Copper Eskimo - History and Cultural Relations



Archaeological evidence indicates a derivation from the Thule culture with a regional focus based on seal and caribou hunting as opposed to the classical Thule association with whaling. First European contact came when Samuel H. Hearne reached the mouth of the Coppermine River in 1771. Contacts with explorers during the nineteenth century were so limited that when the ethnologist Vilhjalmur S. Stefansson entered the area in 1910 he encountered natives who had not previously seen White men. This may have been the last such encounter in North America. During the first quarter of the twentieth century trading schooners and some Western Eskimos entered the area from the west. Relations with other Eskimo peoples were of a fleeting nature. Earlier contacts with the Mackenzie Eskimo were broken off before the middle of the nineteenth century, and those with their Netsilik Neighbors to the east were often tense with woman stealing and other hostilities intermingled with trade. Caribou Eskimo were also contacted for trade. The massacre of Copper Eskimo by Hearne's Indian companions was only one of several such bloody encounters. In the summer of 1910 Stefansson brought some of the Copper Eskimo together with some Slavey Indians, producing more harmonious relations.


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