Welcome to the ITK web site. It will be one year that this edition of the ITK site is on the Internet as of June 21st, the day it was launched in 2002. Since that time we’ve had visits from thousands of people, in many countries. We’ve answered many questions about Inuit culture, and some students have obtained excellent grades as a result of asking questions, and getting some answers.
Quyanami (thank you)
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami http://www.tapirisat.ca/english/main.htm
|HISTORY OF THE INUIT:|
“For 5,000 years, the people and culture known throughout
the world as Inuit have occupied the vast territory stretching from the shores
Inuit are a founding people of the country now know as
“We will start by explaining that Inuit are not the only
people living in the
“OUR EARLIEST HISTORY "
The origin of what we now know as
the Inuit way of life began about 10,000 years ago in a region of the Arctic
world called the
As the population of this area
grew and new territory was needed, the settlements gradually spread north along
the coast and probably inland using the large river valleys. Eventually these
regions spread north of the
These early groups that learned
to live on the sea ice must have been very successful hunters since it looks as
though their population started to grow and eventually expand eastwards. As they
did so, new settlements were created. This movement east took place about 5000
years ago by a people we refer to as the Sivullirmiut which means the first
people. In our legends these early people were often called Tunnit.
Archeologists use the terms Predorset,
In less than a thousand years,
groups of Sivullirmiut traveled from the north coast of
On the origin and migration route
map you can see the possible routes that were used by the first Inuit to move
east to create what is now the Inuit
The tools and weapons used by the Sivullirmiut were very small and delicate and were made of stone, ivory or bone. Implements made of antler, ivory, bone, or driftwood were tipped or edged with chipped and sometimes polished stone blades. One of the most interesting things that the Sivullirmiut contributed to our cultural heritage were beautiful small carvings. Today, we still find these carvings to be very magical and they must have been used for spiritual purposes. Even our most skilled stone carvers of today are amazed by the beauty of these small tools and carvings. Perhaps the skills of our modern carvers goes back to this time.
By putting together information
from archeology, from our stories and from our constant observations of the
landscapes in which we live we can begin to understand the life of the people
who made and used these weapons and mystical carvings. We know for example that
they lived in small groups and used skin tents in summer and in the winter they
used partly underground houses probably with walls of fitted stone or of blocks
cut from the sod. The houses were probably protected by a roof made from their
summer skin tents.
Maybe these groups even knew how to build the snow house. When we are traveling and hunting we often come across the places where these early Inuit made their home. They did not disturb the land even though they were here for over a thousand years. Our elders tell us that they came in silence and left in silence and that the Inuit living today must respect their deeds.
The camps of the Sivullirmiut were located in the places where they could most easily find and harvest the animals they needed. The bones left behind tell us they hunted seals, walrus, and caribou; they fished, hunted birds and water fowl, and depending on the season of the year they collected clams or mussels, sea weed, bird eggs and berries. The Sivullirmiut used delicate bird bone needles to make skin boots and clothing from the skins of seal, caribou and polar bear. They made and used lamps from soap stone to provide some heat and light and maybe to cook meat in a stone pot. Today we still use some of their quarries to get stone for carving.
The Sivullirmiut probably had
skin boats but nothing is yet known about the exact type or design. Maybe they
were like the kayaks that almost any older person can remember using. Our
earliest ancestors also had to travel in winter and they did this by using small
sleds that they could pull by hand. Maybe they had dogs but probably for hunting
rather than for pulling a sled. Many elders tell about using polar bear skins
rather than sleds to haul things in winter.
The Sivullirmiut are our earliest
real ancestors, but many stories can be told about another group of people
living in our land that we call Tunnit. Some of the stories describe the Tunnit
as not being the same as the real Inuk while other stories describe them as just
a different kind of Inuk. Stories may describe the Tunnit as being very big,
almost like giants, while in other stories they are described as being very
small. All the stories tell of the Tunnit as being very strong. They could carry
huge stones and there are places where they made circles from these stones just
In olden times the Inuit were not
the only inhabitants of the country in which they live at the present time.
Another tribe similar to them shared their hunting ground. But they were on good
terms, both tribes living in harmony in the villages. The Tornit were much
taller than the Inuit and had very long legs and arms. Almost all of them were
blear eyed. They were extremely: strong and could lift large boulders, which
were by far too heavy for the Tunit. But even the Inuit of that time w ere much
stronger than those of today, and some large stones are shown on the palm of
Miliaqdjuin, in Cumberland Sound, with which the ancient Inuit used to play,
throwing them great distances. Even the strongest men of the present generations
are scarcely able to lift them, much less to swing them or throw them any
The Tornit lived on walrus,
seals, and deer, just as the Eskimo do nowadays, but their methods of hunting
were different. The principal part of their winter dress was a long and wide
coat of deerskins, similar to the jumper of the Eskimo, but reaching down to the
knees and trimmed with leather straps. When sealing in winter they wore this
garment, the lower edge of which was fastened on the snow by means of pegs.
