wschr. 28 (1884): 878 - Th. Puschmann: Die Medizin in Wien wahrend der letzten 100 Jahre. M. Pedes, 1884. - M. Salzmann: Ophthalmoskopischer Handatlas von Eduard von Jaeger, neubearbeitet und vergr6Bert. F. Deutike, Leipzig und Wien 1890. - L. Schonbauer: Das Medizinische Wien. Geschichte, Werden, Wiirdigung. Urban & Schwarzenberg Berlin und Wien 1944. in: Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 107 (1957) 969-972.

Dec 20, 1893

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


Christian Klengenberg, a Dane born in 1869, signs on as a cook to travel the world and ends up exploring the Arctic in 1893, where he meets the Eskimos, learns their language and customs, and decides to marry a young Inupiat woman. He hunts bowhead whales and lives off the land and finds traces of the Northern Copper Inuit whom he would later visit.


"In 1893, he sailed on the Emily Schroeder, which traveled through the Bering Strait to the Inupiat(North Alaskan) community of Point Hope(Tikigaq). The purpose of the expedition was to trade with the Inupiat along the North Alaskan coast. Members of the expedition built a small trading post near the community of Point Hope and settled down for the long arctic winter. It was Klengenberg's first exposure to the Arctic and it is apparent in his autobiography that he relished the northern life. During the winter of 1893/1894, Klengenberg spent most of his time with the young Inupiat men from the village, whose company he preferred "over the dull adults for whom I cooked at the trading post"(Klengenberg 1932:90). Klengenberg also courted and eventually married a young Inupiat woman, Gremnia(Qimniq), with whom he had eight children.

"In summertime, the boats plied the Beaufort sea hunting bowheads. Klengenberg had planned to return immediately to Point Hope, but he could not resist the temptation of signing on as a whaler aboard the Mary D. Hume. He thus spent the summer whaling in the Beaufort Sea. At one point, the ship anchored off Banks Island to take on fresh meat and Klengenberg was among those who disembarked. While walking on the tundra, he spotted footprints and concluded they had been made the same summer. Klengengberg was excited at the possibility that there were unknown bands of Inuit on Banks Island. 

Jan 1, 1908

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


Taptualuk was given some rifles, ammunition, and a bag of flour. Since the Copper Inuit had no use, or taste, for southern food, the flour was dumped on the ground so that the bag could be used as a container.


Page 47:

Several years after Klengenberg's visit with the Inuit of Prince Albert Sound, whaling captain William Mogg spent the winter in a small bay on the northern side of Minto Inlet. On contemporary maps, this small bay is called Fish Bay, a little to the west of Omingmagiuk (known on maps as Boot Inlet). Mogg had more than twenty years of experience in arctic whaling, and like many captains in the western Arctic he turned to trading with the collapse of commercial whaling at the turn of the century. Mogg loaded a ship with trade goods and spent the winter of 1907/1908 in Minto Inlet. Mogg's ship was the Olga, the same ship captained by Klengenberg two years earlier. 

Mogg was interested in exploring the Kuujjuak River for evidence of native copper, which Klengenberg had reported to be in great abundance on Victoria Island. According to Holman elder Uluariuk, Mogg, or one of his men, accompanied an Inuk named Tuptualuk up the river, but found no evidence of copper. Upon their return, Taptualuk was given some rifles, ammunition, and a bag of flour. Since the Copper Inuit had no use, or taste, for southern food, the flour was dumped on the ground so that the bag could be used as a container (Uluariuk interview, Jun 8, 1989). 

Jan 1, 1911

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


The Copper Inuit people operate in a remote and frigid landscape and have unique habits to hunt seals and polar bears on the ice. They split up to cover more area and thus share kills between group members, separating seals up into 14 pieces while building large snowhouse communities with many families.


Despite uniformity of culture and language, the various miut displayed minor differences, based upon their adaptation to local resources. While some groups were primarily dependent on seal and polar bear, others focused on caribou and musk oxen. Although people exploited whatever resources happened to be available in their particular region, the pattern of subsistence and social organization was fundamentally the same. At the time of contact the total population of Copper Inuit was probably no more than 800 to 900, scattered over a vast territory of Arctic tundra, probably exceeding 80,000 square miles.


