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Eskimauan Family

 Native American Nations | Linguistic Families                    

  • Eskimaux, Gallatin in Trans. and Coll. Am. Antiq. Soc., II, 9, 305, 1836. Gallatin in Trans. Am. Eth. Soc., II, pt. 1, xcix, 77, 1848. Gallatin in Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, III, 401, 1853.
  • Eskimo, Berghaus (1845), Physik. Atlas, map 17, 1848. Ibid., 1852. Latham, Nat. Hist. Man, 288, 1850 (general remarks on origin and habitat). Buschmann, Spuren der aztek. Sprache, 689, 1859. Latham, El. Comp. Phil., 385, 1862. Bancroft, Nat. Races, III, 562, 574, 1882.
  • Esquimaux, Prichard, Phys. Hist. Mankind, V, 367-371, 1847 (follows Gallatin). Latham in Jour. Eth. Soc. Lond., I, 182-191, 1848. Latham, Opuscula, 266-274, 1860.
  • Eskimo, Dall in Proc. Am. Ass., 266, 1869 (treats of Alaskan Eskimo and Tuski only). Berghaus, Physik. Atlas, map 72, 1887 (excludes the Aleutian).
  • Eskimos, Keane, App. Stanford’s Comp. (Cent. and So. Am.), 460, 1878 (excludes Aleutian).
  • Ounángan, Veniamínoff, Zapíski ob ostrova? Unaláshkinskago otdailo, II, 1, 1840 (Aleutians only).
  • Unu?un, Dall in Cont. N.A. Eth., I, 22, 1877 (Aleuts a division of his Orarian group).
  • Unangan, Berghaus, Physik. Atlas, map 72, 1887.
  • Northern, Scouler in Jour. Roy. Geog. Soc. Lond., XI, 218, 1841 (includes Ugalentzes of present family).
  • Haidah, Scouler, ibid., 224, 1841 (same as his Northern family).
  • Ugaljachmutzi, Gallatin in Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, III, 402, 1853 (lat. 60°, between Prince Williams Sound and Mount St. Elias, perhaps Athapascas).
    Aleuten, Holmberg, Ethnog. Skizzen d. Völker Russ. Am., 1855.
  • Aleutians, Dall in Proc. Am. Ass., 266, 1869. Dall, Alaska and Resources, 374, 1870 (in both places a division of his Orarian family).
  • Aleuts, Keane, App. Stanford’s Comp. (Cent. and So. Am.), 460, 1878 (consist of Unalaskans of mainland and of Fox and Shumagin Ids., with Akkhas of rest of Aleutian Arch.).
  • Aleut, Bancroft, Nat. Races, III, 562, 1882 (two dialects, Unalaska and Atkha).
    72 > Konjagen, Holmberg, Ethnograph. Skizzen Volker Russ. Am., 1855 (Island of Koniag or Kadiak).
  • Orarians, Dall in Proc. Am. Ass., 265, 1869 (group name; includes Innuit, Aleutians, Tuski). Dall, Alaska and Resources, 374, 1870. Dall in Cont. N.A. Eth., 1, 8, 9, 1877.
  • Tinneb, Dall in Proc. Am. Ass., 269, 1869 (includes “Ugalense”).
  • Innuit, Dall in Cont. N.A. Eth., 1, 9, 1877 (“Major group” of Orarians: treats of Alaska Innuit only). Berghaus, Physik. Atlas, map 73, 1887 (excludes the Aleutians).

Derivation: From an Algonkin word eskimantik, “eaters of raw flesh.”

Geographic Distribution
The geographic boundaries of this family were set forth by Gallatin in 1836 with considerable precision, and require comparatively little revision and correction.

In the linear extent of country occupied, the Eskimauan is the most remarkable of the North American linguistic families. It extends coastwise from eastern Greenland to western Alaska and to the extremity of the Aleutian Islands, a distance of considerably more than 5,000 miles. The winter or permanent villages are usually situated on the coast and are frequently at considerable distances from one another, the intervening areas being usually visited in summer for hunting and fishing purposes. The interior is also visited by the Eskimo for the purpose of hunting reindeer and other animals, though they rarely penetrate farther than 50 miles. A narrow strip along the coast, perhaps 30 miles wide, will probably, on the average, represent Eskimo occupancy.

Except upon the Aleutian Islands, the dialects spoken over this vast area are very similar, the unity of dialect thus observable being in marked contrast to the tendency to change exhibited in other linguistic families of North America.

