Historical Events

The Copper Eskimos taste sugar for the first time in 1910.

 

Among Eskimos, Europeanization has been longest delayed in the Canadian eastern Arctic, that great region which begins on the mainland about 500 miles east of the Mackenzie at Dolphin and Union Strait and extends to Hudson Bay. There, in Coronation Gulf and Victoria Island, our second expedition, the one of 1908-12, found more than 500 of what are now called Copper Eskimos, most of whom had never seen a white man. A decade later, in the 1920's, the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen found on the eastern edge of the Copper Eskimo district about twenty who had missed seeing us, and who told him he was the first white man they had ever seen.

The Copper Eskimos, so named because many of their weapons and tools were of native copper, had never dealt with any traders before 1910. They did not even know tea, used no salt, and lived exclusively on flesh foods, eating roots and such only in time of famine. In 1910, they for the first time tasted sugar, given them by the first trader to reach Coronation Gulf, Joseph Bernard. They disliked it. Ten years later they were beginning to use material amounts of European foods, including both sugar and salt. Farther east, in the same section of arctic Canada, are people who first met whites long ago; but, even including them, the Eskimos of this section still are, with respect to food, the least Europeanized of all North Americans.

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