Historical Events

Jenness describes the hunting and fishing habits of the Northern Copper Inuit and was impressed by their ability to endure long walks without food in the hunt for caribou. The effect of the white men's economic habits start to make the Eskimos dependent upon civilization for survival, while making famines less likely.

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History

Jenness did not make it to Prince Albert Sound But he had satisfied his curiosity that the Prince Albert people were as to language and culture very similar to The Copper Inuit of Dolphin and Union Strait. Toward the end of the summer Jenness and his adopted family made the slow migration back to the southern coast fishing and hunting caribou along the way. At that time of year food shortages were common and the Inuit would go for days without sighting caribou or catching fish. Jenness was impressed by the endurance and patience of his traveling companions the experience [of starvation] was no novelty in their lives they merely tighten their belts trudge steadily forward a dozen or 15 miles and said smiling smiling lately if we sight no Caribou today we will tomorrow or if not tomorrow certainly the day after (Jenness 1928:219).

After his extended research visit to the land of the copper Inuit, Jenness wrote two definitive books about the people with whom he lived and traveled: The Life of the Copper Eskimo(1922) and The People of the Twilight(1928). Stefannson, working to the north, and Jenness, to the South, documented well the traditional culture of the Copper Inuit. The scholarship was completed just in time, for the isolation of the Copper Inuit was soon shattered permanently by the activities of traitors, missionaries, and other representatives of southern culture. As Jenness wrote years later in his epilogue to The People of the Twilight:


Even as we sailed away traders enter.e their country seeking fox-furs; and for those pelts so useless for real clothing they offered rifles, shot-guns, steel tools, and other Goods that promise to make life easier so the Eskimos abandoned their communal seal hunts and scattered and isolated families along the coast in order to trap white foxes during the winter when the fur of that animal reaches its prime. Their dispersal loosened the old communal ties that had held the families together. The men no longer labored for the entire group, but hunted and trapped each one for his family alone... The commercial world of the white man had caught the Eskimos and its mesh destroying their self-sufficiency and independence, and made them economically its slaves. Only in one respect did it benefit them: it lessened the danger of those unpredictable famines which had overtaken them every 10 or 15 years, bringing suffering and death to young and old without distinction (Jenness 1928:240).

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