Under the jacket they carried a small lamp, called tumiujang (literally,
resembling a footprint) or quming over which they melted snow in a small pot.
Some Eskimo say that they opened the seals as soon as they were caught and
cooked some meat over these lamps. When the seal blew in the hole they
whispered, "Kapatipara" (I shall stab it) and, when they had hit it,
"Igdluiliq." Frequently they forgot about the lamp and in throwing the
harpoon upset it and burned their skin.
All their weapons were made of
stone. For the blades of their knives they used green slate (uluqsaq, literally
material for women's knives), which was fastened by ivory pins to a bone or
The points of their harpoons were
made of bone, ivory, or slate; those of their lances, of flint or quartz, which
was also used for drill heads; and they made neither kayaks nor bows.
Their method of hunting deer was
remarkable. In a deer pass, where the game could not escape, they erected a file
This tale is related as a proof
of their enormous strength and it is said that they were able to hold a
harpooned walrus as the Eskimo hold a seal.
The Tornit could not clean the
sealskins so well as the Inuit, but worked them up with part of the blubber
attached. Their way of preparing meat was disgusting, since they let it become
putrid and placed it between the thigh and the belly to warm it.
The old stone houses of the
Tornit can be seen everywhere. Generally they did not build snow houses, but
lived the whole winter in stone buildings, the roofs of which were frequently
supported by whale ribs. Though the Eskimo built similar structures they can be
easily distinguished from one another, the bed of their huts being much larger
than that of the Tornit.
Though both tribes lived on very
good terms, the Inuit did not like to play at ball with the Tornit, as they were
too strong and used large balls, with which they hurt their playfellows
A remarkable tradition is told
referring to the emigration of this people.
The Tornit did not build any
kayaks, but as they were aware of the advantages afforded by their use in
hunting they stole the boats from the Inuit, who did not dare to defend their
property, the Tornit being by far their superiors in strength. Once upon a time
a young Tuniq had taken the kayak of a young Inung without asking him and had
injured it by knocking in the bottom. The Inung got very angry and ran a knife
into the nape of the Tuniq's neck while he was sleeping. (According to another
tradition he drilled a hole into his head; this form is also recorded in
In another form of the tradition
it is said that while playing with the Tornit a young Inung fell down and broke
his neck. The Tornit feared that the Inuit might take revenge upon them and left
Many old ditties are sung which
either treat of the Tornit or are reported to have been sung by them. Some of
them will be found in the linguistic account connected with my journey.”
THE ORIGIN OF OUR CULTURE:
Although there are still many important questions to be answered, the available evidence tells us that within the vast geographic regions of the Arctic, our distant and more recent ancestors carved out a homeland and established a way of life that has retained a cultural identity, social coherence, and territorial integrity throughout each and every stage of our history. We think that it is true to say that no other living culture has maintained such a continuous and consistent way of life for such a long period of time over such a large territory.
When we speak about the origins
and history of our culture, we do so from a perspective that is different from
that often used by non-Inuit who have studied our past. For example, in our
culture we do not divide the past from the present so we do not like to use
terms such as "prehistory." Our history is simply our history and we
feel that the time has come for us as Inuit to take more control over
determining what is important and how it should be interpreted. To be of value,
our history must be used to instruct our young and to inform all of us about who
we are as Inuit in today's world. We do not want our history to confine us to
Our past is preserved and explained through the telling of stories and the passing of information from one generation to the next through what is called the oral tradition. Inuit recognize the importance of maintaining the oral tradition as a part of our culture and way of learning. At the same time we realize that there are other ways to understand the past through activities such as archeology and the study of historical documents. Both ways of knowing must now be used by Inuit and it is our elders and our schools that will provide the necessary tools.
Archeology has been one of the
important ways for discovering our past. Every summer archeologists from down
south come to our land. Inuit often travel with them, giving advice about where
to go and answering questions about the things they are finding. Now
archeologists are actually being joined in their work by young Inuit who will
someday take over their research. Now the challenge is ours to begin to rebuild
an understanding of our past by using all of the information we now have from
our legends, our real life stories, our knowledge about the Arctic environment
and it's wildlife and from information now available to us through
Below are Links to Native American People/Tribes Pages