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Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic and subarctic regions of Greenland, Labrador, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska. Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo–Aleut languages, also known as Inuit-Yupik-Unangan, and also as Eskaleut. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate used in Nunavut
Inuit live throughout most of Northern Canada in the territory of Nunavut, Nunavik in the northern third of province of Quebec, Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut in Labrador, and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean, in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. [note 1] With the exception of NunatuKavut, these areas are known, primarily by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as Inuit Nunangat.In Canada, sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 classify Inuit as a distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians who are not included under either the First Nations or the Métis.
Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule people, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE. They had split from the related Aleut group about 4000 years ago and from northeastern Siberian migrants. They spread eastward across the Arctic.They displaced the related Dorset culture, called the Tuniit in Inuktitut, which was the last major Paleo-Eskimo culture.
Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as "giants", people who were taller and stronger than Inuit. Less frequently, the legends refer to the Dorset as "dwarfs". Researchers believe that Inuit society had advantages by having adapted to using dogs as transport animals, and developing larger weapons and other technologies superior to those of the Dorset culture. By 1100 CE, Inuit migrants had reached west Greenland, where they settled. During the 12th century, they also settled in East Greenland.
Faced with population pressures from the Thule and other surrounding groups, such as the Algonquian and Siouan-speaking peoples to the south, the Tuniit gradually receded. The Tuniit were thought to have become completely extinct as a people by about 1400 or 1500. But, in the mid-1950s, researcher Henry B. Collins determined that based on the ruins found at Native Point, on Southampton Island, the Sadlermiut were likely the last remnants of the Dorset culture, or Tuniit. The Sadlermiut population survived up until winter 1902–1903 when exposure to new infectious diseases brought by contact with Europeans led to their extinction as a people.