SEA-GOING SKIN BOATS AND OCEANIC EXPANSION:
The Voyages of the Whale Hunters
Synopsis: In the far north, where trees were small,
it was only possible to make small one-person dugouts (like the Khanti
still have). The "Kunda" culture of the Baltic, which - as determined
from the large
harpoons that have been found - hunted in the sea, was able to make
large seaworthy dugouts as their north-south seasonal migrations in the
Baltic, allowed them to find the required large trees needed. But when
some of them moved north towards the White and Arctic Seas, only small
dugouts were possible and seaworthy vessels with high walls had to be
made in another way. The skin boat I believe developed in the arctic
where the established traditional dugout could not be made large enough
for use in the open sea.. My theory is that the inspiration for the
boat made of skin on a frame began when someone mistakened a swimming
moose for a floating log, and that inspired an attempt to make a moose
carcass into a boat. That introduced the principle of using ribs to
hold the skin. Over time the priniciple was refined and large boats
were developed from sewing skins together; but the source of the skins
continued to be honoured by the moosehead (now possibly carved) on the
prow. These new large skin boats could be used to hunt whales,
and rock carvings near the White Sea and Lake Onega are testimony to
whale hunting about 6000 years ago. Interestingly the Greenland
Inuit appear to have been hunting whales from their large skin
boats - although now made of different skins - not long ago, as shown
in an illustration in an 18th century book. Whale hunters,
lacking any fear of the open water, and accustomed to travelling long
distances and even following whales, were the instrument for the
expansion of boat peoples by sea beyond their origins in northern
Europe. The currents of the North Atlantic suggest the North
Atlantic was crossed easily and the "Dorset" culture became established
when a tribe became established in the current routes of the sea east
of Labrador. The connection between Finnic languages of the
region south of the White Sea, and any other people with whaling in
their traditions, can be seen in language comparisons. Although not
close enough to permit comparative linguistic analysis, comparing the
Inuit language with Estonian/Finnish presents similarlities in many
fundamental words . But skin boats ventured south as well, and produced
such crafts as the birch bark canoe (skin boat using birch bark as
skin), and the Pictish skin boat later made of ox hides when the walrus
of the northern British Isles were extinct. They also circled the
arctic waters (a relatively small distance if you view it on an actual
globe and not on a map that stretches the north and south regions.) and
descended down Pacific coasts as well.
Introduction : From Dugouts to Skin Boats
WHEN INVENTIONS COME INTO USE
The theory of the expansion of Boat Peoples from the
watery lands south of the Ice Age glaciers ( THE ORIGINS AND EXPANSIONS
OF BOAT-ORIENTED WAYS OF LIFE : Basic Introduction to the Theory
), proposes that the first boats arose from logs developed to hold
people - the dugout canoe. Archeologists have not found very many
canoes since most have rotted away. But a few have been found
from Britain to the east Baltic -
or parts of them - preserved in bogs. But, archeologically
speaking, the greatest testimony to
the originating and expanding of a dugout boat people are adzes. Stone
adzes have been found from Britain to the Urals, suggesting a
successful culture developed in the vicinity of Denmark (where
archeologists found the first evidence of it in the "Maglemose"
culture, found in a Danish bog).
Unfortunately archeologists and other scholars have
failed to adequately appreciate what great development took place when
a prehistoric people developed a new way of life involving dugouts
boats/canoes. They assume that any people anywhere can
decide to build a boat and suddenly create a way of life involving them.
Even our modern
experience can tell this is not true. Who today can build a sleek
dugout without actually having a master show us or at least a
complete set of instructions. Those who have attempted without
instruction and from only the concept, can
only manage a crude trenched log. But even before ANYONE had created a
dugout, how would an inventor even know what was needed? If humans have
never before glided in a water vehicle, how would they know that this
would be useful? How would they know that this new method of getting
around will give them greater success than the original method of
creating paths and walking?
It is important to bear in mind that if
some invention is not yet in use, it cannot come into use
immediately just because a human can think of it.
Human ingenuity can
invent something to solve an immediate task, and even invent something
exotic for entertainment, but inventions that shape an entire way of
life take a long time to evolve. A good example today is the
automobile. The automobile could not have come into existence, had it
not been for precedents in earlier vehicles drawn by horses. The
automobile simply replaced the horse with an engine.
even the use of a horse to pull wagons and carriages took a long time
to develop. Even though
humans were entertaining themselves by jumping on the backs of horses
for sport from the moment they investigated the animals, it probably
took 1000 years for conditions to push societies to develop the horse
into the fabric of society. Similarly other beasts of burden like oxen,
also took some time to become adopted into practical uses. Ironically,
America certainly had animals that could have been similarly
domesticated - bison domesticated to pull wagons, or the riding of a
large animal like a moose - but it never developed. And yet, within a
couple of generations after the Plains Indians saw the Spaniards riding
horses, they were suddenly riding horses. WHile it takes a long time
for a new innovation and its integrated use in a society to
develop, once it has reached maturity then other people can immediately
adopt it. The motivation to do so is only partly its practical benefit,
but because humans are social creatures and will imiate anything that
seems popular and valuable in another society.(We need only note how
fast the cellphone has been established in the modern world, including
third world countries where the cellphone users are still living in
Thus, an automobile could
not have developed without the
conditions created in the Victorian era, of cities in which everyone
moved from place to place in horse-drawn buggies, wagons, and
carriages - institiutions centuries in the making. But after the
automobile was invented, every nation in the
world could now imitate it, and even manufacture automobiles and become
world leaders, overtaking even the nations in which the automobiles
came into first use.
Thus, applying the theory to the
evolution of a boat-oriented way of life: obviously humans had always
been able to create boat-like toys from floating bowls in water, and
even creating huge boat-like bowls and having a child play around with
it in water games. Obviously too whenever ancient tribes found their
way blocked by a river or a lake, they were intelligent enough to put
together some sort of raft to cross it. The issue is not in human
ingenuity. The issue is in the development of an entire way of life
revolving around transportation and hunting using a boat, instead of
the traditional ways travelling on foot. If it had never existed
before; if humans have previously only hunted and travelled on foot;
then doing these things with a boat required a major evolution, perhaps
as elaborate as our long evolution today towards the automobile,
starting with the horsedrawn wagon, nay-- starting with harnessing the
power of a horse!.
The development of a boat-using
way of life thus had to go through many trial and error developments,
and human need and circumstances judged which choices were better and
which were worse
(Tribes that adopted the better ways were more successful, had more
children, and also found rival tribes copying their methods.
Evolution itself selected the good choices!)
NEED FOR PRECEDENTS
One interesting observation
inventions that are not toys but become part of the way of life of a
human society, is that every new development needs to be founded on an
old one, because too dramatic a development throws the operation of
that way of life into chaos.. Early automobilies for example had to be
built on top of the existing institutions of the
horse-and-carriage, The first automobiles had to still look like
carriages, except powered by engines not horses. That would not disrupt
society's operation (other than putting liveries out of work, but then,
the liveries turned into automobile repair facilities.) It is clear
that change cannot be dramatic. If someone had
produced an automobile that looked like a modern automobile right away,
the public would not have been able to relate to it. But the "horseless
carriage" was wonderful. It was still the familiar carriage, but it did
not need a horse to pull it.
The evolution of the boat had to proceed in a
similar way. It had to slightly improve something already established.
If someone produced the skin-covered frame boat right away, people
would not have been able to understand it. A new development
could not be dramatic. Real developments in society proceed
slowly, step by step.
I have already discussed in the main article THE ORIGINS AND EXPANSIONS
OF BOAT-ORIENTED WAYS OF LIFE : Basic Introduction to the Theory)
how since a way of life on the water is so foreign to human nature it
required a long period of pressures for it to develop. The
circumstances which caused the development were all there in the late
Ice Age, when the climate was warming and the meltwater from the
glacier flooded the lands formerly holding reindeer herds on a frozen
tundra in the North European Plain.
It is easy to imagine that the stranded reindeer
hunters, no longer able to hunt reindeer, turned first to other large
animals such as the moose - a large animal that is comfortable in
marshes. It is interesting that Estonian uses the word põder for the moose while FInns use
the parallel word poro
for reindeer. This suggests that where the reindeer
disappeared, the word for reindeer was transferred to the moose, but
where both the reindeer and the moose were found, the noose could not
acquire the word for reindeer. In Finnish, the word for 'moose' (in
Britain 'elk') is hirvi.
In hunting the moose and other large animals, the
early hunters (about 10,000 years ago) would encounter rivers and
marshes, and had to improvise rafts to get across. Perhaps they
straddled a log and paddled across on it.
After a time, someone decided to paddle across while
trying to keep their feet out of the water. Why not make a cavity in
Once there was a cavity in the log, the hunter
gained the ability to go after water animals directly from the crude
boat. For example fishing or hunting wildfowl, not to mention
collecting edible water plants, was now easy.
The canoe, thus fostered a change towards hunting
and collecting foods connected to the flooded lands - and if the lands
were mostly flooded, it would have been teeming with water plants and
animals! In turn, changes to the dugout boat, and its use,
altered the way of life as well.
Then the hole was made more
comfortable, and larger, to hold more than one man. Then someone
discovered that making the outside more streamlined allowed it to
Each change was then tested in actual practice. The clans and tribes
that had the better developments in both the vehicle and its use, had
more children than those who has made poorer developments. Thus it was
evolution itself that decided, from greater success and population
growth, that developments would constantly move in the more beneficial
Eventually the log turned into a dugout with a
streamlined shape and thin walls (to be light enought to carry). Such
sleek dugouts are still made and used by the Khanti of the Ob River in
Siberia, althought they can only make small single-man versions on
account there are no large trees in their northern environment.
The Khanti method of making the dugout is probably thousands of years
old. The method involved using fire to make the cavity. The stone adze
was not used to chop the wood, but to chop away coals in the direction
in which the maker wanted the fire to proceed. Fire is halted when
there is a buildup of coals. In the 1980's filmmaker Lennart Meri
documented the making of a dugout in a Khanti campsite on a branch of
the Ob River. The Khanti dugout, used by one man in the fashion of a
kayak, was limited in size by the limits in the size of trees in their
The first dugouts, those
associated with the archeological "Maglemose" culture, were designed
for dealing with the marshy landscape from the region now the Jutland
Peninsula and southern Sweden, east along the south Baltic coast (the
Oder River basin) to the southeast Baltic. These people had no need nor
desire to venture out into the waves of the Baltic. Humans did not
develop in uncomfortable directions unless circumstances forced them,
or circumstances benefited them beyond their sense of discomfort.
to "Kunda" Culture: From Marshes to Seas
Archeologist Richard Indreko discovered in the early
1900's on a hill (that was originally an island) at Kunda in northeast
Estonia, evidence of a campsite of boat peoples who were obviously
venturing out into the open sea. We know they were dugout users,
because archeologists found large adzes. But their large harpoons
clearly suggested they were hunting large sea animals like seals or
From the "Kunda"
archeological finds, the image at right shows a large harpoon and an
adze head -used for hollowing a log for a dugout with the help of fire.
