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Dawson Daily News Dawson City, Yukon     Saturday, September 16, 1911


Vilhjalmur Stefansson discovers a few race of Arctic people, 1911

    NEW YORK, Sept. 2. - That there is a race of men resembling Scandinavians living in Victoria Land, in Arctic America, who have never seen other white men, and took the white man who discovered them for an Eskimo, is the remarkable statement contained in a letter received in Brooklyn by Herbert L. Bridgeman from the explorer and anthropologist, Vilhymar Stefansson, who has been in the Arctic region for three years or more on an expedition sent out by the American Museum of Natural History. The explorer stated that these far northern Americans have the speech and habits of Eskimos, but are European in features.

    In the finding of the new community Mr. Stefansson believes he has introduced among ethnologists a new problem of great scientific interest. He suggests three possibilities. One is that he has found a new branch of the human family. Another is that these beings may be the descendants of the 3,000 Scandinavians who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from Greenland in the fifteenth century and of whom no trace has ever been found.

    He also suggests that they may be descendants of a large party of Sir John Franklin's men who also mysteriously disappeared.

    Mr. Stefansson left New York city in April, 1908. Until the receipt of his letter, yesterday, he had not been heard of for the last year. With him when he left this city was Dr. R. M. Anderson, of Iowa, who was the naturalist of the expedition, which left here with the intention of learning something definite in relation to the ethnological puzzles of the land north of Hudson bay.

    The expedition has done what it set out to do, Mr. Stefansson writes, and has also found there is no large river in the region, although one is designated on maps as the River la Ronciere. He has learned that a certain cape is an island and that a certain island on the current map is a cape.

    The explorer's letters - there are two of them - were written at the mouth of the Dease river, on the ground covered by Messrs. Richardson and Roe in the Franklin search expedition. The letters, dated October 12, 1910, and November 4, 1910, did not reach a postoffice, as shown by the cancellation marks on the envelope, until July 26, 1911.

    In his first letter Mr. Stefansson says, in part:

    "We left Langton bay, one sled, six dogs, three Eskimos and myself, on Apri1 22, 1910, and headed east along the coast. The stretch to the east of Cape Lyon is a neutral area, which the Western Eskimos have never crossed, nor any Eskimos so far as any one living knows. It was believed to be a starvation country, and it was very difficult to get any Eskimos to go with me, but we found plenty of game; and, although we took along only two weeks' supplies, we never went a day without food till near the end of July - caribou, Barren Ground Grizzlies, polar bears and seals.

    "Twenty days out, or May 31, we found people at Cape Bexley, and a few days later, on the south coast of Victoria Land, we visited the European-like people of whom we had heard at Cape Bexley. Two of the men there had beards much like mine, and mine might be impolitely referred to as red. My Eskimo companions said: 'These are not Eskimo; they are fo's'cle men.' There are about 40 individuals in the group, and there are said to be others like them farther north. I wanted to go farther north, but I had said I was going to the Coppermine, so I went on eastward up the Coppermine. There were people and traces of them here and there.

    "The summer and fall we have spent near the northeast corner of Bear lake with a large party of Eskimo. I was surprised to find they hunt so far inland, and I think geographers will be equally surprised to learn it. They say their ancestors always hunted down to the lake shore on the northeast corner of Bear lake, but always ran away if they saw signs of people, a fact which explains their not having been discovered by any of the numerous parties that have been on the lake."

    In his first letter the explorer states that Dr. Anderson became ill with pneumonia and after an illness of months went back to Herschel island. In his second letter Mr. Stefansson states that he was about to start back for Dr. Anderson, and concludes with a statement that he expects to be back in this city in September, 1911.

    Mr. Bridgman said that he would not be surprised to see the explorer walk in to see him any day now. When he arrives, it is the opinion of Mr. Bridgman Mr. Stefansson will have plenty of data and good photographs of the men, who may possibly be a new race. Such data and pictures as he may have, Mr. Bridgman says, Mr. Stefansson will turn over at once to the Museum of Natural History for further study by scientists.



Notes:

This article has been reproduced as originally published. The title graphic is a scan of a microfilm photocopy of the paper.

The people that Stefansson found, who he later referred to as "Blond Eskimos", are now known as the Haneragmiut, a geographically defined Copper Inuit subgroup in what is now Nunavut. They were the most westerly band of those that hunted in southern Victoria Island. They were generally located on the north shore of Dolphin and Union Strait, north of Cape Bexley, and south of Prince Albert Sound, on Victoria Island. Though they migrated seasonally both north and south for hunting, fishing, and trade, they were unaware that Victoria Island was an island. Seasonally, a few Haneragmiut hunted and traded to the south on the mainland with another Cape Bexley subgroup, the Akuliakattagmiut, while other Haneragmiut migrated as far north as Tahiryuak Lake to hunt caribou with the Kanianermiut.

For more information about the discovery, see:

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