Modern Inuit: Contact with Europeans and Government of Canada

Inuit have a long history of contact with Europeans and other outsiders.

As early as the 1500s, explorers, traders and whalers began visiting the Canadian Arctic. Arctic exploration continued so much that contact and trade with early explorers like Franklin, Frobisher, Peary and Amundsen became increasingly common. Whalers, fur-traders, and ivory hunters all sought increased access to the Arctic.

Later, with the decline of the whaling industry, people turned more to fur-trading, most notably the Hudson's Bay Company. In addition, along with the explorers and traders came missionaries who introduced new religions.

This was all before Canada was established as a country, and at the time Canada was founded its presence and authority in the Arctic was minimal. Depite the establishment of Royal Canadian Mounted Police posts, by and large, the Canadian government largely overlooked the Arctic up until the time of the Cold War, where increased focus on militarization and sovereignty claims brought more outside regulation to Inuit.

By the 1950s, Inuit were living a very different lifestyle than the previous generation. One of the most profound changes to Inuit culture, in addition to the influence of the church, was the government-led initiative to move Inuit from their traditional camps to larger permanent settlements with modern homes. In four generations, Inuit went from being self-reliant, making every necessity of life from natural resources, to surfing the Internet. This dramatic revolution did not occur without heart-wrenching conflict. However, Inuit have proven their ability to adapt and change with their land claims agreements.

Today you can still see the influence of outsiders and the effects of Canadian federation on Inuit communities; Inuit also have an ongoing relationship with outsiders who come to Inuit Nunangat a variety of ways, from cruises and tour operators to recruitment agencies and research programs.

Despite modern influences and conveniences, Inuit continue to maintain their unique culture within their distinct homeland and have retained their language, core knowledge and beliefs.