‘The Genocide of the Dorset’

“The first people were giants
Their chests were broad and their hands could grab seals whole
They walked with spirits on the ice and never fell through
Though they were strong, they did not possess the tools of war
And the new people drove them back from the sea”
—Excerpt from “An Oral History of Baffin Island”

“The Thule (ancestors of today’s Inuit), originally from Siberia, were gradually expanding across the Arctic, displacing the older, aboriginal Dorset people {see below}. By roughly 1200 AD, the Dorset had vanished, killed off in warfare with the Thule… Inuit oral traditions tell of how the Dorset were a gentle people without bows and arrows, and thus easy to kill and drive away…

“The Thule continued their expansion across the Canadian Arctic and sometime between 1100 AD and 1300 AD, spread into northern Greenland (at least more than a century after the Vikings had settled there). The Thule then moved south along the coast, eventually coming into contact with the Norse settlements. The surviving written records from the Norse tell of attacks by the invaders. Some of the sources even say the Thule newcomers massacred a whole Norse settlement.

By sometime in the 15th century, Greenland’s Norse seem to have disappeared entirely, their territory eventually overrun and colonized by the Inuit, and their story largely forgotten by the modern world.”

–‘Reverse Colonialism – How the Inuit Conquered the Vikings’,
Adam Shoalts, Canadian Geographic, March 8, 2011

1) Inuit, 2) Northern Indian Lands, 3) Dorset Culture, 4) Norse Colonies (Civilization.ca)

“The Dorset people predate modern-day Inuit of the Arctic Circle. A relatively recent archaeological find, the Dorset were culturally distinct from their Inuit successors, who dubbed them ‘Sivullirmiut’ (meaning “first people”). Though the Dorset culture has left significant archaeological record, no physical remains of the people themselves are known to exist.

“Interestingly, the Dorset people have migrated into folklore… Baffin island mythology speaks of a race of giants inhabiting what are modern-day Inuit settlements; slow, shy people who showed them the technique of ice fishing and lived in longhouses.

“What caused the demise of the Sivullirmiut giants is still unclear, though it is generally agreed upon that the culture went extinct around the time of the medieval warming period (roughly 1500 C.E.). Nunavut folklore holds that the giants were doomed to die with the ice that gave them life, and that the new people long ago chased the straggling survivors into the sea…”

–‘The Dorset Culture’,
Greetings from the Wasteland, SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

This print illustrates the supposed incredible strength of the Dorset People. (Germaine Arnaktauyok)

“Before the Inuit’s ancestors conquered the Arctic region of what we now call Canada and Greenland, there is evidence of another remarkable Paleo-Eskimo culture– the Dorset. Soon after the arrival of the newcomers, these “gentle giants” mysteriously lost their land, and their lives soon followed, as changes arrived in the frigid northern landscape. Only legends and elaborate artifacts were left behind to tell their story.

“…It is evident that the Dorset occupied much of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland from 500 BC to 1000 AD. Archaeological evidence shows that their culture continued to exist until 1300 AD; however, the origins of the Dorset people are not completely understood. Some scholars believe that the Dorset culture arose from another earlier group of people living further west in the Arctic. Others have suggested that the Woodland or Archaic cultures went north. A third popular explanation is that the Dorset people emerged from a Pre-Dorset culture living in the Eastern Arctic of present-day Canada, with almost no outside influence. This lack of influence from outsiders was a prevailing aspect of the Dorset culture.

“…There is some proof that the Dorset were the first in the Arctic to live in igloo (snow house) camps, although they also had stone dwellings in the Late Dorset period, and used tents when they moved during the summers. As for their livelihood, the Dorset are said to have thrived on hunting sea mammals at openings through the ice and by fishing.

“The Inuit oral histories have provided some more details about the Dorset people. Calling them the Tuniit (Tunit), the legends tell of a group of giants that were thought to have had powerful magic that made them very strong – supposedly, a Dorset man was so strong that it was easy for one man to singlehandedly crush the neck of a walrus and then drag the body to camp. Nonetheless, their strength and size did not make the Dorset prone to fighting; instead, they were often described as timid and keeping to themselves…

“…Many scholars have also argued that the Dorset were a deeply ritualistic and spiritualistic culture. For example, there is a prominence of carvings showing polar bears and falcons (both great hunters) that were thought to have been worn as amulets…

“…Scientists began the search for new reasons for the decline of the Dorset culture. One possibility is that the more warlike and technologically-advanced Thule culture massacred all of the Dorset. William Fitzhugh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and one of the authors of the DNA study explained this possibility to ‘Science’ magazine:

“This meeting between these two peoples would have been a very stark meeting, between people with very conservative, beautiful stone technology and beautiful artwork and so on, but socially and economically, they were just no match for this onslaught from this Thule machine. … They were, in a sense, sitting ducks.”

