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    The Hudson Bay Eskimos

    Encyclopedia Arctica 8: Anthropology and Archeology

    The Hudson Bay Eskimos

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VIII-0059                                                                                                                  

    (Kaj Birket-Smith)


    Introduction 1
    Exploration and Contact with White Men 4
    Physical Anthropology and Linguistics 6
    Culture 7
    Bibliography 17

    001      |      Vol_VIII-0060                                                                                                                  

    (Kaj Birket-Smith)





            The term Hudson Bay Eskimos is here defined as comprising there tribal

    groups to the west and northwest of Hudson Bay — the Caribou, Netsilik, and

    Iglulik — all of which, though closely related to each other physically,

    Linguistically, and culturally, are still sufficiently distinct to consider

    themselves separate units. Each group is again a loose congeries of "tribes"

    in the usual Eskimo sense of the word, i.e., not in a political or economic

    meaning but as a convenient designation of minor local communities. In con–

    sequence, the number both of "tribes" and of the families they comprise is far

    from being stable and is, in effect, arbitrary. The following are, however,

    more or less generally accepted:

            I. Caribou Eskimos. In the treeless country west of Hudson Bay from

    the timber line in the south to the watershed between Back River and Thelon

    River-Baker Lake in the north; on the upper course of the Thelon and west of

    the Dubawnt they seldom, or never, come. (1) Padlermiut ("willow* people")

    from Churchill northward to Dawson Inlet and inland where lakes Hikoligyuaq

    and Maguse are important centers of population. The westernmost Padlermiut

    *Padlirk or pallark is, properly, the fu zz of the pussy willow.

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    are known to the inhabitants of the coast as Ahiaqmiut ("the out-of-the-way–

    ones") and those near Maguse Lake are often called Tahiuharmiut ("people of

    the place like a lake"). (2) Harvaqtormiut ("people of the place abounding

    in rapids") on the lower Kazan and to the northwest thereof. (3) Hauneqtormiut

    ("people of the place where bones abound") on the coast between Dawson and

    Rankin Inlets and inland toward the Kazen. (4) Qaernermiut ("people of the

    flat land," formerly erroneously called Kinipetu) in the Baker Lake region,

    extending as far as Schultz Lake. Qaerneq being the name of the country be–

    hind Rankin Inlet, it is probable that their territory has shifted to the north–

    west. The northwesternmost Qaernermiut are sometimes called Ahiaqmiut ("salmon

    berries people").

            II. Netsilik Eskimos ("people of the sealing places" ). North of the

    Caribou Eskimos on the middle and lower courses of Back River and the coast

    from Queen Maud Gulf in the west to Simpson Peninsula in the east, whence a

    number of families have migrated to Repulse Bay within the present century.

    (1) Ualiarlit ("western ones") on lakes Pelly, Garry, and Macdougall. (2)

    Haningayormiut ("people of that which lies opposite") between Lake Macdougall

    and Lake Franklin. (3) Utkuhigyalingmiut ("people of the soapstone place")

    at the mouth and the lower part of Back River. (4) Ugyulingmiut ("people

    of the bearded-seal place"), originally on the Adelaide Peninsula but, after

    a famine that greatly reduced their numbers, they joined the Utkuhigyalingmiut.

    (5) Netsilingmiut ("people of the ringed-seal place") on the Boothia Isthmus.

    The Ilivilermiut ("mainland people") now inhabiting Adelaide Peninsula, the

    Qeqertarmiut ("island people")at the mouth of Murchison River, the Kitlermiut

    ("people living westernmost out by the sea") on Boothia Peninsula north of the

    Isthmus, and the Arvertormiut ("people of the place where bowhead-whales abound")

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    at Bellot Strait are all subtribes of the Netsilingmiut proper. The slow

    pushing to the west, which probably took place in the 19th century and re–

    sulted in the occupation of Adelaide Peninsula and King William Island, was

    mainly due to the shortage of driftwood at Boothia Peninsula. (6) Sinimiut

    ("people of the edge") on the east coast of Boothia Peninsula, now practically

    extinct as a result of disease in the beginning of the 20th century. Their

    country was taken over by the (7) Arviligyuarmiut ("people of the bowhead

    whaling place") at Pelly Bay. As early as the latter half of the 19th century

    members of this tribe came to the Hudson Bay region attracted by the whalers

    and later by the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company trading post at

    Repulse Bay.

