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Clyde Inuit Settlement and Community:
From before Boas to Centralization
George Wenzel
Department of Geography McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montréal, Canada H3A 2K6

Presently, the terms "settlement" and "community" are used virtually interchangeably as identifying referents for contemporary Inuit residential places, especially those that are the result of past Euro-Canadian resettlement policy. This paper revisits Chang's (1961) conceptualization of these terms in which "settlement" expresses spatial, geographic and, to a degree, temporal provenience, while "community" is conceived of as having strict social meaning with regard to place. Chang's conception of each term is tested through examination of ethnohistoric information about Inuit occupation and use of the Clyde region of eastern Baffin Island before the formation of modern Clyde River. This examination begins with historical and informant information about the nineteenth century regional presence of Inuit and then is followed by detailed Inuit memories of people and places during Clyde's Contact-Traditional Period (ca. 1923–1970). It concludes that Chang's discriminating use of "settlement" and "community" are relevant to the history of Inuit occupation in this area during this later time, but that his formulations about Inuit settlement and community within his larger circumpolar typologies are weak and with regard to community inaccurate.


When I undertook my first fieldwork at Clyde River and Aqviqtiuq in 1971–72, few directly relevant ethnographic and other references were available to me. Essentially, I relied on Boas's (1888) The Central Eskimo and Foote's (1967) then unpublished socio-economic report (later to appear in Anders [ed.] 1967) on East Baffin Island as very much-needed introductions to the Clyde region and its Inuit (see Fig. 1). Both works were useful up to a point, but also had obvious limitations, especially with regard to the history of Inuit settlement in the area beyond its broadest outline.

Boas's work was rich in ethnographic details about the Cumberland Sound region, but he had never traveled further north from his base than Isabella Bay (see Fig. 1), just above Henry Kater Peninsula and Home Bay. As a result, he barely penetrated the southern edge of what is today considered the Clyde River region and relied on his Cumberland Sound and Akudnirmiut (southern Home Bay) Inuit informants for much of his information on the settlement pattern and movement beyond the peninsula.

Foote, assisted by Albert Haller and Philip Cove, surveyed the communities of Pangnirtung, Broughton Island, and Clyde River from May to September, 1966. Like Boas, they (Foote 1967:ii) traveled widely in the region, including with Inuit. As their focus was the economic conditions of these three centralized settlements, there was copious detail about Inuit hunting and trade activities. Even more usefully, as some of their travel between these places was by snowmobile and boat, their report included not only locational and population [End Page 1]

English place names. Map by Melanie Poupart, Department of Anthropology, McGill University.
Click for larger view
Figure 1. 

English place names. Map by Melanie Poupart, Department of Anthropology, McGill University.

[End Page 2]

information on the major government centers, but also on seasonal encampments.

Taken together, Boas and Foote provided invaluable ethnographic, economic, and cultural geographic overviews of the Clyde region, albeit separated by some eighty years. Their respective reports are also intriguing with regard to Inuit settlement and movement. Boas, for instance, noted various seasonal residential sites of which he was told by his Inuit traveling companions, while Foote visited or at least spoke to residents of then-occupied satellite villages affiliated with Clyde River.

In point of fact, these studies provided markedly different portraits of Inuit occupancy around Clyde. When Boas (1888:442) came northward, he specifically noted that a considerable portion of the Clyde area, including the present community location and what many Clyde Inuit would consider their core resource area, contained no villages. This suggests that ca. 1883 Clyde Inlet, Inugsuin, Eglinton, and Sam Ford fiords and Isabella Bay were not occupied on a sustained basis, but rather visited only occasionally. Indeed, he identified just three occupation sites, an autumn settlement and two summering sites, along the whole of the eastern Baffin coast from central Home Bay to Eclipse Sound (Boas 1888, Plate III). Thus, in Boas's time, much of the Clyde region was seemingly used only seasonally and, it may be inferred, was something of a buffer between the Akudnirmiut of Home Bay and the "Tununirmiut of Pond's Bay" (today, Mittimatillik, formerly Pond Inlet), a view favored by Stevenson (1972).

On the other hand, Foote's Area Economic Survey of 1966 (1967:68, 69; also Anders 1967) clearly indicates that aside from the settlement of Clyde River itself (see Damas 2002b), Inuit were living at some seven or eight other locations. As I would eventually learn, several of the places were summer seasonal camping areas, but at least three were semi-sedentary winter villages (see Chang 1962) that even in the 1960s were occupied for six or seven months each year.

The difference between what Boas and Foote described, on its face, was explainable by the fact that the Clyde area, unlike Cumberland and Eclipse sounds, was relatively unaffected by Euro-American whaling and trading activities. This absence of contact changed in the early 1920s when, first, the Sabellum Trading and Gold Company (1923–26) and then the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) (1923– 1988) established themselves in the area—the former on Henry Kater Peninsula and the HBC at what would become the community of Clyde River. The presence of Europeans, and most especially the HBC, presumably drew Inuit from north and south into the region.

Having arrived at this "contact" explanation, my early efforts to understand Inuit occupancy around Clyde followed the classic cultural ecological approach (see, for instance, Heider 1972) of focusing on human settlement and movement in relation to resource seasonality. However, as my inquiries of Clyde settlement expanded, the classic seasonality-scheduling/fission-fusion models that generally frame hunter-gatherer cultural ecology seemed not to be completely adequate for understanding some aspects of Clyde residential mobility.

Conceptual Focus and Temporal Organization

Research on Inuit has, since the days of Boas, Jenness, and the Fifth Thule Expedition (Rasmussen 1932), evolved to include studies that range from gender relations to political ecology; that is, broad enough to accommodate the interest throughout the social sciences. Within the now very wide scope of Inuit Studies, two of its more traditional foci are the way Inuit arrange themselves in time and space and the social features that structure Inuit groupings. Although not as emphasized as formerly (see Balikci 1964, 1968; Damas 1963, 1968, 1969a, 1969b), both retain importance for understanding regional histories and for providing perspective on the interplay of environmental and social factors in Inuit life.

The intent in this paper is to analyze Clyde Inuit settlement and community pattern and structure as these were affected by ecological-economic and socio-cultural factors, albeit not necessarily for the same reasons. In doing so, "traditional" cultural ecological elements, seasonal resource location and extractive activity scheduling will be discussed within a historical framework that extends from ca. 1819 up to the last few years. However, equal analytical emphasis will be placed on the social variables that influenced the movements of Clyde Inuit, especially before about 1970.

Before proceeding to the Clyde data, it will be useful to conceptually differentiate between "settlement pattern" and "community." While both of these concepts are important to explicate Clyde Inuit mobility, it is today the case that "settlement" and "community" are frequently used as virtual synonyms, not least because Nunavut's towns and hamlets have developed a social synergy that belies the reality of their development in the 1950s and 1960s when the regional centralization of Inuit began (see Damas 2002b). The most extreme example of this is Iqaluit (Honigmann and Honigmann 1965), but Clyde River grew from the emigration of people from indigenous villages as distant as Buchan Gulf and Home Bay.

The first concept, that of the settlement pattern, has long held a central place in the study of Inuit cultural ecology. Of particular interest has been how Inuit adaptively situate themselves spatially and temporally in relation to resources and [End Page 3] in response to physical environmental factors. The classic example is the exposition of seasonal variation in Inuit settlement done by Mauss (1906), although Boas's (1888:417; see also Damas 2002a) correlation of Inuit sea ice camp location to areas of ice favorable to the maintenance of agluit by ringed seals is more frequently cited. (The sea ice environment, like the terrestrial subsystem, is composed of more favorable and less favorable patches. McLaren [1958] and Smith [1972] have noted that areas of inshore ice where frequent pressure cracks occur usually support greater densities of ringed seals than more offshore landfast areas.)

