Iglulik Inuit

ETHNONYMS: Aivilingmiut, Iglulingmiut, Tununirmiut

The term "Iglulik" refers to the Iglulingmiut, Aivilingmiut, and Tununirmiut, Inuit-Inupiaq-speaking peoples located north of Hudson Bay in the Canadian Northwest Territories. Formerly, the Iglulik ranged over a wide territory that included parts of northern Baffin Island, Melville Peninsula, and northern Southampton Island. In the 1820s they numbered between four hundred and six hundred, approximately the same as in the 1980s.

The Iglulik were in contact with Whites in the 1820s, but it was not until regular visits by whaling crews during the Second half of the nineteenth century that contact had a significant impact on their way of life. After 1920 acculturation was accelerated with the establishment of Hudson's Bay Company trading posts and Anglican and Catholic mission stations, and the presence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Since the 1960s the number of Iglulik who depend on hunting and gathering for their livelihood has been diminishing rapidly as adults find employment in the mining and oil industries.

Traditionally, the Iglulik engaged in a seasonal pattern of subsistence activities and movement involving whale, seal, and walrus hunting in the summer, caribou hunting and salmon and trout fishing in the autumn, seal hunting on the sea ice in the winter, and seal and walrus hunting in the spring. Kayaks and umiaks were employed in the summer hunting of marine animals, and caribou were stalked and killed with bows and arrows or driven into the water and speared from kayaks. Birds, foxes, wolves, and polar bears were also hunted.

The nuclear family in which the husband was food provider and toolmaker and the wife was cook and clothes-maker was the basic unit of Iglulik society. Formerly, when the Iglulik moved inland in the autumn to hunt caribou and fish, they assembled in small camps of several families each. The camp's leader or leaders were respected and mature men who advised the camp with regard to group movements and subsistence activities.

Shamans cured the sick and practiced divination by calling upon the aid of spirits in trances. In some instances a single man filled the roles of both camp leader and shaman. The notion of the soul was fundamental to the beliefs of the Iglulik, and they held that the world around them was populated by a host of supernatural beings, ghosts, and spirits.


Kleivan, Inge (1985). Eskimos: Greenland Canada. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Mathiassen, Therkel (1928). Material Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24. Vol. 6, Pt. 1. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Rasmussen, Knud (1929). Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24. Vol. 7, Pt. 1. Copenhagen, Denmark.

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