How far north the east coast of Greenland is inhabited by Eskimo is not at present known. In 1823 Capt. Clavering met with two families of Eskimo north of 74° 30'. Recent explorations (1884-’85) by Capt. Holm, of the Danish Navy, along the southeast coast reveal the presence of Eskimo between 65° and 66° north latitude. These Eskimo profess entire ignorance of any inhabitants north of themselves, which may be taken as proof that if there are fiords farther up the coast which are inhabited there has been no intercommunication in recent times at least between these tribes and those to the south. It seems probable that more or less isolated colonies of Eskimo do actually exist along the east coast of Greenland far to the north.

Along the west coast of Greenland, Eskimo occupancy extends to about 74°. This division is separated by a considerable interval of uninhabited coast from the Etah Eskimo who occupy the coast from Smith Sound to Cape York, their most northerly village being in 78° 18'. For our knowledge of these interesting people we are chiefly indebted to Ross and Bessels.

In Grinnell Land, Gen. Greely found indications of permanent Eskimo habitations near Fort Conger, lat. 81° 44'.

On the coast of Labrador the Eskimo reach as far south as Hamilton Inlet, about 55° 30'. Not long since they extended to the Straits of Belle Isle, 50° 30'.

On the east coast of Hudson Bay the Eskimo reach at present nearly to James Bay. According to Dobbs36 in 1744 they extended as far south as east Maine River, or about 52°. The name Notaway (Eskimo) River at the southern end of the bay indicates a former Eskimo extension to that point.

According to Boas and Bessels the most northern Eskimo of the middle group north of Hudson Bay reside on the southern extremity of Ellesmere Land around Jones Sound. Evidences of former occupation of Prince Patrick, Melville, and other of the northern Arctic islands are not lacking, but for some unknown cause, probably a failure of food supply, the Eskimo have migrated thence and the islands are no longer inhabited. In the western part of the central region the coast appears to be uninhabited from the Coppermine River to Cape Bathurst. To the west of the Mackenzie, Herschel Island marks the limit of permanent occupancy by the Mackenzie Eskimo, there being no permanent villages between that island and the settlements at Point Barrow.

The intervening strip of coast is, however, undoubtedly hunted over more or less in summer. The Point Barrow Eskimo do not penetrate far into the interior, but farther to the south the Eskimo reach to the headwaters of the Nunatog and Koyuk Rivers. Only visiting the coast for trading purposes, they occupy an anomalous position among Eskimo.

Eskimo occupancy of the rest of the Alaska coast is practically continuous throughout its whole extent as far to the south and east as the Atna or Copper River, where begin the domains of the Koluschan family. Only in two places do the Indians of the Athapascan family intrude upon Eskimo territory, about Cook’s Inlet, and at the mouth of Copper River.

Owing to the labors of Dall, Petroff, Nelson, Turner, Murdoch, and others we are now pretty well informed as to the distribution of the Eskimo in Alaska.

Nothing is said by Gallatin of the Aleutian Islanders and they were probably not considered by him to be Eskimauan. They are now known to belong to this family, though the Aleutian dialects are unintelligible to the Eskimo proper. Their distribution has been entirely changed since the advent of the Russians and the introduction of the fur trade, and at present they occupy only a very small portion of the islands. Formerly they were much more numerous than at present and extended throughout the chain.

The Eskimauan family is represented in northeast Asia by the Yuit of the Chukchi peninsula, who are to be distinguished from the sedentary Chukchi or the Tuski of authors, the latter being of Asiatic origin. According to Dall the former are comparatively recent arrivals from the American continent, and, like their brethren of America, are confined exclusively to the coast.

Principal Tribes and Villages

Greenland group—East Greenland villages:




West coast villages:




Labrador group:




Middle Group:




Alaska group:




Aleutian group:
Atka. Unalashka.
Asiatic group:

Population.—Only a rough approximation of the population of the Eskimo can be given, since of some of the divisions next to nothing is known. Dall compiles the following estimates of the Alaskan Eskimo from the most reliable figures up to 1885: Of the Northwestern Innuit 3,100 (?), including the Kopagmiut, Kangmaligmiut, Nuwukmiut, Nunatogmiut, Kuagmiut, the Inguhklimiut of Little Diomede Island 40 (?), Shiwokugmiut of St. Lawrence Island 150 (?), the Western Innuit 14,500 (?), the Aleutian Islanders (Unungun) 2,200 (?); total of the Alaskan Innuit, about 20,000.

The Central or Baffin Land Eskimo are estimated by Boas to number about 1,100.37

From figures given by Rink, Packard, and others, the total number of Labrador Eskimo is believed to be about 2,000.

According to Holm (1884-’85) there are about 550 Eskimo on the east coast of Greenland. On the west coast the mission Eskimo numbered 10,122 in 1886, while the northern Greenland Eskimo, the Arctic Highlanders of Ross, number about 200.

Thus throughout the Arctic regions generally there is a total of about 34,000.

Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico, 1891

Linguistic Families


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