            III. Iglulik Eskimos ("people of the house plare" — village). On the

    west side of Roe's Welcome from Chesterfield Inlet to Repulse Bay, on Melville

    Peninsula, and northern Baffin Island. (1) Aivilingmiut ("people of the walrus

    place") on the coast between Chesterfield Inlet and Cape Wilson whence they

    have immigrated to Southampton Island after the extermination by disease of the

    aboriginal population, the Sadlermiut in the winter of 1902-03. (2) Igluling–

    miut ("people of the house place") on the east coast of Melville Peninsula

    north of Cape Jermain and on both shores of Fury and Hecla Strait. (3) Tununer–

    miut ("people of the backside of the land") at Ponds and Admiralty inlets in

    northern Baffin Island.

            It is scarcely possible to give a pr e é cis of the numbers of these groups.

    The constantly roving habits of the population and the fact that each person

    may appear under several names make illusory the idea that a real census has

    been taken. However, according to the investigations of the Fifth Thule Ex–

    pedition 1921-24 the total number of the Caribou, Netsilik, and Iglulik Eskimos

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    was 467, 259 (excluding an indefinite but small number of immigrants to Hudson

    Bay), and 504, respectively. Even though these numbers no doubt are rather

    too small they indicate a remarkably sparse population. This is confirmed by

    the official population statistics of 1947.


    Exploration and Contact with White Men

            The first contact with the Hudson Bay Eskimos dates back to the beginning

    of the seventeenth century, after Baffin discovered Lancaster Sound, when sev–

    eral expeditions, in their vain attempts to find a Northwest Passage, sailed

    along the western shores of Hudson Bay. In general little is known about these

    voyages, and they contributed little information on the inhabitants of the

    country. Some meager details are contained in the few existing reports of the

    expeditions of the following century, whereas some general descriptions of

    Hudson Bay from the same period have either practically nothing on the people

    or refer to those east of the bay.

            A new era in the history of these regions opened up when the search for

    the Northwest Passage was revived in the early part of the nineteenth century.

    On their first expeditions in 1818 and 1819-20, respectively, both John Ross

    and W. E. Parry visited northern Baffin Island. It was, however, their second

    journeys which resulted in their most important contributions to Eskimology.

    During their stay at Winter Island and Iglulik, Parry and his second-in-command,

    G. F. Lyon, had intimate connections with the native population and gave excel–

    lent accounts of their life. While Ross's description of the Netailik Eskimos

    cannot compare with these, it nevertheless contains much valuable information.

            In the following years these regions were explored by an increasing number

    of expeditions all of which, however, were more engaged in geographical discoveries

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    and the search for traces of the ill-fated Franklin expedition than in ethno–

    graphical observations. Three expeditions form, to some extent at least, ex–

    ceptions to the rule, viz., M'Clintock's voyage on the Fox and Hall's and

    Schwatka's sledge journeys to King William Island. Valuable notes, though of

    a casual and sporadic character, are included in the reports of some later

    journeys, e.g., those of J.B. and J.W. Tyrrell, Hanbury, Low and others.

    Amundsen spent the years 1903-05 among the inhabitants of King William Island,

    as the leader of the Gjøa expedition, and gave a sketch of their life which

    forms an excellent supplement to that of Ross.

            The fundamental ethnographical work on this region is Franz Boas's des–

    cription of the Eskimos of Baffin Island and Hudson Bay, based upon the notes

    of Captain George Comer. Not until the Fifth Thule Expedition of 1921-24,

    however, were these people subjected to scientific investigation, viz., by

    Knud Rasmussen, Therkel Mathiassen, and Kaj Birket-Smith. Their researches

    have been continued by archaeologists and ethnologists, including Tom Manning,

    Graham Rowley, and Jean Gabus.

            It will be seen that although our knowledge is or rather recent date,

    contact with white men began in the early days of arctic exploration. Of para–

    mount importance was the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 and

    the construction of Fort Prince of Wales at Churchill around 1718, whence a

    regular trade with the Eskimos on the west coast of Hudson Bay was carried on.

    The influence of this trade was, however, rather superficial, and the effects

    of acculturation were not pronounced until American whalers appeared in Hudson

    Bay around 1860. The influence of this contact was greatest among the Aiviling–

    miut. Still, they retained most of their old habits except for the introduction

    of certain foreign goods, and among the groups farther away from the whaling

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    grounds there was hardly any change at all. Whaling was at its height about

    1870; since 1900 only a few whalers have wintered in Hudson Bay. In 1903 a

    station of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a Hudson's Bay Company trad–

    ing post were established at Fullerton, but were removed to Chesterfield a

    few years later. Here a Roman Catholic mission was also established in 1912.

