An Ancient Bond with the Land

Arctic Whalers

Thule Inuit Migration

The ancestors of today's Inuit moved east into Arctic Canada and Greenland from their northwest Alaskan homeland in a series of migrations beginning about 800 or 1,000 years ago. This early Inuit culture is called Thule ("tooley"), after the place in Greenland where archaeologists first identified it.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Thule Inuit were accomplished whale hunters. As they moved east into the treeless Canadian Arctic, Thule Inuit built houses framed with the bones of their largest prey species, the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), instead of the wood-framed winter houses of their Alaskan homeland.

Ancestral Inuit from Alaska began moving east into Arctic Canada 800 to 1000 years ago. Archaeologists refer to these earliest Inuit as Thule Inuit.

Map - Arctic Canada - Canadian Geographic

Inuit, about 1800
Arctic Alaska
Canadian Museum of Civilization, IX-F:9607, CD95-608-007

This wooden mask was excavated from an Inuit archaeological site in northwestern Alaska. Similar masks were used by 19th-century Inupiat (Alaskan Inuit) in feasts celebrating a successful whale hunt. Today, the mask allows us to see ancient Inuit as they saw themselves.

Mask - IX-F:9607 - CD95-608-007

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