As a major research theme, the study of Inuit settlement patterning has a broad span, to include Thule archaeology (Savelle 1987), the ethno-archaeology of transitory hunting camps (Binford 1980; Campbell 1968) and, not least, land use and occupancy studies (Freeman 1976; McDonald, Arrgutainaq, and Novalinga 1997; Riewe 1992). However, despite this breadth, almost all such studies are biased toward the relationship of Inuit to one or at most a few specific food resources or environmental conditions, with synthesis being achieved through construction of a group's annual cycle.

As such, settlement patterning is inherently related to resource and/or land use and includes a time, as well as place, aspect. Basically, settlement is about where people locate themselves to best environmental advantage. This was my approach (Wenzel 1981:67, 76) to explicating the relationship between physical environmental features, biological resources, and Clyde Inuit spatial-temporal mobility.

In contrast, community patterning is concerned with the social dimensions of a group's residential formation. In other words, who lives with whom? Chang (1962:28) differentiated settlement and community pattern by noting that settlement relates to the placement of people in space and is caused by "cultural ecological forces," while community references a social group with cause in "sociology and social psychology." Thus, the analysis of community patterning to a large, if not exclusive, extent must be concerned with the normative social structural and organizational features, and is therefore separate from how a group or its sub-units arrange themselves in time and space.

The seeming separation between the cultural ecological and socio-cultural is neither as great nor necessarily unbridgeable as Chang perceived. Indeed, Inuit and hunter-gatherer studies generally have seen considerable integration between the ecological and the socio-cultural. So, although much of the research on the social dynamics of Inuit as community initially was focused on understanding issues of authority and leadership (Briggs 1970; Nooter 1976), group cohesion (Damas 1963, 1972), and the institutional aspects of subsistence (Damas 1971; Wenzel 1995), more recent work has come to include community formation as an aspect of ecologically oriented research. Among the more explicit efforts to link where people live to who they live with in a cultural ecological, rather than social structural perspective, are those of Damas (1969a, 1969b), Wenzel (1981, 1991), and especially Stevenson (1997) in his ethnohistorical reconstruction of late nineteenth century settlement in Cumberland Sound.

Finally, the analysis temporally spans two main periods and a transitional one. The earliest is the Exploration-Contact Period. It begins in 1819 with the meeting by Inuit living near the modern village of Clyde with the British naval party led by William Parry. From this first recorded contact, it continues to the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company's Clyde River post and includes Boas's journey to the southern edge of the Clyde region.

The second is the Contact-Traditional Period. In the Clyde region, its start was the arrival of the HBC in 1923 and it continued to roughly 1960 when what has variously been called the Colonial or Government Era on eastern Baffin Island commenced. Application of the term directly follows from Helm and Damas (1963) in that their analysis of settlement and community characteristics closely enough describes my understanding of developments at Clyde to warrant its use.

The central characteristic of this time is a gradually intensifying contact between Clyde Inuit with the HBC and the other principal non-Inuit entities institution that generally dominated the North during Contact-Traditional times, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). While the presence of the police during this time was limited to annual visits, the HBC became a constant of Clyde Inuit life, with the post becoming the locus for the later development of Clyde River as a modern settlement, and continued as the principal contact institution in the region until the 1960s.

While definitely a time dominated by the HBC, the Contact-Traditional Period was also one punctuated in its earliest stage by economic competition from the Sabellum Company and ended with the HBC losing its institutional hegemony after the establishment of a weather station adjacent to the post in 1942, followed a decade later by the development of Cape Christian as a U.S. military station. To reflect this, the period is divided into three phases. The earliest is from 1923 to 1929 during which the HBC's presence at Clyde takes root. In the next, from 1930 to 1942, its effect is all but hegemonic in economic and social terms, affecting Inuit through its own activities and through its influence with other agencies. The last phase is from 1943 to the end of the 1950s during which the fur trade declined and these other agents established themselves at Clyde River. [End Page 4]

Finally, as a postscript of sorts to the overall analysis, are Clyde settlement and community patterns in the 1960s. While this decade saw expanding government presence in the region, it was, in fact, very much a transitional time during which significant numbers of Clyde Inuit remained on the land and those who had made Clyde River their winter residence left the government village to conduct other-season activities in their traditional settlement areas. Thus, even in the early "Government Era," a number of ilagiit-centered villages remained vital due in no small part to the HBC and RCMP actively discouraging throughout the preceding decade re-settlement to Clyde River.

Clyde Historiography and Data Sources

In light of the differences between Boas's time and that of Foote, a reconstruction of the Clyde's regional settlement-community system would also mean at least a partial reconstruction of Clyde Inuit history. However, even as I "discovered" Royal Canadian Mounted Police reports and the Hudson's Bay Company post journals, then Parry's (1821) earliest published account of Inuit at Clyde, Mary-Rousselière's (1982/83) comparison of whalers' reports with Inuit oral history, and even a doctoral dissertation about Clyde Inuit (Stevenson 1972), what emerged was far less complete than what was even more slowly learned (Wenzel 1999) from Clyde's people.

But these memories were initially difficult to access. As generous as people were in our discussions, it was exceedingly difficult to develop any temporally coherent or socially detailed picture with regard to where people had lived or who had lived with whom before moving permanently to Clyde River, a process that for many only began in the late 1950s and in some cases much later.

The major difficulty to reconstruction was time referencing—the markers that were important to informants, such as when a grandparent had died or a move from one winter village location to another, had rarely been related with any temporal specificity other than "a long time ago" or "sometime." Ultimately, the best approach proved to be a combination of the written record with the oral, as the former provided specific events —the death of the Sabellum Company trader or the occurrence of an earthquake—to which Inuit could relate. Essentially, the things notable (Table 1) to an RCMP officer or HBC trader, while not of equal significance to a particular informant, did serve as a time pneumonic for exploring who was living where at the time when the particular event was recorded by the Mounties or Bay traders.

The HBC records were also useful because they sometimes associated the names of Inuit trading at the Clyde HBC post with specific places. Thus, even if the post record consisted of the nickname of an Inuk and the place name associated with that individual was given in English, older Inuit informants were often knowledgeable of the nicknames and could identify the individual. In addition, as my catalogue of Inuktitut toponyms grew, it became possible to associate persons and places within reasonable temporal context in terms of the year and frequently season that the person resided at a place.

Table 1. 

Clyde Ethnohistorical Datums, 1923–1953.1

So, while no absolute chronology of when a place was inhabited and who lived there was achieved, a reasonably accurate relative chronology developed. That is, as much as possible, the dates of occupation of specific places or major movements between places are accurate to within a two- or three-year time frame. More importantly here, the reasons for why certain moves took place or a place was occupied (or avoided) are also considered.

Clyde Inuit Settlement and Community

The Exploration-Contact Period, Circa 1820–1920

William Parry (1821) provides the first written record about Inuit in the Clyde region. Parry, commander of a British Admiralty expedition to explore [End Page 5] Lancaster Sound and the eastern Baffin Island coast, anchored for a day and night at the mouth of Clyde Inlet in September 1820, having learned from a passing whaling vessel that a group of Inuit were camped there. The place of this meeting was at or near the present-day summer/ autumn camping site known to Clyde Inuit as Supaigaiyuktuq and less than 20 km from modern Clyde River.

The seventeen Inuit whom he met there appear to have been in a temporary camp as they were living in sealskin tents and they were apparently preparing to move into three stone and sod qangmaq about two kilometers distant from their tent encampment for the winter. These qangmaq, while not actually visited by Parry or members of his crew, must have appeared habitable and, while he left no detailed description of them, may have closely resembled Thule Culture semi-subterranean houses. That they had a Thule-like appearance can be surmised from a number of factors.