“Oral histories from the Inuit seem to support this hypothesis…”

–‘Preserved in Legends and Ice: What Led to the Extinction of the Dorset Culture?’,
ALICIA MCDERMOTT, Ancient Origins, 15 SEPTEMBER, 2018

Dorset ivory polar bear figurine. (CC BY 2.0)

“Dorset culture came to an end at a time when the Dorset people had expanded to a larger area than they had ever occupied, were producing vast numbers of carvings and other works of art, and were building large longhouse structures. How can we explain this apparently rapid and total disappearance of a way of life that had survived for over 3,000 years?

“In the centuries around A.D. 1000…although Indian groups reclaimed Newfoundland and southern Labrador, they were not interested in the tundra areas to the north. The Norse occasionally visited Baffin Island and Labrador, and must have occasionally traded with Dorset people, but they never expanded from their farming colonies on the southwestern coast of Greenland. For the Alaskan Inuit, however, a period of climatic warming and increased open water turned the Eastern Arctic into a tempting region in which to hunt and live.

“The Inuit brought with them from Alaska the tools and weapons of a sophisticated maritime hunting culture that had developed in the rich waters of the Bering Sea… The Inuit had little trouble expanding rapidly throughout the Arctic world, and as part of this process, the Dorset way of life disappeared.

“The Dorset people vanish from the archaeological record at some time between about A.D. 1200 and 1500. Their disappearance is best explained in the historical traditions of the Inuit, whose ancestors observed the final generations of the Palaeo-Eskimos:

“The Tunit were strong people, but timid and easily put to flight. Nothing is told of their lust to kill.”
–Netsilik Inuit, 1923

“The Tunit were a strong people, and yet they were driven from their villages by others who were more numerous…”
–Ivaluardjuk, Igloolik, 1922

“Some elements of Dorset culture may also have survived among the Inuit. In fact, it seems quite possible that the two most distinctive icons of Inuit culture, the ‘inukshuk’ (boulder cairn) and the domed snowhouse, may have been developed by the Dorset people and ‘passed on to’ {appropriated by} the new ‘inheritors’ {conquerors} of the Arctic world… A number of artifacts show intriguing similarities. One form of harpoon head, an ivory carving of a falcon, and a small ivory disk, suggest the continuity of Dorset elements in the culture of the early Inuit.”

–‘Disappearance of Dorset Culture’,
Canadian Museum of History

Cultures in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and the Canadian arctic from 900, 1100, 1300, and 1500 AD. (CC BY SA 3.0)

“A new “genetic prehistory” provides the best picture ever assembled of how the North American Arctic was populated, from 6,000 years ago to the present. DNA sequences from living and ancient inhabitants show a single influx from Siberia produced all the “Paleo-Eskimo” cultures, which died out 700 years ago.

Modern-day Inuit and Native Americans arose from separate migrations

“The study, which has more than 50 authors hailing from institutions across the globe, was published in the journal ‘Science’…

“All kinds of hypotheses have been proposed. Everything from complete continuity between the first people in the Arctic to present-day Inuits, [while] other researchers have argued that the Saqqaq and the Dorset and the Thule are distinct people”,
said senior author Prof Eske Willerslev from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, which is part of the University of Copenhagen.

These three broadly-grouped cultures all occupied the north of North America:
the Saqqaq until 2,500 years ago,
followed by a series of Dorset cultures,
and then the Thule (Inuit ancestors) from about 1,000 years ago.

“After comparing ancient samples with genomes from living people, the researchers concluded that subsequent, separate waves gave rise to the Thule people (and their descendents the Inuit), as well as two distinct groups of Native Americans further south.

“Using DNA from more than 150 ancient human remains, the researchers showed that all the Saqqaq and Dorset peoples, further bundled together as Paleo-Eskimos, represent a single genetic lineage. They all stem from a migration across the Bering Strait from Siberia that began some 6,000 years ago

“The findings also confirm that before the Paleo-Eskimo culture suddenly disappeared around 700 years ago, there was no mixing between those communities and the Inuit ancestors, who arose from a second, distinct Siberian migration. Carbon dating suggests they may have overlapped in Greenland and northern Canada for up to several centuries, but cultural remains do not betray any interaction: the Paleo-Eskimos continued to use flaked stone tools, for example, while the Thule used ground slate.

The lack of any genetic cross-over…also “raises the question, according to Prof William Fitzhugh, another author of the study, of a possible “prehistoric genocide.

“Prof Fitzhugh, from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, said the disappearance of the Paleo-Eskimos — “within the space of 100 or 150 years, a whole population, a whole cultural tradition” — was something of a ‘mystery’…”

–‘DNA reveals history of vanished ‘Paleo-Eskimos’,
Jonathan Webb, BBC News, 28 August 2014
See also: 
What Happened To The ‘Neutrals’?‘:
“This is the tribe that occupied southwestern Ontario until the 1650s, when fellow Iroquois tribes from what is now the U.S. rendered them extinct. In modern terminology, they were ‘victims of genocide’…”


Before the white man came? War‘:
“We are told over and over again that before Europeans {‘White Man’} came to North America, all was peace and tranquility. It seems that this is just another fabricated historical myth…”
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