By Richard J. Diubaldo
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Since the coming of the whalers and the trappings of civilization in 1889, Eskimos of that locality had become extremely dependent on southern goods,19 particularly foodstuffs. In 1906, however, owing to the non-arrival of the supply tenders, the natives were forced to revert to their traditional hunting practices and diet. Stefansson was able to observe them under conditions approaching their "natural" state. It was an exciting opportunity, for living with them was much better from an ethnological point of view than merely living amongst them, as other white men had done.
Although receiving the same pay, the Indian always shirked his duties, whined, and complained even of light work he had to do. Besides, he was frivolous—something the budding explorer could not tolerate. Yet, despite his obvious inadequacies, the Indian remained haughty and aloof when he had no right to be so. "57 They were far from being uncivilized or savage; they had been able to adapt to their relatively hostile environment and to Stefansson "adaptability" along with industry and inventiveness, which the Eskimo displayed, were important hallmarks of progress and civilization.
In the fourteenth century, contact between the European and the native population, the Eskimo, or Skraelinger, increased and this was followed by hostilities, burning, looting, and kidnapping on the part of the Eskimos who were expanding southward. 15 16 CHAPTER TWO It was popularly believed that the remaining Icelandic colony in Greenland eventually had forsaken its true faith and mode of living, and had assimilated with the Skraelinger. 2 At the time, he placed little value on the article, but his later findings in the Canadian north were to be strongly coloured by what he had learned about the mystery of the Greenland colony's disappearance.