One reason is that Gardner (1979:262–263), in the course of an archaeological survey around Clyde River, appears to have located these dwellings and recorded the collapsed features as Thule in origin, designating the place archaeology site OcDn-2. However, according to Clyde oral accounts of the first local meeting with Qallunaat, this is the site of the winter village that was inhabited by the people who met Parry.

The other is that qangmaq exhibiting this kind of construction continued to be in use in the Clyde region long after early contact times. At least six stone and sod qangmaq sites found in Scott Inlet, Eglinton and Sam Ford fiords, and Patricia Bay were occupied during the Contact Traditional Period. In fact, this type of habitation was used even more recently. From 1977–79, Inuit at an outpost camp in the Walker Arm section of Sam Ford Fiord built and lived in two stone and sod qangmaq. The only essential difference notable from much older features was that the Walker Arm people substituted canvas for sealskin as a roof covering. The camp head, then about fifty years of age, said that these qangmaq were built like ones he had lived in as a youth in the 1940s.

Clyde Inuit do not know whether anyone today is directly descended from that group of seventeen people who met Parry. According to these accounts, however, the three qangmaq mentioned by him were in active use for a considerable time afterward and a stone weir that once existed on a small river near the head of Patricia Bay was built by this group.

Neither the Clyde Inuit nor Parry records provide much information as to the area used by this group or about other Inuit living throughout the region. Descriptions of the group's tools and clothing suggest nothing exotic, other than some items, such as broken files, obviously obtained from Europeans or other Inuit in contact with Europeans. Parry did remark on the presence of narwhal and walrus ivory being used for tools, but both species could then have been obtained in the immediate vicinity as narwhal frequent Patricia Bay even today and walrus were once abundant (Degerbøl and Freuchen 1935:243) across Clyde Inlet among the islands at the mouth of Inugsuin Fiord, some 30–40 km from Supaikaiyuktuq.

More intriguingly, he also noted the use of "whalebone" buckets and whale mandibles used as sled runners. These materials were certainly from bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), but it is impossible to determine whether these materials were from a whale or whales the group had hunted or whether they were scavenged from a commercial "floater," or even from a pre-existing, possibly Thule culture, occupation. Thus, while both Inuit and European renderings about this group are intriguing, any conclusions about nineteenth century Inuit settlement patterns, beyond the fact that this group seemed about to winter on the northeast side of Clyde Inlet in already existing qangmaq, would be speculative.

Parry also mentions that the people whom he visited readily identified a musk-ox when shown a drawing. As it is most unlikely that Inuit living around Clyde Inlet would have themselves come into contact with musk-ox, it is probable that they were in communication with northern Baffin or Iglulingmiut people who knew of the species from visits to Devon or Somerset islands, or possibly from Melville Peninsula.

After Parry, references to Inuit settlement around the Clyde region are thin. The most interesting come from Boas (1888) and Mary Rousselière (1982/83), Boas's information being received from more southerly dwelling Inuit and Mary-Rousselière's from ethno-historical accounts from Pond Inlet informants.

As mentioned earlier, Boas did not himself visit Inuit living north of Home Bay. Writing about the area immediately around Clyde River and Eglinton Fiord, he (Boas 1888:442) says that "River Clyde and Aqbirtijung are not always inhabited, but are visited at irregular intervals by the Akudnirmiut, the same who usually stay at Niagonaujang." He follows that observation by noting that, "It is probable that Aqbirtijung and Kangertlualung are sometimes visited by Tununirmiut of Pond Bay." This passage is highly suggestive that Boas was led to understand that the coast between the Home Bay Akudnirmiut and the North Baffin Tununirmiut had no distinct Inuit population, with Aqbirtijung (Eglinton Fiord) being the most northerly place visited by Home Bay Inuit and the southernmost reached by Tununirmiut.

A little more information pertaining to parts of the Clyde region can be gleaned from Boas. One [End Page 6] is that the Akudnirmiut made considerable use of Home Bay's islands during summers to hunt caribou, moving in August to the southeast tip of Henry Kater Peninsula (Niaqonaujang) to meet commercial whalers. He also notes the Akudnirmiut traveled to Ijellirtung (McBeth Fiord), behind Isabella Bay, and Inugsuin Fiord, just below the mouth of Clyde Inlet. Ijellirtung is a route that was followed by Clyde Inuit living in Isabella and Home bays before the Centralization Period to reach a lake-river complex important for arctic char, while Inugsuin may have been used, as already mentioned, to hunt walrus. The only other mention about subsistence activities is that few birds seem to have been available.

Boas also sheds some light on Inuit settlement around the southern Clyde area, although his text and maps have some ambiguities. For instance, he mentions (Boas 1888:442) that, after gathering in late summer near Cape Henry Kater to meet passing whalers, these Inuit often wintered just west on Henry Kater Peninsula at Ipiutelling, although he indicated Ipiutelling as a summer site (Boas 1888: Plate II). The same map shows the island of Avaudjelling (probably Kingittuaq Island) as a spring season site, but on another map (Boas 1888: Plate III) it is marked as a spring and summer encampment. Overall, he states (Boas 1888:440) that "A peculiarity of the Akudnirmiut is their more decided migratory character. . ." as compared to the people of Cumberland Sound.

As for Inuit settlement north from Clyde Inlet, Boas's 1888 maps place a winter village on the southern side of Aqbirtijung in Eglinton Fiord; this is probably the Aqviqtiuq that was in use until ca. 1976. But this, along with his reference to Tununirmiut visiting Kangertualung (likely Sam Ford Fiord), is the extent of his information on settlement in the area.

One more note from Boas about the Clyde area should, however, be mentioned. He indicates on one of his maps (Boas 1888: Plate II) and writes about (Boas 1888:443) an overland route across Baffin Island from Foxe Basin to Angmang, which was probably at the head of Cambridge Fiord. This is a place where Clyde Inuit say a large qangmaq village existed before the Hudson's Bay Company came to Pond Inlet and Clyde River. Whether Angmang is the village believed to have been at Cambridge Fiord, it is unlikely that Inuit would cross Baffin Island to reach an uninhabited area when more direct routes linked the Foxe Basin Iglulingmiut with their North Baffin Tununirmiut and Tununirusirmiut cousins.

Another reference to Inuit settlement north of Clyde Inlet is a brief note by Mary-Rousselière's (1982/83) about a group contacted by several whaling ships and Robert Peary at Dexterity Harbour in 1895. This is the same group that Lubbock (1937:431) reports as having apparently all died sometime afterward, although Mary-Rousselière (1982/83:14–15) considers Lubbock's rendering to be probably wrong. Whatever the case, Inuit at Clyde state that a group did indeed live on Dexterity Island, but disappeared before the arrival of the HBC. This group possessed a wooden whaleboat and hunted bowhead whales during the summer from a camp on the eastern (Baffin Bay) side of the island, moving to a village on the landward side in the winter.

Two other references to Inuit and the Clyde region are worth mentioning. The first is a photograph (Ross 1985:147) of "Shangoya," who headed a Buchan Gulf extended family, at summer camp ca. 1890. His great-grandsons were told that this group was comprised of himself, his three wives and their children, and at least two younger brothers, who also had families. They are believed to have had a winter village either at Ikpik or Nuilatuq, both on the north side of the Gulf, and to have hunted in other seasons down the fiords that branch westward from it.