    Since then contact in the Hudson Bay area has vastly increased, with the

    establishment of additional trading stations, and the operations of weather

    reporting stations and air bases.


    Physical Anthropology and Linguistics

            Physically the Hudson Bay Eskimos are typical representatives of their

    race, especially as it occurs among the eastern tribes. The average stature,

    calculated from measurements of 105 adult males, is 160.6 cm., i.e.., sub–

    medium without being small in the anthropological sense of the word. The hair

    is black and generally straight, although slightly wavy hair is not so uncom–

    mon as might be supposed. The beard is decidedly less prolific than among

    Europeans. The color of the skin is rather light and of a grayish-yellowish

    tone. A bluish, so-called "Mongolian" patch is commonly observed across the

    loins of infants. The iris of the eye is almost always brown, and there is

    sometimes an epicanthic ("Mongolian") fold, though not as commonly as often

    supposed. The head is relatively large, with a mean cephalic index of 77.3,

    i.e., mesocephalic with a distinct leaning toward dolichocephaly. The cheek

    bones are wide, the jaws massive, and the face often gives a flat impression.

    As a rule it is mesoprosopic, with a mean facial index of 86.4. The nose is

    usually well shaped, with a straight or slightly sinuous ridge. The mean nasal

    index of 71.3 is within the mesorrhinic group, but close to leptorrhinism.

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    The body is robust and muscular, with a well-developed chest. The length of

    the leg is remarkably great compared with the short-legged Greenlanders. On

    the other hand, the arms are rather short, as are also the hands and feet.

            The language of the Hudson Bay region Eskimos is closely related to that

    of other eastern Eskimos. With very little practice a native of Greenland or

    Labrador is able to converse freely with them. Although there are some slight

    differences in the vocabulary, the most striking difference is in certain

    phonetic distinctions. Most prominent among these is a retrogressive labial–

    ization and vularization of the consonants which has taken place in Greenland.

    In Labrador, on the southern part of Baffin Island, and among the Iglulik

    Eskimos we find uvularization, but no labialization; among the Netsilik and

    Caribou groups neither of them occurs.



            The establishment of trading posts and missions within the territory of

    the Hudson Bay Eskimos has caused profound changes in native life during the

    last few decades. Rifles and steel traps have superseded the old-fashioned

    bows and stone traps; matches have displaced the use of fire drill or pyrites;

    flour, tea, sugar, etc., have been introduced; and cast-off European clothing

    is often worn in summertime. The social and religious life has been affected

    far less. In the following sketch these recent traits are ignored, and only

    aboriginal conditions are taken into consideration. For convenience, the present

    tense is used throughout.

            Numerous house ruins at the coast testify that the so-called Thule culture

    once prevailed in these regions, but succumbed when groups from the interior,

    the ancestors of the present Netsilik and Iglulik people and close relatives

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    of the Caribou group, pushed down to the sea. This event, which is supposed

    to be mainly the outcome of an upheaval of the land that caused the great whales

    and walruses to disappear from the shallow waters of the Northwest Passage,

    probably took place only a few centuries ago. There isevidence that an off–

    shoot of the Thule culture survived on the west coast of Hudson Bay up to the

    middle of the eighteenth century; it existed on Southampton Island until 1902-03,

    when the original inhabitants were exterminated by disease. Moreover, it is

    likely that the Thule people, at Least to some degree, mixed with the intruders.

    Netsilik and even more so Iglulik culture still contain a rich inheritance from

    their Thule predecessors; their implements and methods of sea-mammal hunting

    as well as a considerable number of other culture elements all seem to be more

    or less copied from Thule patterns.

            We find the simplest culture type among the Caribou Eskimos. Of these

    only a few Qaernermiut families have an intimate connection with the sea, and

    it is evident that it dates only from the wintering of the American whalers in

    the 19th century. Only the Hauneqtormiut and scarcely half of the Padlermiut

    visit the coast of Hudson Bay every summer, where they are engaged in hunting

    walrus, and ringed and bearded seals at the ice edge. Kayaks and harpoons are

    the common implements used. Nevertheless, even this group is far from being

    attached to the sea. Their annual sojourn at the coast does not exceed two

    months, and winter camps are never found there. The meat of sea mammals is

    rarely eaten when caribou meat is at hand; blubber is used only for lighting,

    never for heating or cooking.

