Copper Eskimo - Settlements



Aboriginally, the Copper Eskimo were nomadic. During Winter months the snowhouse villages built on the sea ice were shifted about once a month as locales were hunted out. These aggregations averaged about one hundred people and split into smaller groups in spring. During the summer months, units as small as the nuclear family often shifted their camps on an almost daily basis. Longer stays of perhaps two weeks were spent by somewhat larger aggregates at fishing places. In the autumn, groups of fifty or more people gathered at points of land for periods of two to four weeks.

The Copper Eskimo had no permanent dwellings, using the snowhouse in winter, skin tents in summer, and a combination of snow walls with tents in spring. Men built snowhouses by cutting blocks vertically from a drift and arranging them in a circle around the builder and then cutting a slanting section from the first tier to commence a spiral of blocks which culminated in a keystone block, thus forming an unsupported dome. Tents were made from either caribou skin or sealskin and could be of tipi or ridged form. Canvas quickly replaced skin as summer tent material after the advent of the fur trade, but some inland dwelling people then used wall tents of caribou skin in the winter. With the concentration of most Copper Eskimo into large communities of both Whites and natives in the 1950s and 1960s, government-sponsored building programs provided oil-heated, insulated, wooden houses.

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