Native America

Lost People of the North

There were people in Alaska and Northern Canada before the Inuit and other Eskimos. They are called Tunit and are long gone. But they have left behind a great deal of artifacts. This very old mask is one of them. The following is from Passing Strangeness– a very interesting website. The first hints that there was once an ancient culture in Canada’s north came from the Inuit who have replaced them. Until modern times they used boulder weirs and caribou channels for hunting, and Inuit folklore says they’d been built by another people whom they called the Tunit. The Tunit themselves appeared in some stories as peaceful giants who would interact with the Inuit for a while before leaving or being driven away into the icy wilderness. Many cultures have stories of the people who come before them; the Irish have their Fir Bolg and Tuatha Dé Danann, the Hawaiians their Menehune. In the case of the Inuit, though, the region’s older artifacts suggested there might be something to the story.

The Inuit’s predecessors were proven to be something other than their own ancestors by discoveries at Independence Fjord, in the far northeast corner of Greenland at more than 80°N. The Inuit are known to have migrated into the area sometime around 1300 AD, but the Tunit had been there long before.

Like other native Americans, the Tunit originated in northeast Asia, though they crossed to the Americas long after the two previous bursts of colonization that had filled the continents from Tierra del Fuego to the tree line of Hudson Bay and the Northwest Territories. The high latitude parts of North America were uninhabitable without the right technology, and it was people on the Siberian coast of the Chukchi Sea who first developed it about 3000 BC. Among several other innovations they had the bow and arrow—which didn’t arrive in northeast Asia until after the previous sets of people to colonize the Americas had already left. There’s actually a distinct chance that it was the proto-Tunit who introduced the bow to all other people in the Americas.



  • Chris

    If the Tunit are long gone, so how hold is their mask displayed here and how could a wooden mask like that survive such a lot of time? In what kind of habitat was it found so that it could be preserved from rotting away?

  • Bob Ibold

    I found the pic on the internet, probably Pinterest. I think there are Northern areas where wood and other organic materials can be preserved by the cold and dryness. I’ll bet it’s in a museum now.

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