            Probably more than half of the Caribou Eskimos live on the arctic prairies

    all the year round without ever coming down to the sea, and depend entirely

    upon caribou hunting and on fishing in rivers and lakes. In autumn the founda–

    tion of the following year's economy is laid by the important hunts when the

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    caribou herds, during their migration southward, cross the rivers and lakes.

    For this purpose line of stone cairns, sometimes several miles long, are built

    in such a manner that the animals, on coming over a ridge, are suddenly confronted

    by them. The caribou then move along, guided by the lines of cairns, to the

    place where the hunters lie in wait with kayaks and lances or, if the row does

    not end at a river or a lake, with bows and arrows. During the autumn trout

    run, fishing is also pursued with leisters at stone weirs. In this manner a

    store of food is collected sufficient for a great part of the winter, while at

    the same time caribou skins are procured for winter clothing. Some caribou [ ?]

    always remain on the prairie even in the most severe winter, and these are

    hunted by means of pitfalls. Musk-ox hunting is now prohibited by the Canadian

    government, but fox trapping has become important. The occupation subject to

    fewest changes perhaps is fishing, which is first practiced with the leister,

    later with the hook. It seems that formerly the Caribou Eskimos were also aware

    of the method of fishing with harpoons from snow huts on the lake ice. Never–

    theless, there usually occurs a period of want at the end of the winter. Only

    with the arrival of the caribou herds in spring is the turning point reached.

    The first to come are the cows with young, then the cows with year-old calves,

    and lastly, well into the summer, the old bulls. The hunting methods are essen–

    tially the same as during the autumn. When the summer trout run starts, fishing

    is carried on at the weirs.

            The Netsiliks at Back River now live in much the same way as the inland

    Caribou Eskimos, but, formerly at least, the Utkuhigyalingmiut visited the sea

    in the late winter and carried on sealing at the breathing holes, not so much

    for the sake of eating at the time but to procure oil for the next autumn and

    early winter. As a whole, life in summer and autumn among all Netsilik people

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    differs little from that of the Caribou group. The principal difference is

    in the way they spend the winter.

            When the autumn caribou hunts have ceased and the women have finished

    the new winter clothing, the Netsilik Eskimos start for the sea ice where the

    seals have their breathing holes. Here hunting is carried on with harpoons.

    When most of the seals in a given vicinity have been secured, the camp is moved

    to another place on the ice. Sometimes a snow house is built over one of the

    narrow cracks formed by the currents, and the seal is harpooned from the inside

    of the hut. Another method, where two hunters work together, one lying on his

    belly looking into the water and guiding the harpoon while his companion holds it

    ready to thrust, is now obsolete.

            In late spring when the seals climb up on to the ice and bask in the sun,

    the hunter pretends to be a seal and, with seal-like behavior manages to get

    near enough so he can use his harpoon. This method is not much practiced, how–

    ever, because basking seals are not numerous until so late in the spring that

    the ice is more or less covered with water pools.

            Thus the winter and spring occupations of the Netsilik group show an adap–

    tation to the sea ice foreign to the Caribou Eskimos. Among the Iglulik the

    connection with the sea is even closer, although not nearly so intimate as,

    for example, among the inhabitants of southern Greenland or the west coast of

    Alaska. The Iglulik, like the Netsilik Eskimos, spend most of the year in

    caribou hunting, trout fishing, and sealing on the ice; but, as soon as the

    ice breaks up, seals, walrus, and, more rarely, white whales (beluga) are pur–

    sued from kayaks, and this form of hunting is continued as long as there is

    open water. The length of the open season varies, of course, according to local

    conditions, but generally lasts from the beginning of August to the middle of


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            The prominent place occupied by caribou hunting means that bows and arrows

    are of paramount importance among the weapons. The bow stave is of wood, or

    spliced together of pieces of antler or musk-ox horn, and is simple or double–

    curved, or with reflex wings. In most cases there is a backing of sinew braid

    of the types known as secondary eastern or primary arctic, the latter only among

    the Netsilik Eskimos. The arrows are provided with heads of antler, either

    barbless or with single or double barbs, and sometimes with a separate iron

    blade. The feathering consists of two tangentially placed feathers. The re–

    lease is the so-called Mediterranean. Bows and arrows are carried in cases and

    quivers of skin.