The last published reference pertinent to settlement in the Clyde region is Mathiassen's (1928:22) census from Pond Inlet taken just before the onset of the Contact-Traditional Period on eastern Baffin Island. Briefly, he recorded that three of the 55 men whom he questioned were born in Home Bay and that nine of a further sample of 33 men had traveled to the Clyde area—five to River Clyde and four to Home Bay. Finally, he noted that seven adults had close blood kin living in Home Bay. Mathiassen then closed his discussion of Inuit population distribution by noting (Mathiassen 1928:23) that the Tununirmiut are loosely connected to the Akudnirmiut of Clyde River and Home Bay, ". . . to whom in fact some of them are related by marriage; a connection here, however, is much weaker than with the Igluliks."

The picture that emerges from these various oral and published sources is unfortunately vague (Table 2). The overall suggestion from Boas and Mathiassen is that any Inuit inhabiting the Clyde region were mainly in its southern portion, from about Clyde Inlet into northern Home Bay and would be Akudnirmiut. Tununirmiut penetration of the area would be at best occasional. On the other hand, it would seem from Parry, Mary Rousselière, and several Clyde Inuit sources that Inuit settlement was more widespread.

One more bit of information from Mathiassen regarding Tununirmiut in the region can be gleaned from his census. Although his inquiry about places visited revealed only nine Inuit who reported traveling to at least Clyde River, another 16 (of the 33 men questioned) had been to Anaularealing Fiord (Mathiassen 1928:22). This is likely the same as Cambridge Fiord, an arm of Buchan Gulf. Comparison of Mathiassen's map of northeast Baffin Island with that of Boas, coupled with [End Page 7] their respective textual descriptions, raises the possibility that Anaularealing is the same as the winter village Boas places near the head of Cambridge Fiord and that the Tununirmiut, contrary to what both wrote, were in fact established in northern parts of the Clyde region.

Table 2. 

Summary of Clyde Contact-Exploration Settlement and Community.

Any determination about community patterning among Inuit of the Clyde region during this time is even more opaque than conclusions about settlement patterns. The information from Parry certainly suggests that the Supaigaiyuktuq group may have been an extended family. Such a conclusion, albeit a tentative one, can be drawn from Parry's estimation of the ages of the adult men and women, forming four couples. Also, two of the winter houses at the OcDn-2 site shared a joint cold-trap entrance (Gardner 1979:263), suggesting that the occupants of at least these two dwellings were related.

Similarly tentative conclusions about community structure can be ventured about Shangoya (Ross 1985; J. Sanguya, personal communication) and, weakly, for the Dexterity Island group (Mary-Rousselière 1982/83; A. Palituq, personal communication). However, it is possible, based on surmises about the organization of North Alaskan bowhead whale hunting (Burch 1975; Spencer 1959), that the Inuit who visited Dexterity Harbour were a composite, rather than extended family, group.

The Contact-Traditional Period, 1923–1965

The Pattern of Settlement

The exact pattern of settlement in the Clyde region through the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century, before the arrival of the HBC and RCMP, is far from certain. The Inuit whom Parry met in 1819 seem to have been well established, as were the Dexterity Island group met by Peary and several whaling ships seventy years after Parry (and about a decade after Boas traveled to northern Home Bay). However, other than Boas's reference to Tununirmiut visitations to Eglinton and Sam Ford fiords, and Mary Rousselière and Mathiassen's respective mentions of the region, the only other sources of information are the Clyde oral accounts, and they too are sparse. Thus, it is impossible to determine whether the region was "settled" as per Parry's limited observation or saw only limited and/or occasional seasonal use as reported by Boas.

An explanation for the latter condition, at least for years running up to the beginning of the Contact-Traditional Period at Clyde, comes from Stevenson (1972). He hypothesized (Stevenson 1972:165) that the opening of trading posts to the north and south of the Clyde region, respectively at Pond Inlet and Qivituq, precipitated Inuit emigration from much of the region, a condition that continued until the HBC and, briefly, the Sabellum Company established themselves in the region in 1923, the HBC at Clyde River and Sabellum on Henry Kater Peninsula. Because of the richness of Inuit ethnohistorical memory and the availability of more extensive written accounts—the latter supplying time provenience for the social texture of the first—it is possible to reconstruct the patterning of settlement and community development for this time as progressing in three phases.

The earliest phase concerns the years from 1923 to roughly 1930 when the HBC and short-lived Sabellum Company established themselves at Clyde River and Henry Kater Peninsula, respectively, spurring shortly thereafter annual visits to the region by the RCMP. Their reports (Table 2) seem to confirm Stevenson's notion of a paucity of settlement through much of the region, although the ethnohistory (Table 3) presents a more complex situation than is related in "official" accounts.

The next phase, from ca. 1930 to 1943, covers a time when the HBC was the dominant non Inuit influence in the lives of Clyde Inuit. It is also a period when both Inuit and non-Inuit sources indicate that a process of "filling-in" was [End Page 8] occurring, particularly in the central portion of the region.

Table 3. 

Clyde Inuit Locational and Population Data, 1923–1929.1,2

The last phase extends from late 1942, when the United States Army Air Corps established a weather station adjacent to the Clyde HBC, to the mid-1960s when Clyde River became the focal location of government activity in the region and the center of Inuit residence. Overall, this is a time of gradually accelerating centripetal movement from the dispersed Contact-Traditional pattern of settlement and traditional community composition to the centralized social composite that is modern Clyde River.

Regarding the population estimates, there is year-to-year fluctuation, from 110 people in 1923 to 100 the next year and dropping further to 50 in 1925, but rebounding to 138 in 1926, strongly calling into question the accuracy of these counts. The same is the case concerning where Inuit were to be found. Along with Clyde River itself ("Kangetsuvapiq" [sic]), it would seem that people lived at or adjoining the former Sabellum Company posts at Tikiqqat ("Tikerqan") and Qivituq ("Kivitoq"), all a possible indication that these were among the few places known to the HBC.

The HBC and RCMP reports from this time do indicate several places, "Netsarsujoq" (Nitsilsiuk in Scott Inlet), "Akoliakataq" (Akuliahatak– Eglinton Fiord), and Arctic Harbour in Isabella Bay, that were winter villages and two seasonal encampments from the vicinity of Cape Christian ("Pinguarjuk"/Pinguajuk and "Tupervialuq"/ Tupiktalik). Clyde ethnohistorical accounts also identify (Fig. 2) a number of other winter villages that, along with Nitsilsiuk, Tilavunuk (Arctic Harbour), and Akuliahatak, were active within the region in the 1920s.

The most southerly villages were at Naiaunausaq, west of the Sabellum Company Tikiqqat site on Henry Kater Peninsula. It and Tilavunuk in Isabella Bay were the two most important wintering locations south from the Clyde River, although [End Page 9]

Inuktitut place names. Map by Melanie Poupart, Department of Anthropology, McGill University.
Click for larger view
Figure 2. 

Inuktitut place names. Map by Melanie Poupart, Department of Anthropology, McGill University.

[End Page 10]

another place, Alpatuq, also on the peninsula, seems to have sometimes been used when conditions at Naiaunausaq were unfavorable for snowhouse construction.

To the north of Clyde River, villages seemed to have been more numerous, although accounts suggest that until the later stages of the period there was less group to place fidelity than at Henry Kater Peninsula or Isabella Bay. Other winter residential sites were Aqviqtiuq and Akuliahatak in Eglinton Fiord, the first identified by Boas as occasionally used by Tununirmiut. Beyond Eglinton Fiord was Kangajuak, at the entrance to Paterson Inlet and Qangmatavik in Dexterity Inlet. Finally, informants recall two winter settlements in Coutts Inlet, likely the same wintering places mentioned by the RCMP in various 1930s reports.

These sites were all in use during this time, albeit not necessarily in every year or by the same group. However, when they were occupied, it was almost always by a single extended family. According to Clyde accounts, Aqviqtiuq, Qangmatavik, Akuliahatak (see Gardner [1979:261] for a plan view), Natsilsiuk, and Kangajuak had stonesod dwellings, while the southern settlements at Henry Kater and Isabella Bay were reported by Inuit and the RCMP to have been snowhouse villages.

