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

... To 1902
- The Arrival of the Nunatamiut

Along with the whalers came large numbers of Alaskan Inupiat, known as Nunatamiut ("inland people") since many came from interior north Alaska. Most Inuvialuit were considered poor caribou hunters by the whalers, who instead preferred to hire Alaskan caribou hunters to keep their ships supplied while wintering over. The need was so great that during the winter of 1894/95 most of the inhabitants of Point Barrow, Alaska, and nearly 100 people from nearby Point Hope, were employed by the whalers at Herschel Island. Many "Nunatamiut" were also fleeing a collapse in the west Alaskan caribou population, a disaster they seemed to bring with them.

Relations between the Nunatamiut and the Inuvialuit were not at first smooth. The Nunatamiut were resented for using poison in trapping, and violent reprisals were considered although never undertaken.

A traditional Inuvialuit story dating from this period relates how the Inuvialuit first noticed Nunatamiut moving east through the Mackenzie Delta. They were afraid that the Nunatamiut would discover the excellent hunting offered by the Bluenose caribou herd east of the River, so an Inuvialuit shaman diverted the herd so that it could not be found. Unfortunately, he hid it too successfully, and it was many years before the animals returned to their former haunts.

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