Our holiday trip
Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada
THE McMICHAEL GALLERY
The gallery also had a wonderful display of native and Inuit art.
(Photography was not allowed, however, I was able to capture a large number of paintings and other art on display. This took the co-operation of a look-out, my wife, who kept an eye out for the location of security).
The Inuit are the aboriginal inhabitants of the North American Arctic, from Bering Strait to East Greenland, a distance of over 6000 kilometers. As well as Arctic Canada, Inuit also live in northern Alaska and Greenland, and have close relatives in Russia. They are united by a common cultural heritage and a common language. Until recently, outsiders called the Inuit "Eskimo." Now they prefer their own term, "Inuit," meaning simply "people." There are about 40,000 Inuit in Canada. According to archaeological research, the origins of the Inuit lie in northwestern Alaska. They and their ancestors were the first Arctic people to become expert at hunting the larger sea mammals, such as the bowhead whale. The large volume of food that resulted from a successful hunt—even a small whale could weigh seven tonnes-meant that their way of life was richer and more secure than that of many other hunting people.
Beginning about a thousand years ago, these early Inuit began to spread east into Arctic Canada. Within a few hundred years, they had replaced the earlier inhabitants of the region, a now-extinct people known to the Inuit as Tunit. This Inuit migration was not a single mass event, but probably involved dozens of small parties of perhaps 20 or 30 people moving east in search of a better life. A particular goal seems to have been the rich whaling grounds around Baffin and Somerset islands. Here they quickly replicated the large whaling villages and prosperous way of life they had left behind in Alaska. Other groups settled in coastal areas without rich whale resources, where they lived in smaller villages and depended primarily upon seals, caribou and fish. Everywhere they went, Inuit pioneers brought with them the heavy sod winter houses and elaborate hunting technology of their Alaskan ancestors.
By about AD1250, the first Inuit had entered Greenland through the Smith Sound area in the far northwest of the island. Here, possibly on the Canadian side, they first encountered medieval Norse ("Viking") hunters coming from the Norse colonies in southwest Greenland founded by Eric the Red. Eventually these Norse colonies disappeared, probably in the mid 1400s. There are different theories about their disappearance, but a deteriorating climate was one reason. Competition with the Inuit, who were far better adapted to Arctic life than the Norse, might also have been a factor. By the time of later European exploration in the 16th century, the Inuit were in sole possession of the entire North American Arctic.