            There are different types of harpoons. The ordinary ice-hunting harpoon

    has a detachable toggle head with a line of sealthong or braided sinew. It is

    placed on a shaft of wood or antler with a firmly attached, long and slender

    foreshaft, likewise of antler. For walrus hunting on the ice a similar harpoon

    with a heavy wooden shaft and a short ivory foreshaft is used. Narwhal and

    white shale are hunted by means of harpoons similar to the walrus harpoon; the

    foreshaft is, however, detachable, and to the end of the line a float made of

    a whole sealskin is attached; a drag, consisting of a piece of sealskin is stretch–

    ed over a wooden frame, is made fast to the line in front of the float. For

    sealing from the kayak they use a light harpoon, likewise with a detachable

    foreshaft, but the line is lashed to the shaft to which also a bladder, instead

    of the big float, is made fast.

            The lance for caribou hunting is a simple spear with an iron blade set

    into a long shaft of wood or antler, whereas the walrus and sealing lance is

    heavier and has a blade inserted into a detachable foreshaft of bone or ivory.

    Among the Iglulik, birds are caught with a two- or three-pronged bird dart,

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    sometimes with sideprongs, and thrown by means of a throwing board. Fish are

    speared with a three-pronged leister used in connection with a fish-shaped de–

    coy. Barbed harpoons (among the Netsilik Eskimos) and gaffhooks are also used

    for fishing. The fish hook is made of iron and inserted into a sinker of antler

    or musk-ox horn. The line is of braided sinew and fastened to a curved reel

    of antler or wood. Simple gorges are used for catching fish and gulls, and

    bolas occur both at Back River and among the Haunequormiut. Snares and stone

    traps (deadfalls, box and tower traps) for foxes should also be mentioned.

    Wolves are killed with relled-up strips of baleen or musk-ox horn which straighten

    out when the blubber in which they are enveloped is digested. Besides the hunt–

    ing implement proper, several small accessories are used: wooden pegs on which

    the harpoon is placed while waiting at the breathing holes, curved antler probes

    with which the shape of the hole is investigated, indicators of swan's down or bone

    for showing when the seal arrives, scoops for removing ice from the breathing

    hole, bone needles for closing the wounds of the seal, etc.

            The means of communication may also be considered hunting devices as they

    are indispensable in the daily struggle for food. They comprise dog sledges

    and kayaks; the open skin boat or umiak is quite unknown. The sledge can be

    used during three-fourths of the year. The construction is simple, as among

    all eastern Eskimos. It consists merely of runners and cross slats lashed to–

    gether with sealthongs or babiche. Iglulik sledges often have uprights made of

    antler. A typicak Iglulik traveling sledge is about 5 meters long, whereas

    among the southern Caribou Eskimos, who have easy access to wood, it may attain

    nearly double that length with a width of less than 50 cm. Especially in the

    Netsilik territory, where wood is extremely scarce, runners are sometimes made

    of rolled-up and frozen musk-ox skins. A large bear hide may also be used as a

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    substitute for a sledge. In the winter a shoeing of peaty muck is applied

    to the runners and smeared with water that freezes to a crust of solid ice;

    bone shoeing is preferred for use in the wet spring snow. The dogs are harness–

    ed fanwise to the sledge and are driven with a short-handled whip. As a rule

    they are very few in number owing to the shortage of food. The kayak for in–

    land hunting at the deer crossings is a long and narrow craft, 6 or 7 meters

    being no unusual length. The Caribou Eskimos use deerskin for covering, where–

    as otherwise sealskin is preferred. For sea-mammal hunting the Iglulik Eskimos

    also have a heavier and more solidly built kayak. Two-bladed paddles are the

    only one used.

            In contrast to the early Thule population, the present Hudson Bay Eskimos

    always live in snow huts during the winter. Suitable snow is found by means of

    an antler probe, and the blocks are cut out with a knife of the same material.

    The huts are dome-shaped, with a long entrance passage and a sheet of freshwater

    ice for a window. Some Iglulik Eskimos line their huts with sealskin, but this

    custom is not found among the two other tribes. For heating the Netsilik and

    Iglulik have soapstone blubber lamps. The Caribou Eskimos, however, never

    heat their habitations and only use small saucer-shaped lamps for lighting, all

    cooking being done over fires in open shelters annexed to the passage. The rest

    of the furniture is simple: soapstone cooking pots, drying racks (where blubber

    lamps are found), wooden trays and skin water pails, ladles of musk-ox horn,

    skin bags, deerskin blankets, etc. Fire is obtained with a drill or two lumps

    of pyrites.

