Baffinland Inuit - Settlements

The settlement pattern of the Baffinland Inuit was based on small reasonably permanent winter encampments that were the primary residence for family groups ranging in size from twenty-five to fifty individuals. Family groups identified themselves geographically and socially by the suffix -miut which means "the people of a particular place." The territory utilized by Inuit was defined geographically through the designation of many place names, and there was a network of trails and travel routes, indicating the potential for the movement of people over long distances. The winter residence was the central point from which smaller, seasonal camps would be established in order to harvest specific resources. The pattern of occupation was formed by groups of related families living within a region. Certain activities such as the late Winter breathing-hole hunting of the seal could support larger groups and tended to bring people together. At other times, especially during inland trips for caribou, smaller social units, usually composed only of male hunters from closely related families, were more productive. During much of this century, the presence of fur traders throughout the region had an Influence on settlement since they encouraged or coerced Inuit to maintain smaller social groups over a larger territory and to locate their settlement with respect to potential benefits from trapping rather than hunting.

The settlement pattern and territoriality of particular Baffinland Inuit groups did not necessarily exclude other Individuals or family groups from using territory, but since Kinship linkages within one particular area were better defined than between areas, there was a tendency to maintain loose boundary distinctions. Certain of these boundary distinctions are still maintained today through the arrangement of family housing units within the new settlements. Older patterns can also be recognized in the political structure and Influence of particular individuals or families on the economic and social life in these new communities.

Today, the Baffinland Inuit live in six centralized Communities and practice a mixed economy of hunting and wage labor. Children attend primary and secondary schools, the families are housed in centrally heated government-built dwellings that are serviced for water and sewage, and there is access to social programs and basic health services. All the communities are linked together and to southern Canada by a system of air transport, but there has been no substantial migration to southern Canada.

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