Understanding Inuit-European contact along the Labrador Coast: a case for continuity

Fay, Amelia E. M. (2016) Understanding Inuit-European contact along the Labrador Coast: a case for continuity. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the effects of an increasing European presence on Labrador Inuit society from the late sixteenth- through early nineteenth centuries. Previous research on this topic has tended to focus on site-specific analyses and often divided the coast into North and South, creating a dichotomy that ignored Inuit mobility and emphasized the arrival and placement of Europeans along the coast. I explore this topic diachronically, highlighting the Inuit response to their changing social landscape by investigating its effects on constructions of gender, status, and prestige within Inuit society. Archaeological data collected from Black Island, Labrador were selected as the focal point for this research as the occupants of this dwelling were noted in a 1776 Moravian census and included Mikak, a Person of National Historical Significance. The data from this site was compared with extant collections from eight other sites (10 houses and 3 middens) spanning over 200 years from various locations along the Labrador coast. Using quantitative and qualitative analyses I compare artifact categories representing both European-made and traditional Inuit materials to explore any significant changes over time or regional differences. Quantitatively these assemblages differ, but not in a uniform pattern, suggesting that access to these items was not limited to a particular region along the coast nor did it differ greatly from the earliest encounters to the established period of intensive contact. The same cannot be said for the qualitative analysis as some sites presented unique and prestigious artifacts in their assemblages. The results of this study show that for roughly 250 years Inuit sites spanning the coast had more in common than previously assumed; perceived changes in their settlement, subsistence, and material culture strategies were not simply reactionary. Instead these changes were part of gradually evolving relationships within their physical, social, and material worlds. I suggest that exploring the nature of Inuit-European contact through a long-term perspective situates these changes and removes the peaks from previous work that highlighted change over continuity and emphasized difference over similarity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/12189
Item ID: 12189
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 263-285).
Keywords: Inuit, Labrador, Contact, Mikak, Continuity
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Archaeology
Date: September 2016
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Newfoundland and Labrador--Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Inuit--Newfoundland and Labrador--Labrador--History; Inuit--First contact with Europeans--Newfoundland and Labrador--Labrador; Inuit--Material culture--Newfoundland and Labrador--Labrador; Labrador (N.L.)--Antiquities

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