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"We Bring Trade Goods... and Infectious Diseases"

In addition to trade goods, Europeans also brought infectious diseases to the Arctic. Never having been exposed to such diseases, the Inuit had no natural immunities. Vaccinations or inoculations were unknown in that time, and thousands died.

The population of the western Canadian Arctic Inuit fell from about 2500 people in 1850, to only 150 by 1910. The eastern Arctic didn't fare much better - one Inuit group on Southampton Island disappeared completely. They caught dysentery from the sailors of a whaling ship.

Picture: Inuit burial site from the time of the epidemics. Graves were difficult to dig in permafrost and driftwood was the only source of wood.

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