To hunt seals and larger sea animals required
venturing out into the waves of the sea, and that required larger
dugouts with high prows. These people had to look for the largest
trees they could find - giant trees a meter or more in
diameter. In Estonia in the last centuries, large oaks are
celebrated. They had names. I think the tradition of celebrating oaks
began millenia ago, when a tribe would identify oaks that looked like
they had potential of becoming very large, and suitable for making into
a large dugout. Since such a tree takes a many generations to grow to
the appropriate size, it was necessary for a tribe to designate a tree
for making into a dugout already many generations ahead of time. As the
world turned towards making boats with planks, the purpose of reverence
for trees destined for large dugouts was forgotten.
But why did the "Maglemose" culture become seagoing
when it expanded up the east Baltic coast. I think it is because of the
prevailing winds. The winds came from the northwest, and large
waves were always crashing onto the east Baltic coasts. While boats
could find calm in the less of islands, when they crossed waters
roughened by the forces of the prevailing wind, the going was rough. It
was natural for the people to make larger and larger dugouts. At the
same time crashing waves tended to produce barren rock islands out in
the sea which could have been the resting places of herds of seals.
Perhaps there were beluga whales as well.
Thus the "Kunda" culture was fostered by a
combination of the attraction of the large sea mammals, and necessity
of dealing with prevailing winds. These people probably travelled
up and down the coastal water, camping on islands.
The "Kunda" seagoing dugout of about 6000BC,
was a successful one, and its users no doubt expanded into Lake Lagoda
and Lake Onega too. The land was still depressed from the former weight
of the glaciers, and it was probably possible to ride a boat from
the Baltic Sea area to the White Sea.
It is easy to imagine that once the large dugouts
had developed, with population growth, the "Kunda" culture tribe broke
apart from time to time, with a portion leaving the parental
territories in search of new territories of a similar nature in the sea
Archeology has found the remains of a large dugout
in the Jutland Penisula area. This dugout had a place for a torch and
is thought to have been used to harvest eels at night. We cannot tell
if the eel hunters came from the "Kunda" culture, or developed
independently out of the "Maglemose" culture, similarly drawn out into
the sea by opportunities.
Eventually large dugouts were common in the Baltic
Sea. Archeological finds suggest that the standard large dugout
of the east Baltic was large enough for three pairs of rowers and one
helmsman, totalling seven men. If the boat had to carry cargo, the
cargo was placed in the middle, and two rowers were removed, leaving
five. It is interesting that Estonian and Finnish remembers this in
their numerals. (Using the Estonian version) the word for 7 is seitse, but that resonates
with sõiduse 'of the
riding, voyaging' and 5 is viis,
which resonates with viise
'of the carrying'. Because both Estonian and Finnish have it, this must
be millenia old.
The breakaways from the "Kunda" culture had to
travel to find new territories with the same sea animals. The
seas were higher than they are now (or rather the lands were lower, not
having rebounded yet from the pressure of the Ice Age glaciers.) and
the Gulf of Finland, Lake Lagoda, Lake Onega, and even White Sea were
We do not know where the sea-hunters went, as it is
difficult to find the traces of highly mobile boat peoples in lands
that were mostly islands in a flooded landscape. The best
evidence comes from carvings made on rocks at Lake Onega, the White
Sea, and in places across arctic Scandinavia.
These migrating tribes had no problem finding the
sea animals. The real problem was in finding trees large enough for
seagoing dugouts. The further north they went the smaller the trees
were. Like today's Khanti. they could only make small single person
dugouts. Either they had to make long journeys southward to find large
trees to make new dugouts as the old ones degenerated, or they had to
find a new way to make boats large enough to handle the waves of the
I believe the solution was found in what I would
call the "dugout moose".
Moose are large animals that can cross large bodies
of water, and will do so as long as they can see the opposite side. A
swimming moose would seem like a very large moving log. I believe it
inspired the idea of using a moose carcass to make a boat.
The rock carvings of Lake Onega, north
to the White Sea, and across the European arctic to the coasts of
arctic Norway show a very interesting boat. The simplest and smallest
one shows a moosehead on its prow, and it holds no more than three men.
When comparing the scale of people versus the size of the head on the
prow, it is clear that what they have done is in fact created a "dugout
moose". They have taken a moose carcass, slit it open along its back,
and removed everything other than the skeleton. To retain its shape,
they have simply used
the same principle as the moose itself has to hold its shape -
ribs. It is possible that the earliest and simplest "dugout moose"
retained the moose's own ribcage. I can easily see them using the
moose's own skeleton - adding wood pieces to give it an appropriate
shape. Then using fire - just
like in the creation of a dugout - to dry and preserve the inside. The
final result is a boat which is a dugout moose mummified and hardened
by drying with fire. The resulting boat offered a very high prow
that could handle high waves.
This, I believe, was the beginning of all the
subsequent boats that have ever been built - up to the oceanliners of
modern day - based on the principle of putting a skin on a frame. The
greatest oceanliner on earth starts 6000 years ago with a moose
swimming across a lake and being initially mistakened for a floating
The "dugout moose" was just the beginning. As the
rock carvings also show, pieces of skin
could be sewn together, and more frame added, in order to create a long
boat capable of holding 20-50 people. See the story of the
development of the skin boat from dugout precedents in the below
THE EVOLUTION OF THE
SKIN BOAT FROM THE
Theory by Andres Paabo
The concept of the original boat did not involve
frames and skins.
All boats were dugout logs. The dugout is still made by
the Khanti of
the Ob (image at right is from a Lennart Meri film produced in Estonia
in the 80's) However this dugout is small because at the northern edge
of the forest zone, the trees are too small to make large seaworthy
A small dugout like the one of the Khanti is seen in the
in the rock carving from arctic Norway, dated to some 6000 years ago.
But this small dugout was not adequate for dealing with the high waves
of the ocean, The image below it show the skin boat made from moose
hide, the moose head represented on the prow.
ALGONQUIAN ROCK PAINTING
is interesting that the single person dugout is
also seen in Canadian rock carvings (image to left from book by
Dewdney), helping argue that the people who crossed the
Atlantic with skin boats retained knowledge of creating the small
river-dugout. While some may say that the image shown to the left is
a birchbark canoe, I disagree. Dugouts were very slim because
it was not possible to build up the sides . Birchbark canoes actually
were derived from skin boats. They were skin boats using birchbark skin
instead of animal
Boat people who wanted to harvest the arctic,
therefore could not use
the slim dugouts made from the small northern trees. They had to
develop something new. My theory is that it began with someone's idea
of trying to make a dugout from a dead moose carcass.
LAKE ONEGA ROCK CARVINGS
Lake Onega rock carvings present several examples showing the
moose skin boat being used in sea-hunting. Allowing for some
variation by the artist, the scale of the moose head is
generally of natural size, when compared with the size of the two or
three people inside.
THE MOOSE AS A BOAT
skin-on-frame boats of the world owe their origins to this
beginning, which I believe began with applying the concept of the
dugout to a moose carcass. The idea may have begun with someone seeing
a moose swimming and initially thinking it was a large floating log.
Coming close they discover it is a moose; however the idea of making a
large boat was already planted in their mind and they wondered if a
boat could be made from it. In the beginning the idea of a skin on a
frame did not exist. It was born when the concept of the moose's ribs
was employed to hold the skin in shape.
Note that the
moose has a massive body giving a great deal of skin that can
stretched to create a boat large enough to hold three men.
Since the moose (shown above) is a forest
zone animal, the use of the moose meant that its users did not remain
in the arctic, but migrated between the arctic coast and forested
regions. It is interesting that the Lake Onega carvings show
no images of moose with antlers. Since males grow antlers in summer and
shed them in fall, it follows that the Lake Onega people were in the
Lake Onega area only in winter-spring. They then left for the arctic,
perhaps going as far as Alta, and did not experience the moose with
antlers. The Alta rock carvings also show boats with reindeer heads. It
suggests that those people who DID stay in the arctic, and did not
return south, used the reindeer as a substitute, sewing many skins
together. (See SOUTHWARD
MIGRATIONS OF CIRCUMPOLAR SKIN BOAT PEOPLES: Looking at Picts,
Algonquians, amd Pacific Coast tribes for more on the Alta rock
carvings of northern Norway)
The next step was of course the enlarging of this
boat, to hold many
more people. The obvious way to enlarge it was to simply sew skins
together and make it longer. The following images compares a rock
carving of a large boat at Lake Onega, with a typical UMIAK of the
Alaskan Inuit. The umiak shown was made of walrus skins, but it gives
an idea of size. Walrus skin was discovered to be a better
skin than reindeer skim, for those peoples who stayed in the arctic and
not descend south in winter to the forested regions where moose were
Rock Carvings Showing Whale Hunting in
the White Sea as Early as 5000-6000 Years Ago
DEVELOPMENT OF WHALING
The skin boat was designed to deal with the
high waves of the open sea. By lengthening the boat it could hold more
people, and a large boat with many people was needed to catch the
ultimate of sea creatures - the whale.
Lake Onega large boat, obviously made of skins on a frame. The moose
head, perhaps now carved of wood instead of a mummified real head is
seen at the front. At the front of this image we see what is
pobably a seal.
The arctic boat people who developed whale
hunting, not only created large boats, but their quest for whales took
them far into the sea, as they searched for whales. Only those sea
people willing to take on whales
would ride the open sea as boldly as the whales themselves. These
people would have travelled from the White Sea region, both eastward
and westward along the arctic coasts. They would have found whales
congregating at Greenland, and travelling up and down the east coast of
North America. There were whales, seals, and walrus as well to be found
in arctic North America. If these people reached the Pacific, they
would also have found whales, and come south along both Pacific coasts.
There is no question that
highly developed methods of whale hunting existed as early as 5000-6000
years ago, because they are shown in carvings dated to about that time.
The most amazing rock picture is the one shown below (presented here
intepreted in black and white, with the whale hunting event set appart
from other elements around it for clarity.)
hunting from moose-skin
boats, probably on the White Sea (in today's arctic Russia,
north of Lake Onega). This image is developed from reproductions from
rock carvings that have been dated to between 5000-6000 years ago.
(Light grey restores missing, worn, sections)
The above illustration is very surprising, because
it first of all proves that the large boat shown in the Lake Onega rock
carvings is not some kind of fantasy boat, as early archeologists said.
It really existed. This illustration does not show anything imaginary.
It shows the same activity as witnessed in the 18th century and
recorded in the following illustration. Note especially the small boats
accompanyng the large one. Apparently when the whale was entrapped, an
individual in a small boat would go to the eye of the whale and speak
to it, gain approval and willingness to give up its life.
There is no question that the Greenland Inuit continued a practice that
began some 5000-6000 years earlier, probably at the White Sea with
earlier precedents with smaller whales perhaps in the "Kunda" culture.
(How else would you explain the large harpoons of the "Kunda" culture?)