The post-winter settlement pattern at Clyde was more transitory than the winter settlement pattern, and post-winter locations, especially summer camps, were ephemeral. Exceptions were fishing sites, where stone weirs were constructed, and walrus haul-out locations; the former because of their relative permanence and, thus, reuse, and the haul-outs because walrus return to these islands year after year.

Informants were clear that only certain rivers could be effectively fished before the introduction of nets. Rivers like the Kugaluk and the Clyde, important today for the netting of arctic char, seem to not to have been much utilized as their depth and swiftness made weir building and maintenance difficult.

Instead, fishing efforts concentrated on smaller, shallower waters where construction of stone weirs was possible. Such places included the Keel River near its outflow into Cambridge Fiord, Natsiukinguak at the head of Gibbs Fiord, and the Esquimaux River near Aqviqtiuq in Eglinton Fiord; these were all north of the Clyde HBC post. South of the post, the best-remembered place was called Iqaluktuk Kingua, between Inugsuin and McBeth fiords. Here a series of weirs were built in the streams connecting Kudloo, Kooneeloosie, and Kyak lakes.

Also well remembered were three walrus hunting sites. The two most important were in northern Home Bay, near Alpatuq, and on the islands at the entrance to Inugsuin Fiord. The third was at Refuge Harbour in Scott Inlet.

At Home Bay, walrus were, and still are, hunted in spring on two small haul-out islands a few kilometers from Alpatuq. Apparently, considerable numbers of walrus were taken from there even with the limited technology available to Inuit at that time. Harper (1973:39) remarks that when the RCMP came to the Tikiqqat to recover the body of Hector Pitchforth, they allowed Inuit to take away a large number of tusks that the ill-fated Sabellum trader had acquired from Home Bay Inuit.

Significant walrus hunting was also carried out at Inugsuin Fiord. According to Degerbøl and Freuchen (1935:243), these islands were so productive that they wrote, "River Clyde is a place where there is never lack of meat." Inugsuin walrus continued to be hunted until the late 1940s, supporting even an HBC-sponsored commercial hunt until then. According to Clyde memory, Inuit hunting was conducted from small camps established either on the islands themselves or from more substantial camps at Piniraq and Ailuktalik on the east shore of the fiord.

Details of the summer camping sites used throughout this period are few, as this was a time for hunting caribou and, hence, mobility was essential. While there was clarity about the various routes that were followed to reach inland hunting areas where caribou were expected, summer seems to have been a time marked by frequent movement, essentially a progression of temporary encampments that extended from the conclusion of the spring arctic char run, usually in late May or early June, until well into August and even September when groups returned to the coast.

While entire extended families started inland together for caribou, following the valleys that cut through the coastal mountains that separate the coast from the interior Baffin uplands, day-to-day movement seems rarely to have been en masse. Instead, several nuclear families or several men would break away for opportunistic hunting along the main route, caching most of the harvest for retrieval later in the summer. Key valley routes were along the McBeth, Clyde, Sam Ford, Quernbiter, and Keel rivers. By late June or July, the ilagiit would reunite on reaching the uplands of mid Baffin around the Dewar Lakes for the Home Bay families and around Conn and Bieler Lakes for groups living in the Scott Inlet-Sam Ford Fiord Eglinton Fiord area. Once well inland, several families might camp and hunt together for several weeks, then return separately with dried meat and hides to the coast.

Two things are notable about the settlement and resource activity patterns described for this period. The first is how the geography of eastern Baffin Island focused the summer flow of Clyde [End Page 11] Inuit ecological activities along east-west axes (Fig. 2). The basic pattern within the settlement-resource systems through the region was one of sealing in various fiords from semi-permanent winter bases, then moving in May-June to geographically contiguous fishing sites at the heads of these fiords, and then passing inland through the river valleys that naturally connect the coast to interior caribou areas where most of the summer would be spent, returning to the heads of the fiords for autumn char, and then traveling either by boat or over ice to winter quarters.

Table 4. 

Clyde Settlement and Community, 1923–1929.1,2

The other is that while there are direct links between various fiord-based winter villages, specific fish weir sites, and interior caribou routes, which together form discrete settlement-resource complexes, these complexes are not necessarily associated with particular families or groups in the sense of being recognized social territories. For instance, the occupants of Natsilsiuk at the mouth of Scott Inlet, whomever they might have been, fished at Natsiukinguak on the river that runs into Gibbs Fiord and this river provided a pathway for inland caribou hunting; however, through the 1920s and into the 1930s, at least three different family groups wintered at Natsilsiuk and then used the stone weir at Natsiukinguak. The picture of Clyde settlement that emerges shows that winter villages like Natsilsiuk and Naiaunausaq were not toponymic isolates. Rather, they were the hinges of larger resource-settlement systems.

In contrast to this constancy of site use was the intra-regional mobility (Table 4) exhibited by local groups during the early part of this period. With the exception of the southern and northern edges of the region, Clyde Inuit appear to have moved from one settlement-resource system to another, especially within the central portion of the region (from Dexterity Fiord down to Eglinton Fiord), with considerable frequency.

The middle years of the Contact-Traditional Period, from roughly 1930 to 1942, was the time [End Page 12] when the HBC was free of competition from other non-Inuit agencies and solidified its economic position at Clyde (Wordie 1935). Overall, however, seasonal and annual settlement at Clyde underwent little change from the preceding decade, though the 1930s are seen as the halcyon days of Hudson's Bay Company dominance in the North.

In point of fact, the trade was less disruptive at Clyde than is generally assumed, as trapping around Clyde was a sea ice activity conducted in conjunction with, and complementary to, winter breathing hole sealing (see Freeman 1976; Wenzel 1991). The fur trade did, however, affect settlement. The HBC, in its efforts to increase the Clyde post's profitability, transported a number of Inuit to the region (to be discussed below) from areas where trapping was more intensive. Thus, families from the Lake Harbour, Frobisher Bay, Cape Dorset, and Pangnirtung were moved, presumably because they were from places where the fox trade was deemed strong, and they were considered to be adept and motivated trappers.

The Inuit at Henry Kater Peninsula and Isabella Bay continued their fidelity to those areas. North of Clyde River, however, excepting Coutts Inlet, the population was still unsettled, ostensibly moving every few years from one fiord or inlet to another (see Table 5). In no small sense, in the north, between Clyde River and Coutts Inlet, the regional situation seems best described as an "infilling" due to intra-regional population movement and, especially, immigration from other regions.

Looking across the whole of the region, it seems that the Niaunausaq group, led through the 1930s and 1940s by Kautuq, exhibited considerably greater locational stability to the northern Home Bay area than did the more northerly Clyde groups. The Niaunausaq group did occasionally leave Home Bay for summer hunting behind Clyde Inlet, moving at these times, after completing their caribou hunt, to Piniraq on Inugsuin Fiord. From there, young men and their families would go overland to fish in the lakes between Inugsuin and McBeth fiords and the rest of the group stayed at Inugsuin for walrus hunting, afterwards either sledding or traveling by boat to Home Bay. The group would then reassemble.

In extreme contrast is a man named Killapik, who is remembered as having wintered at Eglinton Fiord, Scott Inlet, and Dexterity Inlet in just seven years. Several explanations were put forth for his mobility. One was that he spent years as a middleman between various traders and Inuit, an occupation that saw him move between Eclipse Sound and Qivituq. However, he is also remembered as a shaman who, while at Qivituq in 1919 or 1920, killed a religious zealot, who had murdered two purported unbelievers. Clyde informants more than once mentioned that people were said to have uncomfortable with him.

