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Aboriginal-European Relations During the Great Age of North Polar Exploration

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Between 1850 and 1920, the Inughuit of northwestern Greenland and European explorers were brought into extensive contact for the first time. The Inughuit encountered occasional whaling ships following British Captain John Ross'sarrival in 1818 and may have interacted directly with Norse Greenlanders in the 13th century.What was new was that, beginning with Elisha Kent Kane'sexpedition of 1853–1855, a series of Euro-American expeditions wintered in the Thule District (Avanersuaq) and came into frequent contact with its inhabitants. Early encounters did not result in significant changes to material culture. However, between 1890 and 1909, explorer Robert E. Peary introduced firearms and steel traps, which radically altered Inughuit procurement strategies. Alongside material advantages, cultural contact also brought a series of epidemics, which for a time inflicted considerable harm on this group. As well, Peary transported whole families and communities from Greenland to Ellesmere Island for one or more years at a time. These extended absences contributed to psychological stress, as Inughuit displayed a variety of anxiety reactions while serving on various expeditions, suggesting that the contact experience was more problematic than previously thought. Despite these difficulties, the Inughuit contributed greatly to the success of several parties during and after the Race to the Pole.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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