            In summer the snow huts are displaced by tents, two types of which are in

    use. The common Caribou Eskimo tent is conical and covered with a deerskin

    sheet somewhat like the Indian tipi but, unlike the latter, closed at the top,

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    the fire being immediately at the side of the entrance. The conical tent is

    also said to be the oldest type among the Netsilik people, but many of them

    have adopted the Iglulik type. The latter has, almost in the middle of the tent,

    a single pole with a short cross-bar, or two or three obliquely set poles crossed

    at their upper ends. Two similar posts are placed at the entrance and connected

    with the former or the central pole with a stout sealthong. The tent cover is

    either caribou or sealskin. In the spring and autumn, when snow huts and tents

    are uncomfortable or even impossible to use, other dwellings may be found: snow

    shelters with skin roofs, houses of freshwater ice, etc.

            The dress is nearly always of deerskin, seal- and musk-ox skins being used

    only to a very limited extent. The men wear an inner set of clothes with the

    hair inside, consisting of a hooded coat, trousers, and stockings, and an outer

    set with the hair outside, consisting of coat, wide breeches, and boots. To

    these are added shoes, in summer made of depilated skin and in winter of hairy

    skin with a double sole. Women wear only one pair of trousers. The main dif–

    ference in the dresses of the two sexes are the enormous hood and the long hind

    flap of the women's coat, and the baggy woman's boots with a sewn-on legging at

    the top. Tattooing is common among the women.

            The principal materials in use are wood, antler, walrus ivory, and skins.

    Stone was used formerly; scrap iron is now common but is always worked cold.

    The ordinary men's tools are whittling knives, adzes, and bowdrills. The ulu

    is the universal instrument of the women, who have also bone and stone scrapers

    for skin dressing. All skins are prepared by scraping and, if depilated, with

    hot water; urine tanning is unknown except, perhaps, to some Caribou Eskimos at

    the coast. Skin dressing and sewing have reached a high degree of perfection,

    but all work in wood and antler is rather poor, and there is nothing like the

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    decorative skill shown by the East Greenland and Alaska Eskimos.

            The family is the fundamental unit in society. Polygyny on a limited

    scale is common among the most skillful hunters, but shortage of women owing

    to the killing of newly born girls often entails polyandry among the Netsilik

    tribes. Besides the family there is no social grouping of a permanent char–

    acter, and even though an especially prominent personality is generally accept–

    ed as the leader of the camp, the acknowledgment of his authority is entirely

    voluntary. On the other hand, the camp is an economical unit in so far as the

    inhabitants have certain customary obligations toward each other in the division

    of large game or, in the case of small seals and caribou, in the distribution

    of presents of meat. Trapping grounds and hunting fields are considered res

    nullius , and personal possession is in the main conditioned by actual use of

    the property. A rather considerable trade is carried on, especially between

    the Back River and Caribou groups, but the importance of this intercourse prob–

    ably increased after the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company posts at the


            According to the view of the Hudson Bay Eskimos, a person consists of a

    body, a name, and a soul. The name, in fact, is a kind of soul that is trans–

    mitted from a dead person to a newly born child. When a person dies, the body

    is wrapped up in skins and left in the open surrounded by a ring of boulders.

    The soul, according to the Caribou Eskimos, goes to the sky and is later brought

    back to the earth by the Moon Spirit. The Netsilik and Iglulik Eskimos believe

    that the soul [ ?] goes either to the sky or to the underworld, and both places are

    equally pleasant. The former, however, also know a third land of the dead, just

    below the crust of the earth. This, however, is a dismal place inhabited only

    by the souls of unskillful hunters and untattooed women. The soul is essential

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    to life and good health, and if it is stolen away, the person to whom it happens

    will sicken and finally die. Human beings and animals have souls. In addition,

    however, all things, including inanimate objects, have this "owner" inua , which

    should not be confounded with the souls. Most important of all among the Cari–

    bou Eskimos is Hilap-inua; hila ( sila ) means "air," "weather," "universe" and,

    in a deeper sense, the magical power that permeates existence, and Hilap-inua

    is a personification of that power. Sometimes Hilap-iuna is also spoken of as

    Pinga, "he (or she) up there." There seems to be no indication, however, that

    Pinga is regarded as a Supreme Being or creator of the world. Other spirits of

    distinction are the Moon Spirit and Nuliayuk, the woman living on the bottom of

    the sea, often referred to simple as Kavna, "she down there" or Takanakapsaluk,

    "the terrible one down there." She is the master of the sea mammals and will

    keep them back when she is offended, for which reason she is especially feared

    by the coast tribes, whereas she is not known inland at all.

