The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic - From Ancient Times to 1902

... To 1902 - Epidemics

The worst gift of the whalers was disease. Although the details are poorly documented, the Inuvialuit seem to have suffered a number of epidemics during the 1890s, culminating in two devastating measles outbreaks in 1900 and 1902. Kittigazuit and other villages were abandoned at this time, and police reports indicate that the Inuvialuit population had fallen from an estimated 2500 people in the early nineteenth century to 250 people in 1905, further reduced to 150 by 1910. One survivor, Nuligak, remembers,

That summer the Kitigariuit (sic) people fell ill and many of them died. Almost the whole tribe perished, for only a few families survived. During that time, two of the Eskimos spent all their time burying the dead.... Corpses were set on the ground uncoffined, just as they were. Since I could not count at the time I shall not attempt to give a number; but I know that when the people left for Kiklavak [on the east coast of Richards Island] they were but a handful compared to the number they had been. It was 1902....
Winter came, and one day we saw a huge pack of wolves out at sea on the ice, heading east. There were so many of them that the last ones were still in front of us when the leaders had disappeared on the eastern horizon. It was said that they had feasted on the bodies left on the Kitigariuit land.

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