The Illustration of the Greenland Inuit shows only one large boat in
the foreground, but I think that is purely artistic liberty. The artist
sought to show everything in one image. The important part of the
illustration is that there are three large boats in the background, a
total of four boats. Each boat probably represents a clan. A tribe
consisted of several clans. For most of the year, each clan travelled
by themselves in their own territories, but the clans came together
once a year to carry out activities that were better done collectively.
It happens that whales congregate off the shore of Greenland.
The lack of a head on the prow of the skin boats,
may have two reasons, First the skins may have been made from whale
skins (???). Secondly, I believe the skins were removed from the frames
and used for shelters like we seem to find on the island to the left.
(See EXPLAINING LONGHOUSE
"FOUNDATIONS" ON LABRADOR COAST for a more detailed
'Eskimo' clans meeting to hunt whales
de histoire naturelle du Groenland, by Hans Egede, tr.
D.R.D.P. Copenhagen and Geneva, Frere Philibert (This image derived
First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from earliest times
by O. P. Dickason, Toronto, 1992)
As discussed in PART ONE: THE
ORIGINS AND EXPANSIONS
OF BOAT-ORIENTED WAYS OF LIFE : Basic Introduction to the Theory
aboriginal peoples, whether in the interior or on the seas, did not
wander aimlessly, but established annual rounds, visiting the same
campsites again and again every year, and each tribe established this
round and the harvesting sites as their 'territory'. Since the
boats were mainly paddled and not dependent on wind, their annual
rounds would have been defined by oceans currents. The map below, shows
the currents of the North Atlantic and how we are able to identify
Map shows ocean currents
of the North
Atlantic and some of the names mentioned in this text. The names in
quotes represent archeological "cultures". ALTA and ONEGA name two
major locations of rock carvings showing boats, dating to 6000 years
ago. The letters A, B, C show areas where currents loop around. Since
early boats were not particularly wind-driven, they would have been
oriented to currents, and each of these loops could have defined a
tribe undertaking migrations that may have lasted many years before
returning to the same place.
Whale hunting tribal territories would have
developed according to the behaviour of whales and not just ocean
currents (What point are currents if they don't take boats to the
hunting/fishing places?). Whales migrated up and
down Atlantic coasts, both on the European side and the American
side. Obviously tribes on one side would in the long run diverge
from those on the other side, as a result of reduced contact. When the
whale hunting culture reached the Pacific, it would also have descended
down the Pacific coast, that also has whale migrations. They could have
descended as far south as California, since whales did. If you are a
whale hunter, would you not wonder where they went, and try to follow
While whales and the search
for large sea animals in general, like also seals and walrus, may have
been the original reason for boldly venturing into the open sea (quite
scarey until one is used to it), once there, the sea-going hunters also
had access to new places to fish, and that would have caused the
culture to flourish and expand in some places, even without whales.
The Arctic Sea-People of North
America and Greenland - the "Thule" and "Dorset" Archeological Cultures
'OWNERSHIP' OF WILD ANIMAL HERDS
Hunting peoples became closely tied to the animals
they hunted. They did not wander at random and hunt whatever they
encountered. Those who hunted and gathered in the forests and marshes
did not think so much about owning the animals as in terms of owning
the rights to hunt at particular sites as defined by their annual
However hunters of large herding animals defined
their territory in terms of a particular herd. Long before
domestication, the hunters of the herds thought of
themselves as 'owners' of those herds, and they both endeavoured to
foster the herd's health as well as defend them against foreign
In the late Ice Age, the reindeer hunter tribes of
the North European
Plain would have stayed with the same herd generation after
generation. Their sense of territory was that herd, not the
Each tribe respected the herd of the other tribe. There is no question
that something similar occurred with tribes that hunted horse and bison
This pattern can be extended to whale hunters. A
tribe would consider themselves 'owners' of a particular pod of
The whales migrated up and down the coasts of the
continents. Thus one
tribe would be associated with whale migrations up and down the North
American coast and another associated with whale migrations up and down
the European coast. When the whale-harvesting culture reached the
Pacific, then tribes would be formed there too, establishing
their tribal territory to particular whale migrations. Whaling was of
course difficult, so more realistically, most of the year was probably
spent harvesting smaller mammals like walrus and seals, reserving the
whale hunt for the time when all the clans of a tribe congregated and
socialized - ideally annually - at one special location.
CULTURES OF THE ARCTIC
Archeologists say that the Inuit of northern North
America and Greenland, originated from the archeological "Thule"
culture, which expanded rapidly west-to-east (in 500 years!) from
northern Alaska. The name "Thule" has no relationship to the historic
Thule of Pytheas which is
believed to refer to Iceland. The new culture, the new
technology, seemed to displace a former "Dorset" culture in the north.
The "Dorset" culture had arrived much earlier from the Greenland side,
beginning as early as 3000BC (5000 BP) about the time of the making of
carvings of seagoing skin boats.
Note that archeology
defines culture by artifacts. The replacement of "Dorest" with "Thule",
only means that a new set of tools and practices travelled east from
Alaska. It does not necessarily mean a massive migration of "Thule"
people. The new ways could have spread through contact, intermarriage
with minimal genetic replacement. Realistically it was both.
We know that about the
time of the Norse landings on North America there was a climatic
warming that led to Norse establishing farms on the Greenland coast.
Within a few centuries the climate cooled again and those farming
settlements were abandoned. During this warming spell, passages between
the arctic islands, normally blocked by ice could have been free of
ice, offering easy passage to seagoing tribes (ie carrying the "Thule"
culture) on the west side. To be specific, McClure Strait-Viscount
Melville Sound, Barrow Strait, could have had ice-free passages
easy to follow in skin boats. It is believed there was a similar
climatic warming at the start of the modern era ( ie after 0AD). The
"Thule" culture could have originated from the earlier "Dorset" culture
at an earlier time moving in the other direction (east to west) when
water passage was easy. Now the cousins were returning.
solution is that the "Thule" and Pacific whaling cultures originated
from whalers who migrated eastward from the White Sea over top of
Siberia, which may have occurred anyway, since real events are not
always simple ones, in spire of scholars wanting to simplify the
past. I tend to think the expansion of arctic seagoing people was
east-to-west for one simple reason - the Tamir Penisula sticks up
towards the north pole and even today for most of the year passing it
is blocked by sea ice.)
BEST INTERPRETATION OF THE REPLACEMENT OF "DORSET" CULTURE WITH "THULE"
Thus, while it is imagined that in the relationship
between "Thule" and "Dorset" one people conquered the other,
it would have been at best a passive conquest - the ones with the
better tools and technique being naturally stronger and more
successful. While we can picture angry words and skirmishes between
those with the "Thule" culture and those of the previous "Dorset"
culture over hunting territories, we should not assume that the one
killed off the other.
Successful "Thule" technology would have been adopted by the original
peoples, the "Dorset", once they saw it, in much the same way as the
arctic peoples in modern times quickly adopted rifles and now
snowmobiles. Thus perhaps there is territorial conflict only in some
instances, and soon, after a few generations, the best of both cultures
merge into a new culture. In other words what is today called "Inuit"
is probably a combination of the best of "Thule" and "Dorset"
practices. Both cultures, obviously had to have been similar
to begin with, since both were seagoing cultures, originating
from the same circumpolar expansion of whale-hunters.
Today all the 'Eskimo' culture across
arctic North America is assumed to be from the "Thule" culture,
and is given the name "Inuit", but in truth, we do not have any way of
knowing to what extent the resulting Inuit culture of the North
American arctic, from Alaska to Greenland, contains elements of the
earlier archeological "Dorset" culture of people known by the Inuit
sense would suggest that the resulting
culture in the east around Greenland retained more "Dorset" elements,
while the culture in the west, near Alaska remained purely "Thule".
Also, is the modern Inuit language closer to the language of the
"Thule" or the "Dorset"? Or where they essentially of the same
circumpolar culture, differing only dialectically. Thus, for example,
it is possible that the "Thule" and "Dorset" culture already spoke
similar language, and both called themselves by a word like INNU, so
that when the two mingled, they quickly merged, after some generations
of intermarriage, into one "Inuit". One possibility is that the
Algonquian Native nations of the northeast quadrant of North America
originated from "Dorset" peoples pushed south along the Labrador coast,
and then after a time expanding inland up the rivers. In Quebec
the Montgnais and Churchill River Algonquians called themselves "Innu".
This fact tends to affirm that the "Dorset" people called themselves
Supporting the possibility that the difference
between "Dorset" and "Thule" culture may have been largely in their
material culture that archeology is finding and that their ethnicity
was similar, is the fact that
modern Greenland 'Eskimos' have legends that link them to the east
towards arctic Europe, not to the west. Greenland 'Eskimos' insist
without question they came from the east. Since archeology shows the
"Dorset" culture expanded east-to-west, it means the Greenland
'Eskimo' memory is related more to the "Dorset" culture, and further
east to arctic Europe. This makes sense because Greenland is the most
easterly of the 'Eskimo' peoples. More "Dorset" cultural descendants
would be found among the Greenland 'Eskimo' than Inuit of arctic
OF ARCHEOLOGISTS' MATERIAL CULTURES
Archeology only studies the hard material
remains left by people. Their definition of "cultures" according to
artifacts can be highly misleading. For example we mentioned above the
"Kunda" culture; but were the "Kunda" culture really very different in
linguistic and cultural terms than the "Maglemose" culture? Similarly
were other "cultures" to the north and east really very different from
the "Kunda"? We have to recognize that people of the very same
ethnicity and language -- with only dialectic variation -- can follow
different ways of life! The differences are determined by the
forces in the environment in which they lived, and not by internal
changes. Indeed internally they could all remain the same, changing
only the technology and behaviour that they needed to deal with each
their own environment. Seagoing people developed material culture
suited to seahunting, river people developed material culture suited to
river life, marsh and bog people had yet other technologies and
behaviour. Humans can change their material culture very very
quickly and still remain the same, ethnically. For example, Chinese can
adopt American business-suits and cars and electronics, and still speak
Chinese, still eat their own traditional food, and still carry on their
own folk traditions. Another good example are Estonians and Finns, they
borrowed farming practices and from an archeological perspective they
ought to be Germanic speaking, but they are not.
Thus we have to be careful about assuming that the
"Thule" and "Dorset" archeological cultures were different ethnically.
They could have been ethnically only as different as, say, an American
and British person.
The Linguistic Ties Across the Arctic
TRACING THE LANGUAGES FROM "KUNDA" ORIGINS
If the theory that circumpolar waters became
the same culture, originating in whale hunters (and then pushed south
following the whales), then the evidence should exist in language
as well. With the new view of Finno-Ugric languages it is likely that
modern Estonian and Finnish is descended from
the language of the "Kunda" culture. Indeed history shows that peoples
of the east Baltic coast developed into intrepid seafarers, carrying on
trade across the northern seas.
