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History

The first ancestors of today's Inuit arrived in Arctic Quebec (Nunavik) approximately 4000 years ago when the ice sheets of the last ice age were retreating from the Hudson's and Ungava Bay coasts. Originating from Siberia, Palaeo-Eskimo people spread across the Canadian arctic following the game they hunted.

Their descendants, the Dorset people, adapted their way of life to the rigorous climate and meagre resources. Archaeologists have discovered oil lamps that date back to that era and were undoubtedly used for heating igloos.

A new wave of immigration from Alaska spread into Canada about 1000 years ago. The Thule Inuit took advantage of a warmer period and prospered by hunting whales in the arctic waters. Their technology and hunting methods gave them an advantage over the previous inhabitants whom they eventually replaced. The last of the Dorset people lived in Nunavik until around 500 years ago. Inuit today still speak of an Inuit super-race. Undoubtedly, they remember one or the other group that once inhabited their land.


The historic period begins 300 years ago. The climate had turned colder and Inuit people had once again adapted their way of life. It is during this period that they met Europeans for the first time. The newcomers provided them with new tools in exchange for skins and small artefacts, thus introducing the concept of trading objects they created in order to obtain what they needed. This practice would, 250 years later, transform itself into a wonderful artistic industry.

In 1948, the Canadian Guild of Crafts organized the first showing of Eskimo sculptures in Montreal. The event received an enthusiastic response from the public and carvings made by previously unknown Nunavik artists all sold within a few hours. The Canadian government soon increased its efforts to encourage artists and to promote this developing art. Inuit cooperatives began to appear in the late 50's and contributed to the promotion of Inuit art. During Expo 67 in Montreal, Inuit artists and their work were featured at the Canadian pavilion and they have enjoyed world-wide acclaim ever since.

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