Great Canadian Parks / Nunavut

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The Parks / Nunavut / Auyuittuq National Park



Pre-contact history may date back 4000 years or more to the Pre-Dorset period when Siberian peoples crossed the Bering land bridge into Alaska. For centuries these nomadic people traversed the world's Arctic regions. The stone walls of the houses of the Thule people, ancestors of the present-day Inuit who moved into the area after 1200 AD, can still be seen at archaeological sites along the coast. Some evidence suggests that the Thules may have met and traded with the Vikings between the 13th and 15th centuries when Norsemen journeyed from Greenland to visit the shores of Baffin Island. Their way of life must have remained unchanged for centuries with all needs satisfied by the sea or the roaming herds.

 

In 1585, John Davis, on a voyage of exploration charted and named Cumberland Peninsula just to the north of Frobisher Bay, where Martin Frobisher in search of the North West Passage, it is said, discovered gold. Although the Inuit were in contact with European whalers, missionaries and fur traders as early as the 17th century, their culture changed most dramatically in the 19th century when English and Scottish commercial whaling brought alcohol, VD and smallpox to their settlements. In 1858, William Penny, mapping the coast southeast of Broughton Island and Cumberland South, noted that Baffin Island's population was a mere 350, compared with over 1000 when he had visited the island a decade earlier. Local Inuit were hired on to the whaling ships, hunting patterns were disrupted when traders encouraged them to use firearms and metal traps, and the missionary schools discouraged the use of their own language, ancient rites and traditional beliefs.

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