The environment of the Copper Inuit is mostly treeless Arctic tundra, although some wooded areas can be found in the southernmost reaches of Copper Inuit territory. The climate is severe, with winter temperatures frequently reaching -50 degrees Fahrenheit(-45 degrees C) in some areas. The monthly mean of the coldest month of the year, February, is between -20 and -28 Fahrenheit (-29 degrees C and -33 degrees Celsius) and the monthly mean of the warmest month, July, is in the high forties 7 to 10 C. Precipitation is minimal. Most of this falls as snow and accumulates in high drifts as a result of blowing winds. The amount of sunlight varies dramatically by season. In the Holman reason, for example, the sun drops below the horizon in the third week in November and stays down until January 16th or 17th. During these two months, there is only a brief daily period of twilight at midday which becomes progressively darker and shorter until the winter solstice. In summer, the sun stays above the horizon for an equivalent period, providing, as it circles, long hours of sunlight for people to hunt, fish and travel.

As is true of much of the Canadian Arctic, the tundra ecosystem is characterized by extremely low biological productivity. Significantly less energy is absorbed by the arctic ecosystem, compared with more temperate regions. Almost no energy is absorbed in winter. Even in summer, with the sun above the horizon 24 hours a day, the sun's rays are extremely weak, contributing little radiant energy to either the time or the Marine ecosystem. The net result Arctic operates under a significant energy deficient, with great implications for plant and animals and for the people who depend upon them for survival.

In winter, the straits, sounds, and gulfs in Copper Inuit territory are frozen in a continuous sheet of ice from October or November until July. This is ideal habitat for ring seals, which prefer solid, land fast ice with the early formation in fall and late Break Up In Summer.

Seasonal round

Since the environment was marked as it still is by dramatic seasonal fluctuations in temperature, light duration, snowfall, ice conditions, and game availability, copper Inuit families had to display great flexibility and economic and social organization in order to adapt successfully to the demands of each season. One of the most important phases of copper Inuit life was the winter season of breathing hole sealing. this was the coldest and the darkest time of year and it tested the Inuits ability to survive such harsh conditions large snow house communities typically formed out on the sea ice in locations close to good sealing grounds.  movement onto the ice was accomplished as soon as ice conditions became stable enough for travel and camping, ideally by late November or early December. These snow house Villages buried in size from about 50 individuals to as many as 150. Damas (1984:400)  estimates that the mean size range from about 91 to 117. Most of the people who resided in the snow house Villages were related, either closely or distantly, but many non-relatives were included as well. Villages moved when sealing became unproductive, with smaller groups occasionally splitting off.

Camping in Winter

Ruth Nigiyonak. I remember camping in the winter season out on the Frozen sea ice. As a child, during the winter, the people never stayed on land. When winter came, the people moved out on the ice. For the winter, the people would build large snow house with a big work space in the center. From the sides, they would build tunnels. At the end of each tunnel, a family would built their living quarters. The center was a workspace or a place to gather for games, drum dances, and stories. That was repeated each year.

During the winter, an elaborate system of seal-sharing among both kin and nonkin was the dominant form of food distribution. Breathing-hole sealing requires a degree of cooperation among hunters, who dispersed over a wide area to cover as many breathing holes as possible. Since each seal maintains a number of breathing holes, this strategy maximizes the chances that at least one hunter from a group would be successful. Once caught, the seal is divided into 12 to 14 Parts, each part given to a predetermined exchange partner who would reciprocate sometime in the future with the same body part. Names were applied to seal sharing Partners based on the animal part exchanged: flipper companion, liver companion, and so forth. A man's co-sharing partners were usually assigned by parents and other adults at the time of a hunter's first kill. Kinship factors were irrelevant to such partnerships since both kin and nonkin could be included in these networks.

Winter subsistence pursuits also included polar bear hunting and some areas, the importance of which for subsistence varied from year to year depending upon availability. The Copper Inuit who entered between Banks Island and Northwestern Victoria Island relied more heavily upon polar bear than other Copper Inuit groups.

