Historical Events

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.

The Northern Copper Inuit - A History

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. 


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Reddit's r/Ketoscience