PerspectiveAnthropology

Stories of Arctic colonization

Science  29 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6200, pp. 1004-1005
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258607

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Summary

In the winter of 1902 to 1903, the last original inhabitants of two islands at the north end of Canada's Hudson Bay perished from a disease introduced by whalers. Called Sadlermiut by the Aivilingmiut Inuit who occupied the adjacent mainland coast, they appear to have actively avoided interaction with any people outside their own society. According to the Aivilingmiut, the Sadlermiut had spoken a strange dialect; were bad at vital Inuit skills such as making skin clothing, constructing igloos, and tending oil lamps; were uncleanly; and did not observe standard Inuit taboos. They also made sharp stone tools by flaking chert, whereas all other Inuit groups in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland made sharp stone tools mainly by grinding slate (1). Who were these mysterious people (2, 3)? On page 1020 of this issue, Raghavan et al. (4) report genetic data that shed light on this and other questions about the population history of the North American Arctic.