Since sea-hunting culture does not
spring into being fully developed, the moose-head-boat sea-hunters
shown in the rock carvings from Lake Onega to the White Sea, must have
originated from the "Kunda" culture, where sea hunting in Baltic waters
first developed. The language of the "Kunda" culture must have
It follows that the language
spoken by the whalers - yes the same ones in the illustration above
showing the capture of a whale - was derived from the "Kunda" people's
language, the same one from which Estonian and Finnish developed. If
these whale hunters then expanded around the arctic, it follows then
that we should be able to find Estonian and Finnish words that have
parallels in the Inuit language of the North American arctic,
consistent with many thousands of years of separation (These parallels
would not be strong enough for proper comparative linguistic analysis,
but enough to suggest support for the circumpolar whale hunter
migration theory.) Furthermore, we should also find Finnic words in
further expansions from these people, down the coasts.
Comparison of Inuit and Estonian/Finnish reveals
coincidences in basic
words, consistent with having had the same origin. As the following
sampling shows, parallels can be found in all the fundmental areas --
concepts relating to boats, fish, harpooning, hunting, and even some
family relations, Unlike the names of objects in the everyday
environment, words for these basic items at the core of a culture are
resist change and be preserved. Note that in the following study I use
Estonian as the primary language, looking up Finnish parallels to
Estonian. It is possible that if the study uses Finnish as the primary
language, additional good parallels can be found, especially if Finnish
has retained more archaic words.
In the absence of
independent ways of determining which Estonian/Finnish words have deep
roots, the approach to be used is to limit the Estonian/Finnish
common words - such as is taught to children - based on the idea that
words deeply entrenched in basic vocabulary also tend to be the oldest,
transferred from generation to generation with little change. In
the past there have been "scholars" who have compared languages only by
thumbing through dictionaries. That approach will produce many absurd
results because in a dictionary, every word, old and new, original and
borrowed, has the same value. There is no way of determining from a
dictionary which are deeply entrenched in the language - and most
likely very old - versus those that have been recently invented or
borrowed to adapt to modern realities.
INUIT WORDS WITH FINNIC
Linguists say that every millenia,
as much as 80% of a vocabulary changes. But by the same token 20% may
represent core words that are so important that there is a reluctance
to change them. After 4-6 millenia, how many of those 20% unchanging
words continue to survive? It is possible that words that resist change
after 1000 years continue to resist change. The longer one uses a word,
the longer one wants to continue to use the word. What is significant
about the interpretations below is the number of examples there
are that relate to hunting, boat-use, land, sea, water, family, and
other core concepts important to a boat-oriented people. This tends to
indicate we are dealing with the core words that resist change.
Loanwords tend to manifest in names of new things, not core concepts.
The following is a brief summary of the better
words I have found in a relatively small lexicon of Inuit words. I
avoid the grey zone of other possibilities. The grey zone is better
investigated by linguists who can add further observations to justify
their choices. Here we give only those that really jump out
strongly, and are quite obvious - needing no extensive arguing.
The source of the Inuit words and
expressions tested in my brief study included only a few 1000
Inuit Language of Igloolik, Northwest Territories,
Louis-J Dorais, University of Laval, Laval, Quebec, 1978). There is
wisdom in using common words and phrases in both languages, because it
ensures that comparison is made between the 20% or so core words that
The following examples do not follow any
particular order. I note them in the order in which I encountered them.
Note that to make the argument strong, I have not included 'borderline'
(grey zone) parallels. Nor is the source of the Inuit words exhaustive
as only a small lexicon was consulted (A small lexicon is not
necessarily bad, as small lexicons will tend to present the most common
words, and those tend to be generally the most entrenched and oldest).
Nor are any obscure Estonian or Finnish
words used in the analysis, to ensure that we are dealing with core
vocabularies which are most likely to have endured. Note also that
anything that is grammatical in nature tends also to be old, as
grammar, representing structure, also tends to resist change.
language resonances with Estonian/Finnish
1. Beginning with Inuit suffixes, the one that
leaps out first is the suffix -ji as
in igaji 'one who cooks'. This
compares with the Est/Finn ending -ja
used in the same way, to indicate
agency, as in õppetaja 'teacher, one who
teaches'. Indeed Livonian
(related to Estonian) uses exactly -ji
2. The Inuit infix -ma-
as in ikimajuq 'he is (in
the situation of being) aboard'. The Estonian/Finnish use of -ma/-maan
in a similar way describes a situation of 'being'. While modern
Estonian uses -ma as the
ending marking the first infinitive, it
originated from 'a verbal noun in the illative (into)' (J. Aavik).
3.The Inuit -ksaq
as in nuluaksaq 'material for
making a net', strongly resembles the Estonian translative case ending
-ks so that Estonian can say võrkuks
'(to be made) into a net'. The
Inuit additional -aq is a
nominalizer, and Estonian also has -k
nominalizer. Although a little contrived, one could say võrguksik and
it would mean 'something made into a net'
4. In Inuit the ending -ttainnaq means 'the same
for' as in uvangattainnaq 'the same (another?)
for me'. In
Estonian/Finnish there is teine/toinen,
meaning 'another, the other'.
5. In Inuit there is -pallia as in piruqpalliajuq
meaning 'it grows more and more. This compares with Estonian/Finnish
palju/paljon 'much, many'.
Inuit also has the expression pulliqtuq
swells' which compares with Finnish pullistua
'to expand, swell'.
6. In Inuit there is -quji
as in qaiqujivunga
meaning 'I ask to come.' This compares with Estonian/Finnish küsi/kysyy
'ask'. Note also that the example qaiqujivunga presents qai- which
resembles Estonian/Finnish käi/käy 'go'. Thus we can invent via
Estonian for example "käi-küsi-n" which can be construed as 'I
7. In Inuit there is -ajuk as in tussajuq
' he sees for a long time' or the similar -gajuk which makes the
meaning 'often'. This compares with Estonian/Finnish aeg/aika meaning
'time'. This pattern has parallels in Algonquian Ojibwa language
(people of the birchbark skin boat)
8. In Inuit there is -tit as in takutittara
make him see' which compares with Estonian/Finnish tee/tekee 'make, do'.
9. In Inuit there is suluk 'feather' which
compares with Est./Finn sulg/sulka
'feather'. This is one of the
10. Inuit kanaaq ' lower part of leg' versus
Est./Finn kand/kanta 'heel'
11. Inuit kingmik 'heel' versus Est./Finn king/kenkä 'shoe'
12. Inuit nirijuq 'he eats' versus Estonian närib 'he chews'
13. Inuit saluktuq 'thin' versus Est./Finn. sale/solakka 'thin'
14. Inuit katak 'entrance' versus Est./Finn. katte/katte 'covering'
15. Inuit ajakpaa 'he pushes it back' versus
Est./Finn. ajab/ajaa 'he
pushes, shoves (it)'
16. Inuit kina? 'who?' versus Est./Finn. kelle?/kene? stem for 'who?'
17. Inuit kikkut?
plural 'who?' versus
Finnish ketkä plural 'who?'
(Estonian uses the singular for plural)
18. Inuit kinngaq
'mountain' versus Est./Finn. küngas/kunnas
'hill, hillock, mound'
19. Inuit iqaluk 'fish' versus
Est./Finn. kala/kala 'fish'.
20. Inuit tuqujuq 'he dies' versus Est. tukkub 'he dozes'.
22. Inuit iluaqtuq
'suitable comfortable' versus Est./Finn. ilu/ilo 'beauty joy delight'.
23. Inuit akaujuq
is another word for 'suitable, comfortabe'
and might be reflected in Est./Finn. kaunis/kaunis
24. Inuit angunasuktuq
'he hunts' or anguvaa 'he
catches it' compares with Est./Finn öngitseb/onkia
'he fishes, angles'
or hangib/hankkia 'he
25. Inuit nauliktuq
'he harpoons' versus
'he nails'. But closer to the
concept of harpoon is nool/nuoli meaning
'arrow'. (Some words
here have echoes with English words - like to nail - because English
contains a portion of words inherited from native British language
which was part of the sea-going people identifiable with the original
Picts. Some also have echoes with Basque which also has connections
with ancient Atlantic sea-peoples)
26. Another word of great antiquity in Inuit
kaivuut 'borer' which
compares with Est./Finn. kaev/kaivo
dug out' today commony applied to a hole dug out of ground.
27. Inuit qaqqiq
'community house' versus Estonian/Finnish kogu/koko 'the whole, the gathering'
compares with Est./Finn. alus/alus
'foundation, base, mattress, etc'
29. Inuit ataata 'father' compares with
Estonian taat/ 'old man,
30. Words for family relations are words not
easily removed, and Inuit produces more remarkable coincidences: Inuit
ani 'brother of woman',
compares with onu 'uncle' in
Estonian, but in
Finnish eno means exactly as
in Inuit, 'mother's brother'. A similar
word also exists in Basque (anaia =
'brother') since Basque has
connections to the ancient Atlantic sea-going peoples
31. Inuit akka
refers to the 'paternal uncle'. In
this case Estonian uses onu
again, but Finnish says sekä
uncle'. See later also ukko.
32. A most interesting Inuit word is saki meaning
'father, mother, uncle or aunt-in-law'. This suggests an institutional
social unit. In Estonian and Finnish sugu/suku
means 'kin, extended
family' and is commonly used in for example sugupuu 'family tree'.
33. In Inuit, paa means 'opening'. This compares
with Estonian poeb 'he crawls
through'. The stem is used in
poegima/poikia 'to bring forth
young', and is commony used in
poeg/poika meaning 'son',
'boy'; but its true nature is actually
34. Inuit isiqpuq
'he comes in' is interesting in
that it shows the use of the S sound in concepts of 'inside' which is
common in Estonian and Finnish, as in sisu/sisu
'interior' or various
case endings and suffixes.
35. Another very basic concept is seen in Inuit
akuni 'for a long time', as it
relates to Est./Finn. aeg/aika
kuna/kun 'while', and kuni/--- 'until'.
36. Inuit unnuaq 'night' compares with
Est./Finn. uni/uni 'sleep'.
37. Inuit sila
means 'weather, atmosphere', and
compares with Est. Finn. through sild/silta
'bridge, arc' if we use the
ancient concept of the arc of the sky.
38. The Inuit aqqunaq 'storm' is reminiscent of
the earlier word akka for
paternal uncle. It may imply that the storm
was considered a brother of the Creator. The word compares to the
Finnic storm god Ukko. In
Finnish ukko also means 'old
man'. Inuit also
has aggu 'wind side', which
implies the side facing the storm. In
means 'south-east'. Prevailing winds
travelled from the north-west to the south-east; thus the word may
originate in a relationship to wind.
39. Inuit puvak
'lung' connects well with Estonian
puhu 'blow'. Finnish has
developed the word to mean 'speak'.
40. The Inuit nui(sa)juq
'it is visible' may have
a connection with Estonian/Finnish näeb/näkee
'he sees'. In modern
Estonian, the concept of 'visible' could be expressed by näedav.
Algonquian Ojibwa has a similar word.
