24. Kayaks and Chaloupes: Labrador Inuit and the Seascapes of Inter‐Cultural Contact
By the 16th century the Inuit had colonized much of the Labrador coast. In southern Labrador Inuit had access to plentiful marine resources, but they were also drawn to this region by the seasonal presence of Basque and French fishers and whalers with whom they traded and raided for a variety of European commodities. What began as opportunistic exchanges soon developed into an increasingly elaborate seasonal venture which had to be worked into their seasonal round. By the 18th century such trade was a substantial marine venture. Inuit produced and prepared surplus marine products such as baleen, sea mammal furs and oils which they exchanged for commodities such as iron, ceramics and if possible, boats. Goods were transported to and from communities along the Labrador coast by sea, and much of the trading (and raiding) took place aboard European vessels. This intensive annual trading cycle ultimately permeated the lives of Inuit throughout Labrador who largely organized themselves to participate in this new global economy. This paper explores how this marine‐based economy impacted the lives of the Inuit in southern Labrador affecting their daily life, settlement structure, group identity, and relations to other Inuit communities in northern Labrador, while drawing on long‐term traditions.