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Section title: Inuit
Introduction |  History |  Daily Life |  Culture | References


Contact with Europeans

Like other Aboriginal societies, the Inuit were changed by their relationship with people from the South. In some places, these changes occurred very recently. This is because, compared with more southern areas, there were few people who wanted to live in the North and so contact happened later. When southern Canadians did arrive in the Far North, however, they brought their laws, their religion, and alcohol. The Inuit suffered from both disease and alcohol. This all happened around the 1950s. It was during this time that the Inuit faced the greatest changes to their way of life.

In the 1950s, the Canadian government wanted to make sure the North belonged to Canada. They were afraid if they didn't settle the North, Americans or Soviets might claim it as their own. They began to round up the Inuit from their hunting camps and build villages for them to live in. At first, the Inuit had a tough time adapting to the changes. They had always looked after themselves and moved where they wanted.

Joseph Idlout, his wife Rebecca Kilak and daughter Susan. All three are wearing kamiiks (sealskin boots)   Three young Inuit boys holding white huskies

In 1953 and in 1955 the Canadian government moved some Inuit families from Northern Quebec to new homes in the High Arctic -- about 2 000 kilometres north. These Inuit are now referred to as the "High Arctic Exiles". The Government of Canada sent them there in order to ensure that the North would be settled by Canadians. These Inuit had never lived that far north and they had to adapt to different environment and change the way they hunted, the kind of animals they could eat and the kind of homes they lived in. The High Arctic Exiles signed a compensation agreement in 1996, which means that the Canadian government paid them for what they went through.

Back of a Canadian two-dollar bill, issued in 1975, showing a group of Inuit hunters, including Joseph Idlout  

One of the most famous Inuit was Joseph Idlout. At one time he could be found on the back of a Canadian two-dollar bill, before Canada started using the two-dollar coin. Joseph Idlout was a skilled hunter and helped people from the South live and adapt to life in the North.

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