41. Inuit uunaqtuq
'burning' relates to Est/Finn.
kuum/kuuma 'hot' but most
strongly to Finnish uuni
42. Inuit kiinaq
means 'edge of knife'. This compares with Est./Finn küün/kynsi 'fingernail'
43. Inuit aklunaaq 'thong, rope' compares
with Est./Finn. lõng/lanka
44. Inuit words sivuniq
'the fore-part' compares
exactly with Finnish sivu
'side, page'. But also Inuit sivulliq
compares with the alternative Finnish use of sivu in the meaning 'by,
past'. (This kind of parallelism in two meanings, is powerful in
arguing a connection since it is not likely to occur by random chance.)
45.The Inuit kangia
'butt-end' compares with
Est./Finn. kang/kanki 'lever,
bar' or kange/kankea 'strong,
46. Inuit uses pi to mean 'thing', which has no
parallel to Est. /Finn., however other words with PI show interesting
parallels: Inuit pitalik means
'he has, there is' which may compare
with Est./Finn. pidada/pitää
meaning either 'to hold' or 'to have to'.
Inuit uses piji for 'worker'
and pijariaquqpuq means 'he
must do it'.
Also pivittuq means 'he keeps
trying but is unable to', which resembles
Est./Finn. püüab/pyytää 'he
tries, he entreats'.
47. In Inuit traditions and indeed throughout
northern hunter peoples, the man was always the hunter. This is
reflected in Inuit ANG- words. We have already noted anguvaa 'he
catches it'. There is also angunasuktuk
'he hunts', which is obviously
related to anguti 'man,
male', and angakkuq 'shaman'.
kangelane, 'hero', but
literally 'person of the land-of-strong' may
have a relationship to the concept of 'shaman', and also to the earlier
Inuit concept within kangia
48. Inuit also has several KALI words that have
Estonian/Finnish correspondences. Inuit qulliq 'the highest'
corresponds with Est/Finn. küll/kyllä
'enough, plenty'; Inuit kallu
'thunder' corresponds with Est/Finn kalla/---; Inuit qalirusiq 'hill'
resembles Est./Finn. kalju/kallio
The most interesting Inuit words are
those that relate to the sea, land, and mother, because they will
reveal whether in the Inuit past there existed the same boat-people
world-view also found in northern Europe.
49. Inuit has amauraq for 'great grandmother' a
word that might reate to Inuit maniraq
'flat land' . These two words
relate to Estonian/Finnish ema /
emän- 'mother/lady-' on the one hand,
and maa/maa 'land, earth,
country' on the other. As I discuss
elsewhere, early peoples saw the world as a great sea with lands in it
like islands, thus the original concept of a World Mother was that she
was primarily a sea. (This may explain why Danish bog-people threw
offerings into the sea!). Thus the original word among the boat peoples
for both World Plane and World Mother was AMA. The meaning of AMA did
not specify land or sea. The proof of this concept seems to be found in
Inuit maniraq since it
contains the concept of 'flat', as well as in
Inuit imaq 'expanse of sea'
which expresses the concept of 'expanse'.
Estonian too provides evidence that the original meaning of AMA was
that of an 'expanse', the World Plane. For example there is in Estonian
the simple word lame
("lah-meh") means 'wide, spread out'. In addition
there are uses of AMA which refer to a wide expanse of sea. One
manifestation of the word is HAMA, as in Hama/burg the original form of
Hamburg . Also there is Häme, coastal province of Finland, etc. which
appears to have had the meaning of 'sea region'. Historically,
according to Pliny, the Gulf of Finland was once AMALA, since he wrote
that Amalachian meant 'frozen
sea' (AMALA-JÄÄN). The words for 'sea' in
a number of modern languages, of the form mare, mor, mer, meri can be
seen to originate from AMA-RA 'travel-way of the world-plane'. The
equating of sea with 'mother' interestingly survives also in French in
the closeness of mère
'mother' to mer 'sea'. The
intention of this
discussion is to show that the worldview appears to reside within Inuit
language as well, suggesting distance origins of Inuit in the same
boat-peoples, the same great expansion of mainly around 6000 years ago.
We are seeing traces dating back a very long time.
50. However, we must also note that while
'great grandmother' is amauraq,
the actual Inuit word for 'mother' is
anaana Is it possible Inuit
used N to distinguish between the sea-plane
and land-plane. Indeed their word for 'land, earth, country' too
introduces the N -- nuna. Or
perhaps the N is borrowed from the concept
of femininity because we also find Inuit ningiuq 'old woman' and
najjijuq 'she is pregnant'
which relate to Estonian/Finnish stem
nais-/nais meaning 'pertaining
51. But then again, Inuit also says amaamak for 'breast'
which compares to Estonian/ Finnish amm/imettäja
for '(wet) nurse'.
There is aso Est./Finn. imema/imeä
52. But, the words which are of greatest
interest are words for 'water'. If there is anything that all the boat
people have in common is the act of gliding, floating, on water.
It appears that in Inuit the applicable
pattern is UI- or UJ- same as in Estonian/Finnish. uj-, ui-, Inuit
uijjaqtuq means 'water spins'
whose stem compares with Estonian/Finnish
ujuda/uida 'to swim, float'.
Interestingly Inuit uimajuq
'dissipated', but Estonian too has something similar in uimane 'dazed'
, demonstrating that both use the concept of 'swimming' in an abstract
way as well. (Indeed the concept at least survives in English in the
phrase "his head swims" to mean being 'dazed'.) Considering the Inuit
infix -ma- meaning 'in a
situation, state', it seems that the stem in
both Inuit and Estonian cases is UI, and that -MA- adds the concept of
being in a state, situation.
53. Other notable words might include Inuit umiaq
'boat'. If umiak is a
condensation, and the original Inuit word was
UIMIAK or even UIMAJIK, then once again Estonian too could combine UI
and MA and JA and the K nominalizer, and get UJUM/JA/K. While an
invented word, Estonian would interpret it as 'something that is an
agent of the situation of swimming, floating'. Also Inuit has umiirijuq
'he puts it in the water'.
54. The most interesting Inuit words to me, are
tuurnaq 'a spirit' and tarniq 'the soul', because they
compare with the
name of the Creator across the Finno-Ugric world. It appears in Finnish
and Estonian mythology as Tuuri,
Taara, etc. And the Khanti
concieve of "Toorum". The
presence of the pattern in Inuit is proof
that it has nothing to do with the Norse "Thor", but that "Thor" is
obviously an adoption by Germanic settlers into Scandinavia of the
aboriginal high god. Norse mythology contains other features that can
be traced to the Finnic mythology of the aboriginals into which they
settled, when Scandianvia was Germanized during 0-1000AD.
GRAMMAR: In addition to many basic words, such
above, there are similarities between Finnic and Inuit grammar. The
most noticable is the use
of -T as a plural marker, or -K- to
mark the dual. (Although neither Finnish nor Estonian retains
declension of a dual person, it is easily achieved by adding -ga
'with' into the declension, which is the Estonian commitative case
THE LINGUISTIC EVIDENCE - PART OF A WHOLE
The linguistic similarities between the Inuit language and our
of Finnic - Estonian and Finnish - taken in isolation might not be
convincing to a critically-minded linguist. However, in this study we
cross many fields, and do not concentrate on only one field. Thus while
the linguistic argument by itself is not earthshaking, when we add to
it the other cultural and archeological coincidences, images from rock
art, and so on - IT ALL ADDS UP.
As it is when a detective analyses evidence at a crime scene,
collecting only fingerprints may not say very much, but if he assembles
other evidence and then analyses it all for what it all suggests as a
whole, then a strong story emerges. This kind of methodology is
familiar to archeologists, who can be described as detectives of
ancient evidence. Linguists, on the other hand are like fingerprint
analysts: with a narrow focus, and who want to find the strong evidence
within their analysis.
Thus the reader is asked not to made
judgements only within their own field, but add to it evidence from
outside their field. Linguists should also look at the archeology,
archeologists at the linguistic evidence, and both at other evidence
like the nature of North Atlantic currents, and so on. The further we
go back in time, the less we can rely on only one field for answers,
and the more we have to bring together data from every possible
direction, to make the case.
The Further Expansions of the Seagoing
THE EVIDENCE IN ARCTIC SCANDINAVIA
The original sea-people of the North Atlantic were
probably like what
we see in the illustration of Greenland 'Eskimo'/ Inuit -- with
enormous skin boats, capable of holding up to fifty men, women, and
children, as they travelled from island camp to island camp.
If you look at the
illustration, even though the few kayaks in the foreground are like
typical kayaks, the skin boats look different from the umiaks in the
western arctic. They have extensions on both ends, perhaps creating
handles so that men can pick them up easily. They look like a well
developed vessel, the result of a long history of use in such activity.
Note also how they made camps on islands.
The rock carvings found at Alta Norway (see
PART THREE: SOUTHWARD
MIGRATIONS OF CIRCUMPOLAR SKIN-BOAT PEOPLES), tell a story
about people coming there
to harvest the rich sea life off the arctic coast of Norway, where the
warm waters of the Atlantic Drift (originating as the Gulf Steam on the
American coast) ended up. Originally they would have travelled there
seasonally, and then returned south in the dark and cold winter. But
then some stayed. The "Komsa" archeological culture at the top of
Norway, that camped all winter at the mouth of the Teno River, was one
of the first cultures that remained all year, enduring the sunless
months. The Alta carvings also suggest that there were people there who
stayed, because of the many images of boats with reindeer heads on the
prows, not moose heads. Reindeer were smaller, and many skins had to be
sewn together, but if one did not descend south into the forests to
hunt moose, that was what you had to use. The large moose-head skin
boats, such as depicted in the White Sea rock carving of whale hunting,
speak of returns south into Lake Onega, where winter was spent hunting
moose on skiis (There is an image at Lake Onega of a man following a
moose on skiis).
The head on the prow of a vessel
phenomenon that has endured down through time, and its last
manifestation has been the hood ornament on the modern automobile or
truck, particularly if the ornament represents an animal. In culture we
do such things, and we do not know why; but some customs can have roots
that are many thousands of years old.
map shows ocean currents for the
entire world, plus in pink, obvious routes that boats without sails
would have taken, using currents to move them along. For explanation of
names UINI, see background article UINI- UENNE - UENETI: Are
Ancient Boat People identifiable by Names? The so called "dragon
boats" in Japan are obviously descended from the moosehead skin boats
too, as much as the Viking "dragon boats". Once boats were made of wood
skin, the origins of that head at the front was forgotten and
boat-builders began to play with it. Whale-hunting traditions are
still remembered down the Pacific coast of North America as well,
notably around Vancouver Island and down the Oregon coast.
The head of the animal from which the skin
was obtained appears
to have been an important tradition in sea-going traditions. It
is a tradition of vehicles created from putting a skin on a
frame. It follows that in addition to language, another feature
that will help us track the expansion of the sea-going boat peoples
(but not the dugout-boat peoples), is evidence of the animal head
at the prow.