Mobile as Killapik was, he seems to have always lived with one or another kinsmen—Paniluq, who was either his brother or half-brother; Ittutak, another reputed half-brother; or with a paternal uncle, Sanguya. Both of his brothers also lived at Dexterity Inlet, Scott Inlet, and Eglinton Fiord and Sanguya at Kangajuak (Paterson Inlet) during the years that Killapik is said to have done so.

Table 5. 

Clyde Inuit Winter Villages, 1930–1943.1,2

[End Page 13]

Migration into the Clyde region, principally by Inuit from southern Baffin Island, was a major influence on the regional settlement pattern. One of the most important developments of the early 1930s was the arrival of several families headed by brothers-in-law from the Cumberland Sound area. The group, numbering about nine or ten, first arrived in northern Home Bay between 1930 and 1932, moved from there to Isabella Bay and then to near Supaigaiyuktuq, where they remained for approximately three years. Their relatively long stay near at the Clyde River post, something usually discouraged by the HBC, seems to have been related to one of the senior males being seriously ill and being cared for by the post manager.

After this man's death, ca. 1934, the group moved close to Buchan Gulf, remaining there for three years. They wintered in Paterson Inlet and caribou hunted and fished inland from Tromso Fiord. While both sealing and fishing proved to be excellent in the Paterson Inlet-Tromso Fiord area, lack of caribou caused the group to move in 1937 to Natsilsiuk in Scott Inlet, where the group remained until 1962, whereupon, again because of the village head's illness, they relocated permanently to Clyde River.

A second important development was that a number of Inuit from Lake Harbour, Frobisher Bay, and Cape Dorset regions moved to Clyde River between ca. 1935 and the early 1940s, with as many as 29 people being arriving in 1940 (HBC 1940, 1947). The Hudson's Bay Company precipitated these movements as part of its efforts to enhance trapping. At Clyde River, the family that formerly had assisted the Sabellum Company at Henry Kater Peninsula and which, after the closure of the Sabellum post, had lived for several years at Naiaunausaq with the northern Home Bay group, joined them.

This composite group mainly wintered at Piniraq, on Inugsuin Fiord, spending spring on the islands at the mouth of Clyde Inlet, then traveling down the inlet to hunt caribou and fish along the valley of the Clyde River. Thereafter, Piniraq seems to have remained a wintering village for a number of these "immigrant" families into the late 1950s.

Last, it appears that Inuit from Coutts Inlet and Buchan Gulf began to orient their trade to Clyde River's HBC. It is doubtful, however, that there was a complete break from Pond Inlet; in fact, at the onset of Centralization it seems that some members of these groups chose to resettle at Pond Inlet (Bissett 1967).

It is evident that the dominant settlement trend through the 1930s and into the 1940s was toward relocation into the "core" of the region. Eglinton and Sam Ford fiords, which had seen sequential occupation by different families the previous decade, were by the 1940s entering a time of more stable ilagiit village settlement. Especially notable in this regard are Natsilsiuk, Nasaklukuluk, Akuliahatak, and Aqviqtiuq.

The exact reasons for this tendency toward longer-term occupation of winter villages in Clyde's central region are unclear, although informants have suggested that increases in the regional population constrained intra-regional mobility. Informants have roughly estimated that by the 1940s there were between 140 and 180 people living between Coutts Inlet and Henry Kater Peninsula. This estimate fits fairly well with RCMP "censuses" from 1937 and 1941, reporting 138 at the earlier date and 163 in 1941.

By the early 1940s, the regional pattern of settlement (Table 5) stabilized. The ilagiit living on Henry Kater Peninsula continued to reside there under the leadership of Kautuq's eldest son, maintaining Naiaunausaq as its wintering location. This group was also joined by a number of Inuit related to Anakullik, who had for several years lived at Piniraq after returning to the Clyde area having spent several years on southern Baffin Island.

North of Clyde River, at least four major extended-family winter villages—three of which continued to be occupied into the Centralization period, were situated in Eglinton and Sam Ford fiords and Scott Inlet. Each, as at Naiaunausaq, was composed of a core group of kinsmen.

The smallest group, of perhaps ten people, seems to have been Aqviqtiuq, where Killapik lived with a half-brother and a married son. Their group's annual subsistence round included spring seal hunting at Nahanausaq (Cape Eglinton), fishing on the Esquimaux River, hunting denning polar bears in the hills between the fiord and the Kugaluk River, and caribou hunting around Ayr Lake. By about 1950, Killapik moved from Aqviqtiuq to Dexterity Inlet, leaving Aqviqtiuq unoccupied until the later part of the 1960s.

Eglinton Fiord also sustained a second village, Akuliahatak. The core group here consisted of four brothers. How closely associated this group may have been with the Aqviqtiuq people is unclear. Presumably, there was some cooperation between the two Eglinton Fiord village groups, as informants suggest that there were joint fishing efforts in spring at the Esquimaux River weir and that members of both groups sometimes established spring time camps at Cape Eglinton to carry out basking seal hunting.

North, at Sam Ford Fiord, a group consisting of Palluq, who was Ittutaq's son-in-law, and his four sons, lived during winters at Nasalukuluk. Winter sealing was carried out at the pressure cracks in the sea ice around the fiord entrance. In summer, the group moved down the fiord to Umiaktalik in order to hunt caribou in the hills separating the fiord proper from Walker Arm and from [End Page 14] there sometimes crossing over to the Arm to fish at Kangiqtualuk.

At Scott Inlet, leadership of the Natsilsiuk group passed upon the death of Paitaituq, to his son Iqalukjuak sometime in the late 1940s. This group hunted caribou in the valley that runs between Scott and Dexterity inlets and at the heads of Clark and Gibbs fiords. Along with the typical suite of subsistence resources found in the region, the group also exploited a small population of walrus then present on the south side of Scott Inlet (in Swiss Bay). However, by sometime in the 1950s, these animals, which apparently were never numerous, were hunted out (Iqalukjuak, personal communication).

Apart from these five extended family villages, the other principal winter site in the region was Piniraq. It retained the composite character discussed previously, with its members concentrating most of their activities in Clyde Inlet and Inugsuin Fiord. It also seems that Isabella Bay became incorporated into this group's sphere following the death of Ilkuq, although there is no recollection of that area again being occupied as a wintering place.

The number of Inuit in residence at Clyde River also increased, rising from two to five families, a harbinger of the coming centralization of most of the region's Inuit by the mid-1950s. While Clyde River's population was still small, it included not only the "post natives," but also two men taken on by the American military as support labor; additionally, a widow also lived by the post. As all the men had families and the widow several children, the number of Inuit living adjacent to the HBC and the U.S. weather station totaled about twenty.

As noted above, a large number of Inuit, those who had been transported to Clyde River through the agency of the HBC, also lived in relative proximity to the post at Piniraq on Inugsuin Fiord. This "immigrant" population, which included the family formerly linked to the Sabellum Company endeavor, concentrated its winter sealing around the islands at the mouth of Inugsuin Fiord, moving in spring onto the islands in Clyde Inlet or to the mainland Baffin sites of Ailuktalik and Tupiqtalik for spring sealing. At this time, arctic char were also fished at Tasiqtullik, a large lake between Inugsuin Fiord and the Baffin Bay coast. Summer saw the Piniraq villagers engaged in net fishing and caribou hunting at the head of Clyde Inlet with the group returning in late August by boat to Clyde River to work as stevedores on the HBC annual sealift before crossing Clyde Inlet to settle for the winter at Piniraq.

There was one other important effecter of settlement and community at Clyde. This was the death of a number of ilagiit heads in the mid to late 1940s. In the main, the deaths of ageing ilagiit heads saw group leadership pass, as outlined by Damas (1963), to the oldest son of the former head. This was the case at Home Bay and Scott Inlet during the 1940s, with both ilagiit remaining at their long-standing villages—Naiaunausaq and Natsilsiuk.