Winter was an important time for Community social festivities, which were included in a large ceremonial snow house or qagli.  Because cold, darkness, and the frequent blizzards limited the amount of time that men could stay out hunting, people would pass their time playing games, drum dancing, and occasionally observing shamanic performances. Given the size of some snow house communities, it was not unusual for the qigli to be bursting with observers and participants. The copper Inuit spent much of the spring, summer, and early fall wandering on the tundra and small family groups, and winter presented the climax of community social life.

With the arrival of warmer weather and longer daylight hours in April and May, the Copper Inuit started hunting for basking seals. This was a more individualistic pursuit, requiring the hunter to walk and crawl great distances to Harpoon seals basking next to a crack or seal hole. Breathing hole ceiling, as well, continued into May, and some copper and you it made excursions to hunt polar bears as their hibernation ended. By Spring, the large snow house communities usually started to break into smaller groups each headed in a different direction. Movement was initially along the coastline, because the tundra would still be wet and unpleasant for travel. Eventually, the ocean ice was abandoned altogether, marking the beginning of the Inland phase of the yearly cycle. The abandonment of snow houses in Spring is understandable. As warmer weather conditions made the interior wet and uncomfortable, modified snow houses were made. He's consisted of the lower half of a snow house with a skin roof over it. As the year progresses, skin test tents replaced those these modified snow houses as people moved up to the land.

Jan 1, 1911

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


At that instance, the Inuit immediately rushed to the caribou that was shot down. In no time at all, the fresh killed carcass was devoured by the Inuit. The white man started in disbelief at the way the carcass disappeared so swiftly. The reason the Inuit devoured the caribou so quickly was because it was a change in diet. Their main staple food all winter was seal meat.


Until the first decade of the twentieth century, contact with the Inuit of western Victoria Island and eastern Banks Island was sporadic. McClure, Collinson, Klengenberg, and Mogg offer little detailed information concerning the culture, population, or movements of the people they met. The published works of the noted anthropologist and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson offer the first detailed information about the Copper Inuit.

Stefansson had been at Herschel Island on his first arctic expedition when Klengenberg returned in 1906 from his trading expedition to Victoria Island. As an anthropologist, Stefansson was most interested in the stories Klengenberg and his crew told about this "new group" of Inuit. Klengenberg reported that the people dressed in parkas with long tails in the back, that they used weapons and tools made out of copper, that most of them had never seen a white man (except for the very oldest, who reported seeing Collinson in the winter of 1851/1852), and that Victoria Island abounded in copper. Since Klengenberg had traded extensively with these Inuit, he was able to show Stefansson and others his collection of Kangiryuarmiut knives hammered out of native copper, finely made bows with sinew backing, quivers full of arrows tipped with copper, and dozens of suits of clothing expertly sewn with copper needles (Stefansson 1906).

In his book My Life with the Eskimo (1913), Stefansson writes of having arrived at a small island near the south shore of Prince Albert Sound:

From the top of the island the next morning I could with the glasses see a native village on the ice ten or fifteen miles to the northwest, approximately in the middle of Prince Albert Sound. When we approached it we saw this to be the largest village of our whole experience. It turned out that there were twenty-seven dwelling houses in it. We had, of course, seen the ruined trading village at Cape Bexley [on the southern shore of Dolphin and Union Strait], which had over fifty dwellings, bu these had been the houses of traders from half a dozen or more different tribes, while this turned out to be the one tribe of the Kanghirgyuargmiut, and they were not all at home either, for later on we visited another village of three houses of the same people, and a third village of four houses we never saw at all (Stefansson 1913: 278).

Stefansson and Natkusiak approached the village and were met several miles south of it by a group of three hunters who had been seal hunting on the ice. The three hunters seemed a little timid at first, but indicated that Stefansson and Natkusiak had come from the southeast, a country inhabited by their neighbors, the Puivlirmiut, "who were now and then in the habit of arriving by the same route as ours, and at this season of the year, for purposes of trade" (Stefansson 1913:279). Stefansson and Natkusiak assured them that they had originated from the southwest but were arriving from the southeast simply because they had been visiting the Haneragmiut to the south. Stefansson added that they belonged to the same group of people who had visited several years before in a large schooner--the Olga. The three hunters remembered the Olga and had liked its crew. 

