Giants: Inuits

Let's continue our journey investigating the giants of the Native People of the North. Today, we are going to talk about the Inuits of Canada and Alaska region.

Not only did these brave and strong people have legends about giants, but giant bones were found there!

Source:  Ivan T. Sanderson, a well-known zoologist and frequent guest on Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW in the 1960s (usually with an exotic animal with a pangolin or a lemur), once related a curious story about a letter he received regarding an engineer who was stationed on the Aleutian island of Shemya during World War II. While building an airstrip, his crew bulldozed a group of hills and discovered under several sedimentary layers what appeared to be human remains. The Alaskan mound was in fact a graveyard of gigantic human remains, consisting of crania and long leg bones.The crania measured from 22 to 24 inches from base to crown. Since an adult skull normally measures about eight inches from back to front, such a large crania would imply an immense size for a normally proportioned human. Furthermore, every skull was said to have been neatly trepanned (a process of cutting a hole in the upper portion of the skull). In fact, the habit of flattening the skull of an infant and forcing it to grow in an elongated shape was a practice used by ancient Peruvians, the Mayas, and the Flathead Indians of Montana. Sanderson tried to gather further proof, eventually receiving a letter from another member of the unit who confirmed the report. The letters both indicated that the Smithsonian Institution had collected the remains, yet nothing else was heard. Sanderson seemed convinced that the Smithsonian Institution had received the bizarre relics, but wondered why they would not release the data. He asks, " it that these people cannot face rewriting all the textbooks?"

Source:  The Dorset culture (also called the Dorset Tradition) was a Paleo-Eskimo culture (500 BCE–1500 CE) that preceded the Inuit culture in Arctic North America. It is named after Cape Dorset in Nunavut, Canada where the first evidence of its existence was found. The culture has been defined as having four phases due to the distinct differences in the technologies relating to hunting and tool making. Artifacts include distinctive triangular end-blades, soapstone lamps, and burins.

The Dorset were first identified as a separate culture in 1925. Archaeology has been critical to adding to knowledge about them because the Dorset were essentially extinct by 1500 due to difficulties in adapting to the Medieval Warm Period. The Thule, who began migrating east from Alaska in the 1000s, began the displacement of the Dorset.

Inuit legends recount them driving away people they called the Tuniit (singular Tuniq) or Sivullirmiut (First Inhabitants). According to legend, the First Inhabitants were "giants", people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit, but who were easily scared off. Scholars now believe the Dorset (potential giants) and the later Thule people (ancestors of Inuit) were the peoples encountered by the Norse who visited the area. The Norse called these indigenous peoples "skræling."

The Inuits called the Dorsets (first people - a term most Natives around the world have for people who were there when their people arrived to the lands) Tuniit.

There is now PROOF that the ancient earlier people coexisted with the Inuit, as the Inuit have said in their legends - 

Source: Inuit call them Tuniit, archeologists call them Dorset, and the legend of the large but extremely shy race of people has dominated Inuit mythology for generations.

"These Tuniit, they're nice people and they're big people, but if someone talks about them or if you say bad words to them, they'll come after you or tell you to leave," Avalak said.

"I'm not much of a Tuniit (expert) myself, so that's a story I heard."

While Inuit stories clearly state the Tuniit and Inuit existed in the same place at the same time, archeologists were not so sure, University of Toronto archaeologist Max Friesen said.

"A huge and controversial and sort of major issue in the whole Arctic past is whether the two actually did meet," Friesen said.

Now, Friesen and his team have used radiocarbon dating to prove to the scientific community what Inuit say they have known all along -- that the Tuniit and Inuit may have crossed paths as they existed during the same time in history.

While archaeologists knew the Tuniit lived in the Arctic from about 2500 BC, the new radiocarbon data shows they existed in the Cambridge Bay area until around 1350 AD.

It is interesting to note that the "skraelings" that the Norse and Icelanders reported in the New World and Greenland around 900 to 1000 AD were considered to be the thule people by many - the proto-Inuits. The Thule; however, did not arrive in the region until 1200 AD and later (source). But, now that there is a new time for the Tuniits (Dorset) up to 1350 AD at least, well, it seems that the skraelings were, indeed, these unusual folks. 


For an area that was so very nasty cold and forbidding, it seems the north country attracted a lot of giants, whose very coloring may denote an adaptation to the lack of light. Kennwicke man of Washington State showed that even the Ainu had come across from Japan up to Siberia to Alaska and even down to the Continental US. We know of several other cultures that were early in the region. The legends of the giants and the findings of a culture that scared the Norse and even had oil lamps in the years of 900 to 1000 AD and likely before, says that there was a well-established culture here before the "Native" people even arrived.