            In order to obtain good luck and avoid evil the Eskimos resort to magic

    spells, amulets, and, above all, to the observance of numerous taboos. Amulets

    are common especially among the Netsilik. Generally they consist of belongings

    of deceased persons or pieces of animals which are supposed to confer super–

    natural force to the owner. It is a characteristic fact that a person may lose

    his amulets and still retain their power. Taboos mostly consist in abstinence

    from certain foods and activities such as sewing and hunting. Many of them are

    connected with childbirth, menstruation, and death, while other are observed

    in deference to the game animals, many of which are supposed to be extremely

    sensitive to offense; as a general rule everything belonging to land and sea

    animals should be kept strictly apart.

            When danger is imminent the Eskimo will fall back upon the assistance of

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    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    the shaman ( angatkoq ). A shaman may be either male or, more rarely, female

    and obtain his power through the help of his assisting spirits. As a rule he

    has to undergo training under the guidance of another shaman, but the psycho–

    logical qualification for his success, of course, is his ability to be entranced.

    He wears a belt hung with all sorts of objects — pieces of skin given by people

    he has helped, or miniature carvings said to be the implements of the spirits;

    buthis most effective aid for obtaining connections with the spirit world is

    the drum. The principal tasks of the shaman are the healing of the sick and the

    ensuring of fine weather and good hunting. There is, however, a remarkable dif–

    ference between inland and coast shamanism. The former is much more simple than

    the latter, which often involves elaborate conjuring performances, tricks, and

    ventriloquism, one of the main feats being the visit of the shaman to Nuliayuk

    in order to fetch the game, when it has disappeared. Compared to the highly

    specialized Siberian shamanism, however, even that of the Netsilik and Iglulik

    people remains at a low stage of development.


    1. Amundsen, R. The Northwest Passage . London and New York, 1908.

    2. Birket-Smith, Kaj Five Hundred Eskimo Words. Report of the Fifth Thule

    Vol. III, p. 3. Copenhagen, 1928.

    3. ----. The Caribou Eskimos. Ibid . Vol. V. Copenhagen, 1929.

    4. ----. Anthropological Observations on the Central Eskimo.

    Ibid . Vol. III, p. 2. Copenhagen, 1940.

    5. ----. Ethnographical Collections from the Northwest Passage.

    Ibid . Vol. VI. P. 2. Copenhagen, 1945.

    018      |      Vol_VIII-0077                                                                                                                  
    EA-Anthrop. Birket-Smith: Hudson Bay Eskimos

    6. Boas, F. The Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay. Bull. Amer.

    Mus. Natur. Hist
    . Vol. XV, New York, 1907.

    7. Gabus, J. Vie et coutumes des Esquimaux Caribous . Lausanne, 1944.

    8. Lyon, G. F. Private Journal . London, 1824.

    9. Mathiassen, Th. Archaeolgy of the Central Eskimos. Report of the Fifth

    Thule Expedition
    . Vol. IV. Copenhagen, 1927.

    10. ----. Material Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Ibid . Vol. VI,

    p. 1. Copenhagen, 1928.

    11. Parry, W. E. Journal of a Second Voyage for the Discovery of a North–

    West Passage
    . London, 1824.

    12. Rasmussen, K. Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Report

    of the Fifth Thule Expedition
    . Vol. VII, p. 1. Copen–

    hagen, 1929.

    13. ----. Observations on the Intellectual Culture of the Caribou

    Eskimos. Ibid . Vol. VII, p. 2. Copenhagen, 1930.

    14. ----. Iglulik and Caribou Eskimo Texts. Ibid . Vol. VII, p. 3.

    Copenhagen, 1930.

    15. ----. The Netsilik Eskimos. Ibid . Vol. VIII. Copenhagen,


    16. Ross, J. Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a North-West Passage .

    London, 1835.

    17. Turquetil, A. L'Esquimau . Montreal, 1927.


    Kaj Birket-Smith

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