Whale-hunting traditions have
endured on the Pacific coast, particularly in Native peoples of the
region around Vancouver Island and to its south.(Peoples of the
"Wakashan" languages) There, memories of whaling are still strong, and
attempts are being made to recover the culture. If you look at the
graphics painted on the large dugouts of the Pacific coast, you will
see eyes painted on the front. If asked, the artist may say it is to
help guide the way, but it may tell another story. Because of the giant
cedar trees of the Pacific coast, whaling peoples arriving there were
able to return to the creation of seagoing dugouts. They may have
arrived in skin boats made of whale skin, with the whale head
represented by painting its eyes at the front. Converting to the cedar
dugout, the continued to paint the eyes at the front. It had to have
occurred this way, because such a practice of representing the head of
an animal at the front has never existed in the dugout boat tradition.
The coincidence between Pacific coast seagoing dugouts having an eye
painted on the front, and the whaling traditions cannot be assigned to
Thus, besides circumpolar expansion of the
sea-going skin-boat peoples, there was venturing southward. The main
inspiration for southward exploration would have been the north-south
migration of some species of whales. Encountering whales at the south
tip of Greenland, the whaling people could have followed them as they
left, down the coast of Labrador. But already whaler peoples in arctic
Norway could have followed whales too as they migrated back south along
the coast of Europe.
On the North American side, this
southward venturing could
have led to the birth of the Algonquian
Native cultures, whose languages at the time of European
colonization (16th century) was found to cover the entire northeast
quadrant of North America, in a manner consistent with boats making
their way up all the rivers that drained to the coast. The Algonquian
boats were dugouts everywhere except along the coast and where birch
trees were plentiful. Along the coast there were skin boats (including
those made of moosehide), and in the northern regions that had birch
bark, skin boats were made of skins of birch bark sewn together.
Obtaining birch bark was clearly easier than obtaining a moose hide.
Besides, a moose hide had other uses.
If we are looking for the
survival of the older "Dorset" traditions, it would probably be in the
Algonquian cultures. Indeed the Great Lakes Algonquian legends speak of
origins in the east, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence. Newfoundland
had up to historic times a Native group called the Beothuks, whose
culture first manifested there in the early centuries AD. But we
cannot dismiss the possibility that there have been many waves of
oceanic peoples coming across the North Atlantic in skin boats and
venturing southward along the Labrador coast, moving with the same
winds and currents as the Norse around 1000AD.
On the European side there would have been southward
migrations too. Archeology identifies seagoing peoples on the
Atlantic coast of Europe as early as 4500BC, on account of the
"megalithic" (made of enormous stones) constructions from southern
Portugal to northern Britain, taking either the form of large burial
chambers covered with mounds, or stone circles and alignments. The
oldest megalithic stone alignments are found at Carnac, France, in
southern Britanny. The famous "Stonehenge" was a relatively late
development from the same general culture. The oldest
constructions were all found close to the sea, and widely distributed
in southern Portugal, Brittany, coasts on either side of the Irish Sea,
Orkney Islands, and even across to the north end of the Jutland
Peninsula by 2000BC. It suggests a trading people that eventually
promoted their culture inland up the rivers, eventually making eastern
Europe generally a culture of this nature.
These mysterious people certainly knew
how to travel in the open sea, and may have created more wealthy
cultures towards the south, off Portugal, and been the source of the
legends of Atlantis, first brought forward by Plato, which he claimed
ultimately came from Egyptian priests. They may have crossed the
Atlantic in the middle, leaping from island to island, with the Azores
in the middle of the Atlantic being the half-way point.
But the southward-migrating sea peoples, may
have merged in their southward migrations with dugout-peoples, and the
skin-on-frame approach of boat design, caused the evolution of the boat
made of planks on a frame. The original dugout became the keel,
and ribs arising from it could then take boards, to initiate a new
approach that combined the best features of both original designs.
The most important principle in boat design was the
displacement of water. The boat with a hull that displaced water with
essentially air achieved greatest buoyancy with least weight. The frame
with skin/hull was the way to create to greatest water displacing space
with least materials.
the Alta carvings
depict skin boats made of reindeer skins engaged
in fishing with nets
Regardless of how Atlantic seafarers evolved towards
their northern cousins carried on generation after generation. The
activity was not focussed entirely on large sea-mammals (whales,
porpoises, seals, walrus, etc) but there was plenty fishing. Nets could
bring in large quantities which could then be salted and smoked.
If these seagoing skin boats were
at Alta, they were also elsewhere in the sea too, down the Norwegian
coast, and in the British northern isles.
SKIN BOATS OF THE BRITISH ISLES
The sea-going peoples of the
British northern isles obviously originated from the arctic skin boat
peoples because they have always used skin boats. When walrus became
extinct in the British northern isles, the people there, the "Picts",
made skin boats from ox-hide. The Irish called them curraghs, the
Romans curucae. The
following illustration comes from an 18th
century illustration. To my amazement, it appears to have an
oxhead, at the prow, adhering to the ancient tradition of the
head of the animal whose skin was used being put at the prow.
18th century illustration shows 'wild Irish' in a 'curragh' - a
skin boat of ox hides - note the head of the ox at the prow,.
suggesting an origin in the arctic Norwegian skin boats
Author Farley Mowat, has searched historical
material for everything he
could find about the skin-boat peoples of the northern British Isles,
and established from historical quotes with great certainty of British
islands and coast being inhabited by peoples who travelled everywhere
even long sea voyages in skin boats.(Farfarers,
Toronto, 1998) However
he failed to make any connection between them and the skin boat
traditions across the Scandinavian arctic.
In whatever way they
evolved among the British Isles, it is clear they originated from the
same culture as depicted in the rock carvings of Norway. Why did they
become involved with the northern British islands? The answer lies in
the North Atlantic Drift, a warm current that originated in the Gulf of
Mexico and known as the Gulf Stream. The warm current was ricn with sea
life. It proceeded northward to the west of the British Isles, on its
way to the arctic coast of Norway. But a branch of it turned eastward
through the British northern Isles. The Orkney Islands there, are
believed to have once had great walrus herds. Walrus skins would have
been the skins used by early "Pict" sea peoples of the outer islands
In the first century AD, the
Romans had invaded the British Isles and were establishing armies in
various locations, including in the North, to assert control
everywhere. There is no question that if there were people of the open
seas in the outer British Isles, they would have fled from the Romans,
and settled elsewhere. I find it not a strange coincidence that,
according to archeology, the Beothuks of Newfoundland , according to
archeological dating, appear about the
same time as the Romans are asserting control over the British Isles.
The word that "Beothuk" represents, has similarities with some
variations on names applied to the Picts. The name may simply
mean "catch" (as in "catch fish"), which in Estonian is püüdma 'to
catch'. The noun for 'catch' is, with -k nominalizer püük,
plural püügid. We can easily
derive with Estonian words like püükide
'of the catches' or püüdek
'something of the catches'.
Farley Mowat may have been right in his Farfarers, about
native British having landed in Newfoundland, but in Roman times, not
centuries later, as the Beothuks! (For more comment on Mowat's theory
the question of "longhouse foundations" along the Labrador coast see
accomanying article EXPLAINING
"LONGHOUSE FOUNDATIONS" ON THE LABRADOR
When Greeks and Romans ventured
north into the British Isles, they heard of an island in
the North Atlantic called "Thule" which has been identified as Iceland.
(Note: The name "Thule" for the North American archeological culture
has no connection to the historical "Thule". Archeologists used that
name based on the region, so named, in northwestern Greenland
where the archeological culture was first archeologically identified
among the earlier "Dorset"). Given that we have been able to make
many connections between the oceanic aboriginals and the
Estonian/Finnish language, this is yet another, since the word "Thule"
(Greeks used TH for the "D" sound) is exactly the Estonian word meaning
'of fire' (tule with T soft
almost like D). Since Iceland is actively
volcanic and volcanic plumes drift eastward across to Norway, the fact
that Iceland was a '(place,island) of fire' would have been known far
and wide among anyone whose habit it was to travel the North
Alta, the British northern Isles, and the puzzle of
cultures of North America, will be discussed in more detail in SOUTHWARD MIGRATIONS OF
CIRCUMPOLAR SKIN BOAT PEOPLES. The current
article focuses on the far ranging whaling cultures that reached as far
as Pacific coasts.
REACH THE PACIFIC
The Inuit of Alaska clearly originated from
the migrations of whale hunting peoples. I expressed above that
they most likely reached Alaska from the east, from the same peoples
from which the "Dorset" culture developed, who ultimately came from
arctic Scandinavia. While it is possible to propose that the Inuit, or
"Thule" culture came the other way, from the west over top of Siberia,
if we study the arctic coast of Asia, one sees reasons why peoples
travelling east from the White Sea would encounter obstacles, the most
notable obstacle be the Tamir Peninsula. It reaches north to such
an extent that the tip of it is free of sea ice for a very short time.
Secondly seagoing people would not have found much of a current to
follow, and then we can wonder if there was the kind of sea life they
sought. Did the whales travel eastward? All in all, it seems most
migrations beginning at the White Sea went west, and mostly because of
the bounty of sea life in arctic Norwegian seas, where the warm waters
of the Atlantic drift arrived.
As I said earlier, the seagoing peoples in the
eastern arctic of North America, at some early climatic warming
found it possible to open waters to expand westward as far as Alaska.
Then the climate cooled and the passages became blocked, separating the
east and west. Each side began to develop independently for a time,
until around 1000AD when a climatic warming opened up the channels
again, and allowed the Alaskan "Thule" culture to come through into the
Those who became established on the west side,
around Alaska, were successful and grew in populations, causing further
expansions. The similarities of languages on the Asian side, and in the
Aleutian Islands, tell the story of the expansion of the culture. It
was a culture that was keen on whaling.
Further south, on the Asian side, we find a
surviving seagoing culture located in Japan, called the Ainu. The word
"Ainu" is so close to "Inuit' or "Innu" that it should be obvious that
the "AInu" were derived from the same origins. The word "Ainu" would
simply be a dialectic variation of the same name.
DOWN THE PACIFIC COAST OF NORTH AMERICA
It is well known that there are whale
migrations going up and down the Pacific coast of North America and
some Native cultures with whaling in their heritage. What is the nature
of these whaling cultures? DId they come south from Alaska and Aleutian
Islands at some distant time in the past?
During the 1970's when a student at the
University of Toronto, I went into the stacks (shelves) of the
university library where books
were kept and pulled books off the shelves in the section covering the
North American Native (Indian) languages. Flipping through the word
lists, I scanned for words that resembled Estonian words . At
that time I had only done my study on the Inuit language (summarized
above)and had wondered if any of the numerous other Native languages of
North America would produce similar results. Would I find more
coincidences? What would it mean if I did?
At that time I had not formed any theory about
circumpolar migrations of boat people, and I looked at every language
for which there was a book (there were almost 500 languages in North
America in the 17th century, so I must have looked at least a hundred).
I hoped to find words that would have resisted change such as words for
'mother', 'father', 'earth', 'sky', 'water', 'fish', 'sun', 'day' and
so on. If I failed to find any parallel within a few minutes, I moved
on. If I did find interesting coincidences I lingered longer to find
more and to evaluate whether I was looking at pure coincdences of
whether there seemed to be real parallels indicating a distant genetic
commonality with Estonian.