First White Men

Willam Kuptana. The first encounter with white men was at Kangiqyuak[Prince Albert Sound]... That was the first time they ever saw white people. The white people were Billy Banksland[Natkusiak--actually an Inuk from Alaska] and his partner. That was also the first time the rifle was introduced to the Inuit. He advised the Inuit that the gun was dangerous. He told the Inuit not the handle the rifles.

Incidentally, the herd of caribou were crossing from Banks Island to Victoria Island near the settlement where the Inuit were camped. Billy Banksland's partner ran forward to intercept the herd. He then abruptly aimed and fired the rifle and struck down one caribou. At that instance, the Inuit immediately rushed to the caribou that was shot down. In no time at all, the fresh killed carcass was devoured by the Inuit. 

The white man started in disbelief at the way the carcass disappeared so swiftly. The reason the Inuit devoured the caribou so quickly was because it was a change in diet. Their main staple food all winter was seal meat. 

Jan 2, 1911

The Northern Copper Inuit - A history


Copper Inuit religion was concerned with the here and now and a goddess named Arnapkapfaaluk 'big bad woman' that allocated seals to those hunters that carefully followed the taboos. Those that take part in a kill must share it in order to not embarrass the animal spirit.


As with many other Inuit groups, Copper Inuit religion was more concerned with the here and now than with an afterlife. Most important was the relationship between humans and the spirits of the animals upon which humans depended for food. It was essential that the proper rituals be followed, so as not to offend these spirits, who are perceived as being much like humans. An animal spirit that had been offended through the violation of a taboo or the omission of an important ritual might decide to take revenge upon the group as a whole. Illness, starvation, or some other disaster could result. Copper Inuit observed a number of taboos which were believed to be important to maintaining good relations with the spirit world. A number of observances were related to the separation of land animals and sea animals. Copper Inuit were prohibited for cooking products of the land and sea in the same pot. Nor could they place seal meat next to caribou meat on the sleeping platform of the snow house.  Most pronounced was the prohibition against sewing caribou skin clothing during the early winter. All winter clothing had to be prepared in the fall, at the gathering places, and completed before the move to the sealing grounds on the sea ice.

In addition to believing in the spirits of animals and the shades of deceased humans, the Copper Inuit subscribe to a world inhabited by wondrous and often dangerous creatures dwarfs, giants, and Caribou people. They believed in a sea goddess (known as Sedna in other regions) who control the animals of the Seas. Arnapkapfaaluk, or 'big bad woman,' was not a benevolent goddess looking out for human beings: when offended by the violation of a taboo or some indiscriminate action, she would withhold the seals upon which people depended for survival.

Animal spirits

William Kuptana: The custom of the Eskimos is that when they take part in a hunt and make a kill, all who hunted the animal must participate in the cutting and sharing of the carcass. Those who do not follow that custom embarrass the animal spirit; therefore, it is believed that the non-participant will be hunted himself.

Death was not accompanied by elaborate ceremony. In Winter, the body was usually left behind and it's no house, while in summer, the body was wrapped in skins and left on the time go. The concept of an afterlife was not well developed. Jenness reported that it was definitely not viewed as a land of joy and plenty, but a "big and gloomy realm where, even if want and misery are not found (and of this they are not certain), joy and gladness at least must surely be unknown." (Jenness 1922: 190)

Shamans (angatkut) Served as important intermediaries between humans in the spirit world. Shamans provided a number of essential functions. They could act as healers, in the event of an illness, or could determine what taboos were violated When Animals became scarce. They were also believed to have powers for controlling the weather and warding off evil spirits. The shaman, acting as an intermediary, could communicate with animal spirits, often doing so with the aid of a spirit helper or familiar. Most angatkut claimed to have more than one helper. Jenness met one Copper Inuit shaman, Uloksak, who claimed to have a white man, a polar bear, a wolf, and a dog as helping Spirits. Shamans could be either male or female, but no matter what their gender they were expected to have some kind of visionary experience whereby a spirit helper revealed itself to the future angatkut. In their shamanistic performances, shamans may have relied upon ventriloquism and other dramatic acts to impress their audiences and demonstrate their powers. Shamans by definition are neither good nor bad. Some angatkut developed reputations for kindness and generosity;  others were greatly feared and used their powers to gain advantage over others.

