In order to live untroubled : Inuit management of environments, economies, and societies, 1550-1940

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Fossett, Renee.
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Between AD 1000 and 1940, North American arctic communities made almost continuous modifications of their economies, demographic behaviour, and social relations in response to changes in their physical and social environments. Some communities, unable to make appropriate changes, became extinct; others were able to use the opportunities of specific physical and social environments to create and maintain flourishing societies. Responses to particular events within the two kinds of environments included migration, expansion of population and territory, and occupational diversification. In their external relations with each other and with other aboriginal communities, Paleo- Eskimo, Neo-Eskimo, and Inuit societies used war, alliance, and trade as means of ensuring access to adequate supplies of necessary resources. Between 1700 and 1950, depending on place, Asians, Europeans and Americans entered the arctic and, again depending on place, created new social environments. Initially, and in nearly all cases, they opened up new opportunities for solving problems of economic uncertainty and unpredictability. Historic Inuit responded with a wide range of strategies, balancing traditional approaches with innovations. Inuit worldviews not only provided descriptions of the arctic world, they also offered prescriptions for behaviours appropriate to that world. Social organization both reflected worldview and supported it. In spite of failures of the ideological and social systems which resulted in extinctions of some communities, Inuit society as a whole survived extreme pressures from both physical and social environments until the early twentieth century. The successes reinforced worldviews and contributed to the maintenance of an essentially Eskimoan way of life. Until the imposition of government and government-backed agencies, Historic Inuit societies continued to direct their own affairs. The "Government Era," or more accurately, the "Government Eras," began at different times in different places, and resulted in the destruction of Inuit corporate autonomy. On the Atlantic coast of Labrador, Historic Inuit experienced an almost continuous European presence from as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century, and had effectively lost control of their collective self-direction by the 1770s, as was also the case in Greenland. In other parts of the arctic the timetable varied, as did the responses with which Inuit societies attempted to deal with the presence of non-Eskimo societies and individuals. Until the first decade of the twentieth century, Inuit made many superficial changes to their economic and social systems, but few transformations in the Braudelian sense. Events in both physical and social environments after 1915 made it clear that the successful strategies of the past were no longer capable of sustaining an old way of life in the face of new realities.