While these passings rarely precipitated the dissolution of a community—although this did happen at Tilavunik with Ilkuq's death ca. 1940—it is possible that a leader's death underlay some of the movements that took place at this time. In other situations, such deaths seem to have catalyzed changes. The death of Ittutak at Dexterity Fiord, however, saw leadership pass to his son-in-law, who had married in from Iglulik, and the group then moved south to Nasalukuluk in Sam Ford Fiord. At Home Bay, upon the death of Kautuq and assumption of community leadership by his oldest son, a younger brother chose to move from Naiaunausaq to Inugsuin Fiord.

The final stage of the Contact-Traditional Period at Clyde began with the construction of a U.S. Coast Guard navigational station at Cape Christian (Pinguajuk), about 20 km from Clyde River, in 1953–1954. It, in turn, brought a permanent RCMP presence to Clyde. These developments essentially mark the start of a centripetal movement of the region's Inuit toward Clyde River. Inuit relocation was initially discouraged (see Damas 2002b) by both Hudson's Bay Company and RCMP personnel. De facto attempts to inhibit "loitering" continued until 1959–1960, after which centralization was encouraged following the construction of Clyde's first school (1960) and nursing station (1961), as it was across the Northwest Territories. By the midpoint of the 1960s, approximately 120 of the region's roughly 180 Inuit lived at Clyde River, Cape Christian, and Piniraq.

Despite the tendency of drift toward Clyde River-Cape Christian, four major ilagiit-centered winter communities were active at the start of the 1960s, albeit two ceased before mid-decade and a third about 1968. These residential loci were at Akuliahaktak, Naiaunausaq-Alpatuq, Natsilsiuk, and Nasalukuluk. The Naiaunausaq group, now led by Kautuq's son, Kunilussi, was the largest, numbering 30 to 35. Its summer activities remained focused on the lakes between Pitchforth and Inugsuin fiords and spring hunting took families into Isabella Bay.

Progressing north beyond Clyde River, the other three villages were at Akuliahatak on Eglinton Fiord, Nasalukuluk in Sam Ford Fiord, and Natsilsiuk in Scott Inlet. Akuliahatak consisted of three brothers and their households, totaling about 12 to 14 members. At Sam Ford Fiord, Nasalukuluk, still headed by Palluq, included his four sons, with each family living separately in [End Page 15] canvas-sod-wood qangmaq. The winter population was 17 to 20. Furthest from Clyde was Natsilsiuk. Here there were four qangmaq with a population of about 18.

In the main, the subsistence activities of each group closely followed the patterns described earlier, albeit with two changes. The first was that the residents of Nasalukuluk and Akuliahatak sometimes carried on spring seal hunting from a shared camp at Cape Eglinton. This apparently was not an annual occurrence, but did happen several times between 1955 and 1960. The other was that sometime in the 1950s, caribou disappeared from the lowlands between Clyde Inlet and Eglinton Fiord. This, in turn, affected the summer caribou-hunting regime of the Eglinton Fiord group. With caribou no longer present on the upper reaches of the Kogaluk River or around Ayr Lake, Inuit from Eglinton Fiord shifted their summer hunt to Sam Ford Fiord.

One last aspect of community that was undoubtedly not unique to this transitional time bears mention because of its importance in terms of community dynamics and inter-community relations. This was the movement of households from their own community group to take up temporary residence with another group. The purpose of these moves was to fulfill an already arranged marriage and the usual pattern was for a boy's family to establish itself in the community of the prospective bride. While these family movements were permanent, it was not unheard of for a boy and his family to spend as much as a year residing with the family of the intended spouse. Informants noted these temporary changes in residence occurring between families from Coutts Inlet and Scott Inlet, Walker Arm and Home Bay, Nasalukuluk and Piniraq, and Nasalukuluk and Akuliahatak.

At the start of the 1960s, approximately 60 people still were living in traditional winter extended family settlements in the region. By the end of the decade only one winter village, Aqviqtiuq, remained active, albeit reduced to three households totaling 17 permanent members.

The disappearance of the other three villages was precipitated by ill health and accident. In 1959, the leader at Natsilsiuk was evacuated to southern Canada for tuberculosis treatment. His three-year absence and subsequent infirmary requiring on-going medical care led that community to migrate to Clyde River upon his return in 1962. A similar situation arose for the Home Bay community when, in 1968, the family head suffered a serious accident that precipitated the abandonment of Naiaunausaq, while the Akuliahatak community lost three of four adult males through a boat accident. Even Aqviqtiuq was a product of relocation as spring ice conditions in Sam Ford Fiord so severely interfered with seal hunting that the Nasalukuluk community moved to Eglinton Fiord. The stress of those conditions also fragmented the community as two families settled in Clyde River, reducing the Aqviqtiuq community to 16 members who persisted away from Clyde River until 1976.

Chang's Typologies and Contact Traditional Clyde Inuit

Settlement Patterning

The best, if qualified, fit between the reality of Clyde and Chang's schema is with respect to settlement pattern. More specifically, the Clyde data suggest that the general pattern followed by Clyde Inuit to be what Chang termed (1962:30) a Type II seasonal settlement-complex, characterized by "a network of seasonal settlements occupied in turn in different seasons . . . within the confines of an annual subsistence region." I have termed these settlement-resource systems that, because of the region's geography, naturally connected winter hunting areas (breathing hole seal patches) with more seasonally mobile resource locations (see Fig. 2), such as fishing sites and inland travel routes for caribou hunting.

The correspondence is not quite so clear, however, as Chang distinguishes several sub-types of seasonal settlement-complexes, based on whether the main settlement is a permanent base (Type IIA1) or the main site is transient, changing ever few years (Type IIA2). (Chang also identifies a Type IIB, or "temporary settlements," but his description of this sub-type is almost exactly like Type IIA2 and presumably denotes full nomadism.) Thus, based on the various criteria he applies to discriminate between his Type II complexes, notably main site permanence (IIA1) versus relocation after one or a few years (IIA2), respectively, Clyde Inuit appear to fall into the second category as groups seemed to have moved fairly frequently, especially in the early part of the Contact-Historic Period.

On the other hand, while Clyde Inuit did move between settlement-resource systems with some frequency into at least the late 1940s, absolute abandonment of any system seems to have been rare. As has been shown, a winter village site long occupied by a group would be "moved into" by a second group. This suggests that Chang's other principal criterion for identifying Type IIA2 (main site transience) and IIB (temporary site) settlement-complexes, exhaustion of ecological potentiality, was certainly not the sole cause of movement between settlement-resource systems as a depleted area would not attract new occupants immediately. [End Page 16]

As was suggested earlier, a possible alternative cause for much of the movement of ilagiit groupings within the Clyde region, especially in the area from Eglinton Fiord to Buchan Gulf, may be the re-infiltration of Inuit to Clyde after several decades of centrifugal pull toward the trading centers of Pond Inlet and Qiviqtuq, an observation also made by Stevenson (1972). In any case, given the long-term occupation of most winter villages and their associated settlement-resource systems, albeit not inhabited continuously by any single group, Chang's IIA1 settlement category might be better characterized as semi-sedentary rather than permanent. The important point is that a specific location, the winter village, was returned to inter-annually following a period of post-winter mobility because of resource seasonality.