What I discovered was that
I was seeing Estonian-like words in languages along the Pacific
coast, known more commonly as the Northwest Coast (of North America). I
only discovered later that the speakers of these languages were either
whale hunters, or salmon-catchers. The next section looks at the
language and culture of the whale hunters around Vancouver Island, that
linguists have grouped under the name "Wakashan". Everything about them
suggested the arrival of whalers from the north, perhaps about 5000
The North American
Pacific Coast - The Wakashan Whale Hunters
HUNTING CULTURE IN THE ANCIENT VANCOUVER ISLAND
Archeology reveals that the seacoast culture on the
before about 3000 BC was very similar to the culture of the
Eskimo (Inuit). Thus Charles E. Borden, an archeologist who
studied and wrote about this early culture since the 1950's, often
referred to the early culture as "Eskimoid" (Eskimo-like). Thus
there are archeologists who acknowledge some degree of connection
between the maritime culture of the Northwest Coast and that of the
"Eskimo" (a term that refers mostly to Inuit and Aleutians).
The Northwest Coast also had an abundance of
salmon, and other sea life, thus the seagoing hunting peoples were not
entirely specialized towards whales. Archeology shows there was a
dramatic growth in cultures around
3,000 BC, and speculate it was the result of climatic change
that promoted a surge in the population of salmon.
But I believe there is a simple explanation:
the original North Americans did not enter the seas, nor eat fish. It
was introduced from the outside, and then inland people came out to the
coast and copied it. Consider that the original Americans were hunters.
Familiar with the meat of land animals, who among them would even think
of eating that slimy flopping thing from the water? To understand this
negative view towards
eating marine life, we today need only think of our modern attitude
towards eating snakes or insects. They are actually a good source of
proteini. Imagine how valuable it would be if people in an area filled
with snakes and insects developed a culture that became comfortable
with eating these things.
I believe therefore that the
arrival of people by sea, introduced a new way of life, and because
salmon were abundant, all peoples benefited from adopting it. Once
well as whales became part of a way of life, the population would have
exploded because there was so much of it. Thus we need not speculate
about a surge in the populations of salmon to explain human population
growth. The surge was not because of circumstances promoting salmon,
but the introduction of a culture that adopted eating salmon. Salmon
were then caught and dried and stored for the entire year in the course
of a few weeks. That left tribes free to pursue other things,
giving rise to a wealthy cultured people.
By the 1980's the North American
Indian languages had been classified into seven large language families
- American Arctic-Paleosiberian, Na-Dene, Macro-Algonquian,
Macro-Siouan, Hokan, Penutian, and Aztec-Tanoan. Each of these large
language families contained smaller language families. But there
remained a sizable number of smaller language families and individual
languages which have not been grouped into a larger language
family. A great many of these are found along the Pacific coast
of North America, which suggest arrivals by sea mixing in with
indigenous peoples - not just the early arrivals around 3000 BC, but
also more recent arrivals. Since objects from the Chinese coast can
drift to the British Columbian coast, it is obvious the Pacific
currents promote west-to-east crossings - if there were peoples on the
Asian side with a raft or other water craft and enough fresh water on
board to sustain them for a month or so.
But we are here interested in the original arrivals,
the whale hunters, and our attention is turned to indigenous peoples on
the Pacific coast of North America that have a heritage of whale
hunting. Of special interest in this regard is the "Wakashan" family of
The "Wakashan" family of
languages found in Northwest Washington and along the west coast of
British Columbia is one of the smaller language families that cannot be
tied to other language families, This by itself suggests a newer
arrival compared to the languages that have North American roots going
back up to 10,000 years.
There are six languages in this
family of which Nootka and Kwakiutl have the greatest number of
speakers remaining. Others are Kitimat/Haisla, BellaBella/Heiltsuk,
Oowekyala, Makah, and Nitinat. All of them have whale hunting
traditions in their past.
showing the traditional location
of the Wakashan Languages which appear to have deep roots and whaling
traditions. Kwakwala language, described next, belongs to the North
Wakashan group and occupies the largest area (hatched area). All
of the Wakashan groups have whaling in their traditions, some more
strongly than others.
the Kwakwala Language
In my random
of Native (Indian) languages in the University of Toronto library in
the 1970's, one of the books I discovered in which I saw Estonian words
was A Practical
Writing System and Short Dictionary of Kwakw'ala by D.
M. Grubb (National Museum of Canada, Ottawa, 1977). In spite of the
complex orthography the author created, I was able to sense
Estonian-like words. Not as many as when I investigated Inuit, but
The work I viewed in the publication A Practical Writing
System and Short Dictionary of Kwakw'ala began
by presenting a complex orthography based on the capabilities of a
normal typewriter (the book was prepared before PC's) In my opinion the
best orthography is one that is based on Latin sounds and the Roman
alphabet and modification of it.. The following are close to
Latin A, B, D, E, H, I, L, M, O, P, Q, S, T, U, and
some extensions such as Ä which is the A found in "happy", and English
for W, Y These are then modified by adding a
sound after one of these major ones. I will show these lesser sounds
small case. Thus for example we have Dz as in English "adze" or Dl as
in "maudlin" or Gy as in "egg-yolk" and so on. If there are two
sounds modifying the main one, the order chosen will be one that give
the closest effect when read. Other conventions used here:
STRESS SHOWN BY = BOLDED
GLOTTAL STOP OR CATCH =
example in QÄTsI ' STÄLÄ)
While I could have used other ways
of describing the words, including universal phonetic alphabet, I
use the conventions give here to make reading of the following so
intuitive that anyone can read it, who has a basic understanding of the
Latin standard of pronunciation of the Roman alphabet.
As for my representation of the Estonian and
Finnish words, here I write them in caps and add the stress on the
initial syllables, purely to make it look similar to the way I write
out the Kwakwala words. The Estonian or Finnish words are already
written close to the Latin standard, with small variations. The
stress in Finnic words is always on the first syllable. Also, in
Estonian j = "Y" in English, and Finnish y= "Ü" in Estonian or like EU
in Latin. In Estonian-Finnish ö is like "E" with rounded
lips, and Õ is like Ä with lips rounded. For the Kwakwala words, we use
the common application of the Ä for the sound found in happy, while A
is the sound in father
To keep this study as short as possible, I
select only major words, and avoid the derivations or compound
KWAKWALA VERSUS ESTONIAN/FINNISH
(PRONOUNCE WITH EXTENDED ROMAN
ALPHABET, SMALL CASE ARE WEAK SOUNDS APPLIED ONTO PRECEDING LARGE CASE
'truth' which compares with Estonian/Finnish OLU
'state of being'
'alive' which compares with Estonian/Finnish ELAV or ELÄVÄ
'alive' (based on the Kwakwala stress being on last part)
ÄLUMÄS 'new' which
with Estonian/Finnish ALUS
or ALUS 'foundation,
'go' versus Est/Finn LÄHE
go' versus Est/Finn LÄHEN
'I went' versus Est/Finn LÄKSIN
(note here grammatical
correspondence in the 1st person singular present and past tenses -
grammatical correspondences are always more powerful indicators of
ancient connections than words)
LA'MANTs 'we are
going to' versus Est/Finn LÄHME or
LÄHEMME 'we are going
to...; we are going' (note the
seems to be a 1st person plural marker)
LhANTA 'to blow
nose' versus Est/Finn LENDA or
LENTÄ 'fly!' (This one may be a coincidence as meanings
are a little apart - more evidence needed)
'hear' versus Est/Finn KUULA 'hear!'
QhÄLÄSÄ 'did you hear
that?' versus Est/Finn KUULSID?
'did you hear that?' (note
that the S may be a 2nd person marker
'tongue' versus Est/Finn KEEL or KIELI
'tongue, language' (here the
Kwakwala -M seems to be a nominalizer,
namer, which could be used in Est Finn too KEELEM or KIELIM. The
Kwakwala seems more primitive, in that 'tongue' is formed from the word
for 'hear'. Is it possible Estonian/Finnish too created KEEL, KIELI
from a more basic more fluid word like KUULE?)
WA KhÄLÄ 'to hear the
sound of water' versus Est. VEE-KUULA(MA) 'water, to
hear' ('to hear water') from (Veet kuulama)
(Estonian versions are contrived to
parallel the Kwakwala word in putting the noun in partitive sense as
the first part of a compound verb)
LA KhÄLÄ 'to
hear banging' versus Est. LÖÖ-KUULA(MA)
'hit, to hear' ('to hear the hit')
QÄ'YÄLÄ 'to hear
footsteps' versus Est KÄI-KUULA(MA) 'walking,
to hear' ('to hear the walking'
These last examples seem to
also affirm the parallels between
WA- and VEE- for
LA- and LÖÖ- for 'hit,
QÄ- and KÄI-for 'step,
walk' (See also Inuit qaiqujivunga
meaning 'I ask to
If the Kwakwala
language is distantly related to Inuit, it seems that QÄ or KÄI is also
the basis for the Inuit name for the small skin-covered vessel known as
QwALÄh 'flood tide
rocks' This word reflects something also in Estonian -
describing water flow (not necessarily sound) Estonian has KALLA 'pour'
and KALJU 'cliff, ridge
(in water=reef)' If sound is intended
Estonian has KÕLA 'to sound,
resonate (far)' Finnish has similar
if not identical examples.Note also that above we saw the Inuit kallu
'thunder' . This is obviously the same, as the sound of surf on rocks
would be a thundering sound.
It is interesting to note these words for sound and pouring and cliffs,
because it reflects a dominant experience of people constantly dealing
with water, rocks, and the sound of surf.
We saw above that QÄ is the
for walking, stepping. Here are fome other uses of the element-
The best way to interpret this
into Estonian or Finnish is to use the ending -SE which was common in
Finnic in earlier times as a nominalizer, giving
'water' compares with Estonian/Finnish VEE- whose
most common noun form is VESI,
KhANWELÄ 'loose on
water' seems to display a similar case ending in -WELÄ to
Estonian-Finnish VEEL or VEELÄ 'on the water' The
part KhAN is probably related
to the word for 'walking'. Thus an
Estonian parallel might be KÄI-VEEL 'go upon water'
QIWELÄ 'too long in the
water' uses the element QI to represent 'too long' . The element
QI evokes the use of -GI in Estonian as a suffix meaning 'yet,
still' Thus we can form, in reverse order the Estonian
VEELGI 'still on the
It is in words for family and
relations that we see most connections to both Inuit and Estonian, and
these tend to prove the theory that the Kwakwala language derives from
circumpolar boat people who originally moved into the arctic at the
White Sea and later through the interior to the Alta area.
|| SUGU / SUKU
mother, uncle or aunt-in-law
|| EMA / EMÄN-
| QÄQÄS 'your
||ONU / ENO
|| ANI 'brother of
|ISA / ISÄ
||-?--(might exist but I have not found it)
|ABI/APU 'help' (Est
and FInn uses
the concept of 'help' in the meaning of 'mate' as in 'husband' or
LIST (not grouped, in
'shadow' suggests Est/Finn KAGU/KAAKKO'south-east'
which also resonates with Inuit UQQU
(note that if
prevailing winds are from the northwest, the shadow/shade is on the
southeast side of an obstacle to it.)
