Historical Event

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Date:

January 3, 1850

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Short Description:

Between 1850 and 1885, the Inuit population of coastal arctic Alaska declined by 50 percent. In two generations, the Mackenzie Delta Inuit were reduced from about 1,000, to fewer than 100. Labrador's Inuit numbered about 3,000 in 1750. In 1946, 750 were left.

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Title:

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Arctic Memories

Fred Bruemmer

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Diseases of Civilization
Health Statistics
Eskimo

Important Text:

This is, perhaps, too rosy a view of early Inuit life. It was hard, precarious, and in some regions haunted by recurring famines. But it did have that saving grace of contentment known only when a people are secure within their society and in harmony with their natural environment. That ancient balance was broken when Europeans came to the Arctic - the whalers who took from the North much of its wildlife, the basis of the Inuit's existence, and who brought to the North diseases to which the long-isolated Natives had no immunity. 


Between 1850 and 1885, the Inuit population of coastal arctic Alaska declined by 50 percent. In two generations, the Mackenzie Delta Inuit were reduced from about 1,000, to fewer than 100. Labrador's Inuit numbered about 3,000 in 1750. In 1946, 750 were left. With the whales nearly exterminated, the whalers departed, leaving a people wracked by disease and accustomed to, and dependent upon, many southern goods. Into the vacuum created by the whalers' departure stepped the fur traders, and to pay for the southern goods they had come to regard as essential, the Inuit became trappers. Where once they had been poor but independent, they were now dependent and still poor, their ancient autarky destroyed beyond redemption.

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