The ethnohistorical accounts of the Clyde Contact-Traditional Period bear out Chang's and the general cultural ecological supposition about temporal-spatial relationship between where to live and resources. Seasonal mobility and, hence, change of settlement location are essential responses to a suite of resources that can only be accessed by exploiting a range of widely spaced environmental and geographic settings. Moreover, during the 1920s and 1930s, the pattern of settlement in the region, excepting at its extremes—northern Home Bay and Coutts Inlet—where there is long-term fidelity to place, is one of frequent movement with groups typically occupying settlement-resource systems for at most a few years. In Chang's (1962:30) typology, the basic pattern was one of temporary occupation of any seasonal settlement-complex.

But the data also show that by the 1940s a degree of settlement stability, namely land-based winter villages, often including "hard" (stone and sod and, later, wood-canvas-sod qangmaq) dwelling features, that belies not only assignment to the temporary occupation sub-type but also larger aspects of the typology. In terms of annual patterning, Clyde Inuit movements continue to fit the seasonal settlement-complex type, but the inter-annual duration of winter villages begins to approximate settlement with permanent bases. Nonetheless, group movements between settlement-resource systems continue, although at longer intervals than in the earlier years, so that these winter villages might best be conceptualized as semi-sedentary settlements in their nature.

As pointed out, most of these changes seem not to have been caused by the resource depletion that, for Chang, is the principal factor affecting stability of settlement within a resource region. In fact, there seems to be no obvious explanation for these shifts other than exploration of the various settlement-resource systems, especially as several Clyde subsistence components, ringed seals and arctic char, seem to have been constant. But this should be qualified in one respect.

The availability of caribou, which was an important resource, may have been unpredictable from year to year, not because of depletion of caribou but rather due to shifts in caribou movements (see Ferguson and Messier 1998). In the complex geographic situation of eastern Baffin Island, where north-south overland movement was (and remains) difficult given the elevations of the mountains separating fiord-valley systems, it was not easy to cope with unpredictable changes in caribou availability in a given fiord-valley system. The result was that scarcities of skins for winter clothing (see Keene 1985) might have been the cause of some inter-fiord relocations.

The data also indicate that a number of factors other than ecological stress and/or resource depletion affected settlement. The most striking is the apparent reluctance of groups to take up residence in Isabella Bay, at least before the reputed giant said to live in McBeth Fiord ceased to be a concern. In contrast is the situation of Akumalik and his family. After the death of Hector Pitchforth and the end of the former's employment by the Sabellum Trading Company, for a period of time Akumalik joined, if not necessarily integrated into, the Naiaunausaq group led by Kautuq.

Community Patterning

While Chang's seasonal settlement-complex typology and the pattern followed through the Contact Traditional Period are easily reconciled, his community formation schema is more problematic in terms of the data from Clyde. This difference relates to Chang's (1962:33) characterization of an emblematic "Eskimo type" community—that is, an arrangement in which "There are no strict kinship bonds among the members . . . a kinship-free community (emphasis in Chang [1962:34]). In point of fact, the prevalent, ilagiit-centered settlement-community form exhibited at Clyde through the Contact-Traditional Period (and during the Exploration-Contact Period?) is denoted by Chang (1962:33) as Siberian in form by virtue of being kinship-bound (again, his emphasis).

The reality at Clyde was that the normative community pattern was that residential association was strongly correlated toward the patrikin weighted extended family (ilagiit) (see Damas 1963, 1969a; Wenzel 1981, 1994). Further, while Guemple (1972:85) generally characterizes eastern Arctic Inuit as practicing what he terms a "practicolocal" pattern of residence (meaning a "tendency to adopt the most convenient course"), he also notes (Guemple 1972:92; see also Service 1968) that Iglulingmiut exhibit a patrilocal bias in residential choice. Indeed, the northern Baffin Island [End Page 17] and Foxe Basin Inuit (Tununirmiut and Iglulingmiut) who moved into the Clyde region, and it seems that the Akudnirmiut living in northern Home Bay, also exhibited this same patriorientation toward community formation.

The one example of composite group or practicolocality at Clyde was Piniraq. However, this example is deceptive as its compositeness was caused by displacement—the Piniraq group mainly consisted of HBC-transported southern Baffin Inuit—rather than being a result of normative structuring.

Outside of the Piniraq case, the only "examples" of compositeness akin to Chang's Eskimo type concern men who, following a period of uxorilocal residence while securing a spouse, chose to attach themselves to their spouse's groups. At least two significant Contact-Traditional examples were elicited from Clyde informants: the marrying-in of Palluq (who was from Igloolik) to Ittutak's group and Appaq, from Cumberland Sound, marrying a daughter of Kautuq. Both men then maintained permanent residence with their respective affinal groups. While these two cases may be examples of practicolocality, especially as little is known about the circumstances that brought each to Clyde, other data suggest that permanent relocations of this kind were unusual.

Information about arranged marriages that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s indicates that the normative pattern was for the prospective groom to reside with his intended bride's group for a period of one to two years, after which the couple would rejoin his family grouping. In fact, in the case of adolescent betrothals, it seems to have been common for the boy's nuclear family to move to the intended bride's community for as much as a year. Thereafter, once the marriage had taken place, the boy's family would depart, with the couple following after another year or so. In no small sense, movement to provide "bride service" (Kjellstrom 1973:98–99) is an aspect of what Whallon (2006) has termed non-utilitarian mobility.

Parenthetically, this pattern of temporary uxorlocality continued among Clyde Inuit until at least the early 1980s and was practiced even when partners both lived in Clyde River. In that circumstance, the couple's first conjoint residence was in the house of the bride's parents.


The preceding material on Clyde Inuit movements and associations in the Exploration-Contact and Contact-Traditional periods is admittedly dense. However Chang's settlement and community broadly conceived typologies by definition require detail. Or, put another way, in the operationalization of generalized typologies, the devil is in the details.

First and foremost, as Chang avows, these data make it clear that settlement and community are not necessarily synonymous and a priori conflation should be avoided. Settlement, whether conceptualized as an inhabited place or as a seasonally regulated complex of related habitation sites, exists as a spatial and temporal phenomenon, while community results from specific social structural and organizational features. The ethnohistoric information about the Contact-Historic Period at Clyde appears to bear out this basic distinction.

These data do, however, also show that settlement and community can, because of normative structural arrangements, be coincident. At Clyde, inclusion seems to have been predicated on patriaffiliation, given that kinship is generally understood to have been the core institution in Inuit society (Damas 1963b; Heinrich 1963), affecting not only individuals' interpersonal relations, but also organizational coherence with respect to virtually all aspects of subsistence (Wenzel 1981, 1995). As such, community, by necessity, meant more than attachment to place. As a socio-cultural conceptualization, at Clyde prior to centralization, community is best thought of as synonymous with local band-ilagiit-winter village, with settlement functionally related to community rather than the reverse.


I am afraid that it is literally impossible for me to individually acknowledge the hundreds of Inuit, most from Clyde River, but also some from Pond Inlet, Pangnirtuuq, Qikiqtaarjuak, and Iqaluit, who over the years provided information that is now part of this paper. Many were elders when I first came to Clyde and are now passed away; many who were youths then (as I was), are now elders. My deepest thanks not only for the information they shared, but also for their graciousness and companionship in Clyde and as we traveled to many of the places noted here. I am also deeply grateful to the families of Aqviqtiuq who allowed me to live with them in the early 1970s. I, of course, am solely responsible for any misunderstanding of the information with which they were so generous.

Thanks also to David Damas and James Savelle, both of whom read tortured early drafts of this material, to Ms. Melanie Poupart for her cartographic skills, and to Susan Kaplan for edi torial patience beyond the call of duty. Without their assistance, this paper would still be in bits and pieces. Last, while many agencies provided support that allowed me to gather much of this information in the course of other research, I must acknowledge the now long defunct Urgent Ethnology [End Page 18] Program of the Canadian Ethnology Service for the dedicated support I received through it for ethno-historical research at Clyde in 1982 and 1983.

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