Jun 1, 1911

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


Fatty caribou are prized by Eskimos, especially during the late summer, but the time involves periods of feasting and fasting as game is scarce. Kuptana describes how a chisel tool is used by a young man on his first kill to open the brain of a freshly killed caribou for a feast. The hunting party dedicated all their time to hunting and storing caribou meat for later in the autumn when food is scarce.


Caribou Hunting

William Kuptana: I remember being packed going inland in the summer. When we were out of food, we'd eat seal fat out of the pouch. My parents would also carry a sealskin bag filled with seal blood. We'd drink out of that when were thirsty.

While we were treking inland, food would become scarce. My parents killed a lemming and cooked it. I didn't want to eat it, but they talked to me so I had to eat it. I didn't want to be left behind. We'd keep walking and looking for caribou. When we'd come to a lake that was still frozen over, they would make an agluaq (fishing hole). Hook and spear were used to catch fish. By fishing, that would prevent us from starving. Also, when the ice is gone in the river, they would fish by using spears and wading in after them. 

After that, we would go wandering off into the land looking for caribou. We had no guns. Finally, when we found a small herd, the men would then build a small projection of stone slabs on a high point of land to act as a rouse to statle the fleeing caribou. The women would advance toward the caribou, humming as they approached the herd. As the caribou approached the lair where the men were hiding, the men would then kill the closest ones, the ones that they could reach.

The kill meant, "Feast." The family would eat everything: stomach, entrails, marrow. For instance, the entrails would be cleaned out and then cooked. After they were cooked, the entrails would be eaten with seal oil. The extra meat would be cut up to make dried meat. 

The warm summer months were not a time of plenty for the Copper Inuit. As Diamond Jenness (1922:123-124) noted: "The traveller will find scattered families reaming about from place to place, here today and gone tomorrow in their restless search for game. Days of feasting alternate with days of fasting according to their failure or success. No fowl of the air, no creature of the land, no fish of the waters is too great or too small to attract their notice at this time."

The scarcity of food in spring and summer was partially alleviated in the late summer/early fall(August and September) when caribou hunting accelerated. At this time of year the caribou are fattest and their hides are ideals for making clothes. Usually a number of families would cooperate in the hunting of caribou using caribou drives set up on the tundra. These drives usually consisted of rows of stone piles set up in tow converging lines. Women and children chased the caribou with lances and arrows. Another technique, more commonly used on the mainland, involved hunting caribou from kayaks at crossing places in lakes. If a caribou drive was successful, much of the meat would be dried and stored for use during the lean autumn months. 

First Hunt

William Kuptana: When I first killed a caribou, my biological father started wrestling with me as it is a custom to try to put a young hunter on top of the caribou corpse. After that, the hunting party told me to get the ulimuan [ a chisel-like instrument with a blade at a forty-five degree angle from the handle]. So I got one out of the pack-sack to open its head as it is a custom that a young man do that for a first kill. After I had chopped its skull, the elders started eating its inner membrane, or as it is usually called, the brain. Then, after the feast, the hunting party resumed their search for the tuktuvialuit (Banks Island Caribou). From spring to autumn, the hunting party would kill, store, and go on searching until it was too cold to hunt. Finally, returning to their wintering grounds, they'd wait for winter huddled in their sealskin tents for a time. 

Oct 10, 1911

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


Kuptana describes how Eskimos would congregate to catch fatty char in weirs and collect them through October and then meet near the forming ice to make winter gear and hunting equipment.


Early fall, however, was a productive time for spear fishing in rivers and streams. This was the time of year in many river systems when arctic char returned to lakes after spending much of the summer feeding in the ocean. The char were fattest at this time of year and hence a desirable food item. Families arrived at fishing sites eraly enough to repair the stone weirs, which might have been disturbed the previous winter by ice movement. The repair work completed, families waited for the run to start. In areas with large char runs, a number of families might congregate. A successful fishing season was marked by great numbers of filleted fish hung to dry. Much of this fish, as well as the caribou, was stored for use during late fall and early winter. 


William Kuptana: When fall approached, they [Inuit] treked back to their wintering grounds. Along the way when they killed caribou, they built stone caches to store the food for winter. The cache also served as protection from scavengers such as wolves and foxes. Sometmmies, too, depending on the weather, the caribou meat was cut up to make more dried meat. The dried meat was lighter to carry and fermentation didn't take place as quickly as it did with raw meat if not eaten right away. 

When they arrived in the vicinity of their wintering grounds, they started fishing through the frozen ice on the lakes. Arctic char was baited by a polar bear tooth, then speared. The fish was then scooped with a sealskin bag wrapped to a wooden or bone handle by a sealskin thong. They filled those bags with fish. The preferred catch was male fish and the preferred area of fishing was in the spawning areas.

Fishing for char was done through October when the ice got too thick to chop through. 

As the fall season brought colder and windier weather, groups generally met at traditional fall gathering places where women prepared the winter's clothing. Once families moved out onto the ice, women were forbidden to sew, and all had to be accomplished at the gathering place. While women prepared the clothing, men made ready the winter hunting equipment. Hunting and fishing continued, but on a limited scale. At this time of year, game was relatively scarce. Often, families had to live on accumulated food reserves. Once ice conditions permitted the migration on to the ice, the winter season of sealing and polar bear hunting would commence. 

Jan 1, 1912

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


An Eskimo named Kuptana remembers the hunting of his first two ducks with a bow and arrow and remarked on the difficulty it to catch even three of them.


Eider Duck Hunt

William Kuptana: The first duck I got was from a small pond. It was shared by the elders as tradition called for. It is a custom to share your first kill with your elders. When the ducks come up in the spring, because of the lack of open water along the shore, they are found mostly on the mainland. This is where I got my first eider duck. Later, I was with a group of hunters. We came upon a large flock of eiders. They had alighted on the shore lead and were resting and feeding. As we approached, some flew away, while others dove into the water. We immediately advance as swiftly as possible before the ducks emerged from the water. I waited for the ducks to come up for air. As they came up, I was lucky enough to get one by using a bow and arrow. That was my second duck. It was so difficult to hunt ducks with bows and arrows in those days that if a person got at least three ducks, it was considered a large catch. 

Once spring arrived, Copper Inuit families spread out over a large area of the tundra, seeking fish and waterfowl. Although caribou were also beginning to return in both small and large herds, they were infrequently hunted in early summer due to leanness and the poor quality of their skins. Before the introduction of firearms, the number of ducks and geese harvested was probably quite small. Most food in the early summer came from fishing. In certain areas, such as Victoria Island, most fishing was done on inland lakes, where it was especially productive as the ice began to melt along the lakeshore. In other areas, mostly on the mainland, Copper Inuit had access to early summer runs of char which were intercepted at stone weirs built in streams and rivers. The Copper Inuit prepared dried lake-trout and char for use throughout summer and fall. 

Jan 1, 1914

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History


The Inuit were a relatively healthy people, in 1914, disease was virtually unknown between Coronation Gulf and the magnet pole.


Health and Disease

Before the aerial of Eurocanadians to the Canadian Arctic, the Inuit were a relatively healthy people. Deaths due to hunting accidents and starvation were common (and life expectancy was relatively short), but the Inuit were free of major infectious disease. According to anthropologist Diamond Jenness, in 1914 disease was virtually unknown between Coronation Gulf and the magnet pole(1964:140). In ensuing decades, following increased contact with white traders, missionaries, and police, the Copper Inuit fell prey to tuberculosis, influenza, measles, and venereal disease. Many of these diseases proved fatal to the Inuit, who had no natural immunity.