'evilpower' suggests Est/Finn
HÄMAR/HÄMÄRA 'dim', dusky'
speechless' compares with Est/Finn HÄMMASTA/ HÄMMÄSTYÄ 'to
amaze, astound, startle'
'sorting out' compares with Est/Finn
SELETA/SELITTÄÄ 'explain, sort out'
ThsALThsALK 'down feathers'
'feather' which compares with Inuit SULUK
LAIHwqI'LÄS 'fire in
hole' uses a stem for 'fire' that resembles Estonian LÕKKE
or LEEK (Finnish LEIKKI) It might also be
related to LÄIGE
'shine' or Finnish LEKOTELLA
'to bask in the sun'
KUHwq ' ID
'break in half' seems like Est/Finn KATKEDA 'break in
half'. Also 'two' os KAKS(I)
Est: HABEMES or HABE 'beard'
Est. HABESTE 'beard'
(another possible form)
KhUKhU ' NÄ
Est. KUKAL 'back (nape)
' NI '
Est HAKKA! 'start!
place' compares with
Est/Finn LAGE/ LAKEA
'open area, clear, open'
NOLHÄ 'to cover
harpoon' compares with Est/Finn NOOL/NUOLI and
Inuit NAULIKTUQ 'he harpoons'
'be together (in a house)' compares with KÜLA/KYLÄ
'house' employs the KOO concept found throughout Finnic
regions KOGU/KOKO 'all; gathering' KODU/KOTI
NOGAD 'maker of
songs, wise man' compares
with NÕID / NOITA 'shaman, sorcerer'
'potlach' compares with
'pay' (Note, the potlach custom of the
Pacific coast was to hold a feast in which the host gave away gifts in
order to win a good standing with hosts - because it was not enough to
be strong: neighbours had to recognize it. In this case the
Est/Finn MAKSA is more like 'give gift payments' than to 'pay debts')
'requesting' compares to Est/Finn
PUSA 'to swell up from
soaking' compares with
PAISUDA/PAISUA 'to swell'
PhÄLhÄ 'lay a hand
on' compares with PEALE/
PÄÄLE 'onto top of'
ISEN 'I do not'
compares with Est/Finn EI/EN
lighted' compares with NÄGEMINE
or NÄKÖ 'seeing, sight'
'crew' compares with LIIT
/ LIITO 'league,
union of people, team'
HykIQALÄ 'fire' might be reflected in Est/Fin HIGI/HIKI 'sweat'
'good' which is best compared to Finnish IHANA
'wonderful' which is represented in Estonian with IHA 'desire, craving'
IKhÄLhÄ 'high above' might resonate also with
The following is a little different as it inserts the H sound...
'I am fine' might compare with Est/Finn; IHU/IHO 'skin,
remarkable with Kwakwala, as with Inuit, is the large number of words
relating to family that have correspondences with Finnic, as well as
some grammatical parallels that are noticable in the words. These tend
to point to common deep origins, even if over time the superficial
vocabulary has changed. These characteristics point to genetic origins
ultimately in a common language and not borrowing, Note that this
is just a simple investigation.
There are other languages of
the Wakashan family of languages, that may
provide more insights and more parallels with Finnic languages, and
which suggest a long heritage extending back some 6000 or more years to
the sea-hunters of the Baltic
From what I have seen, further proper
linguistic study will find more grammatical parallels. We have
vague similarities in 1st and 2nd person markers and case markers.The
Wakashan languages bear further investigation from a Finnic and from a
Some of the whaling people who
arrived on the coast, changed their focus to harvesting the great
abundance of salmon, and whaling traditions vanished. In PART
THREE SOUTHWARD MIGRATIONS OF CIRCUMPOLAR SKIN-BOAT PEOPLES: I
will look at a few more Native languages from further south on the same
coast, where once
again I found remarkable parallels with Estonian, too remarkable to
view as random chance. In those cases however, the people were extinct
and/or the amount of information on them and their language was sparse.
Mythological Parallels Through the Skin Boat World
Because the connections between
Estonian/Finnish are so distant we have to look at other information
for similarities and support. I have already mentioned that already
scholars have noted some cultural similarities across the arctic world.
If we include the Wakashan cultures into our scenario of expansion of
seagoing aboriginals some 5000 years ago, then we might be wise to see
what we can find in their culture.
I did some investigating with respect to
cultural similarities in Inuit, Kwakwala and Finnic cultures, which
will be summarized here. These similarities help support the linguistic
and archeological revelations. Our methodology is multidisciplinary and
we do not have to find convincing evidence only within one field, but
read all the information as a whole, much as a detective does.
In the case of the Inuit culture,
there was shamanism and associated beliefs and mythology. Shamanism has
vanished in Finnic culture - which has modernized in keeping with the
growth of Indo-European civilization for over a millenium - but
shamanism remains alive in the most remote Finno-Ugric cultures, such
as the Khanti of the Ob River. Shamanism is also found among the remote
Samoyeds, and perhaps exists within Saami culture somewhere, if one
looks for it.
In the Inuit culture the shaman was
called angakkuq, a word
obviously related to anguti
('man') and anguvaa
('he catches it'). While Estonian and Finnish have similar sounding
words like the Finnish onkia
('he catches fish') or hankkia
procures'), there is no clear linking them to shamanism, unless it is
the Estonian word kangelane
based on kange 'strong' ,
'hero, strongman'. The Kwakwala word NOGAD 'wise man' or 'maker
of songs' however is close to Estonian/Finnish nõid or
Also tying in with mythology is the belief in
storm deities. Inuit presents the word aqqunaq for 'storm', which was
close to akka 'father's
brother'. Finnic mythology saw a god in the
storms called Ukko.
In addition Inuit presents kallu for 'thunder'
which reflects Kwakwala QwALÄh
'flood tide hitting rocks'. Finnic
mythology pictures an ancestor called Kaleva
which can be possibly seen
as a present participle of KALE (KALLU??) where all Finnic peoples are
seen as 'sons of Kaleva'. Nothing is known about this mysterious
ancestor, so presumably he is a deity. Let's look at the Pacific coast
to see if we can find a
similar thunderous deity there.
Kwakwala mythology held that the common
ancestor of humanity was the Thunderbird, that everyone was a
Thunderbird before becoming a human. Thus it would have been
interesting if the Kwakwala word for Thunderbird was similar to Kalev.
But this is not the case. However there was a second deity. A storm had
both lightning and thunder, hence there ought to be two deities,
brothers to one another. Indeed, in Kwalwala mythology the Thunderbird
was always accompanied by an equally awesome bird (which is also
represented in totem poles) whose name was KOLI, who was the brother of
Thunderbird. Since KOLI is close to the Kwakwala words for sound,
the original concept was probably that there were two birds, a bird
that caused lightning (ie the Thunderbird is improperly translated and
should be Lightningbird) , and another brother bird who created sound
the sound - the actual 'Thunderbird'..
So KOLI is really a thunder bird, while the
so-called Thunderbird is really a lightning bird.
It follows that
originally Kwakwala mythology used the word KOLI for the Thunderbird,
and in that case the Finnic and Kwakwala mythology would both hold that
humans were descended from KOLI, KALE, KALLU, etc. If we were to
see humans being descended from something, it would probably be
thunder, since it is the thunder roll that has the effect, not the
of lightning. The Inuit culture, with its kallu for 'thunder' did
not preserve this mythology probably because in the high arctic thunder
storms are rare, and any early mythologies connected with thunder
storms would have been forgotten.
To summarize: before the boat
people moved into the arctic where there was no lightning and thunder,
there was a deity in ligntning and mostly in thunder. Humans were seen
as descendants from the Thunder God, KALLU (to use the Inuit word
This mythology developed in the Finnish-Estonian region into the myths
of people being 'sons of Kaleva' where the meaning of "Kaleva" was lost
in the haze of time. But what about the deity that caused lightning? He
was there too from the beginning, and reflected originally perhaps in
words analogous to Finnic ikke
for 'lightning'. I failed to determine from my source material a word
for 'lightning' in Kwakwala, but I think the following listed above,
IKhÄLhÄ 'high above' which I compared
with IGI-/IKI- 'eternal'
but which can also compare with the word for lightning.
In Finnic mythology, there is a god called UKKO.
This was the Lightning God, because Finnish still uses ukkonen to mean
'lightning'. In Estonian variations on this word pattern for
'lightning' are äike and pikne. The Inuit word
aqqunaq, is similar. Perhaps a
storm was seen as the events involving
lightning. Since we saw above that Inuit also saw akka as 'paternal
uncle' all things considered, the maker of thunder and
father or humanity, was KALLU, KOLI, etc and his brother
UKKO, IKKO, etc accompanied him to produce the flashes of lightning. It
makes sense that the maker of thunder is the more significant as it is
the thunder that terrifies and not the flash of lightning.
Obviously there has been confusion in history
as to what names what, with respect to everything that occurs in a
storm. However, the coincidences in mythology are not the kind of thing
that would arise from random chance. There is a connection through
time. If all that I have presented above is correct, then we could say
that the Kwakwala people are also 'sons of Kalev' and extremely distant
cousins of Estonians and Finns.
We can thus say that the archeological "Kunda"
culture are the first 'sons of Kalev' as they were the first to hunt
large sea mammals in the open sea.
With this theory in mind, I sought to see if the
Pacific coast had a word for the lightning-bird that has been
misinterpreted as a thunder-bird. Can I find a word that resembles
Finnic words for lightning. In PART THREE I explore the Karok language
further south and find
IKXIV for 'thunderhead' .
The original North Americans certainly had their own
words for lighning and thunder too, and Wakashan languages could have
adopted a word from a neighbouring people. But I think it was difficult
to abandon KOLI for a competitive word because the word described
sound, and there were so many words relating to sound in their
languages that had a similar form. And there is no evidence
that the original North Americans distinguished between the maker of
lightning and maker of thunder. I think the standard North American
mythology was that the thunderbird made lightning and then the sound of
the thunder came from its wings. We also note that Finnic mythology
does not picture the deities as birds. Thus the concept of the bird too
may be original North American, and the Wakashan peoples were
influenced to adopt some of the indigenous concepts such as the deity
of storms being a bird. Except that the Wakashan culture needed to
picture two birds, two brothers. Nowhere else in North America I don't
think, is a storm thought to have been made by two deities. Most of the
time, the Thunderbird in North American mythologies causes both the
lightning and the thunder.
Moving on to other aspects of culture,
when I read about the traditional culture of the Kwakwala and other
Wakashan peoples, I found agreement with traditional Estonian/Finnish
spirit - a strongly expressive and positive outlook towards everything,
and a cultivation of personal cleanliness (in body and spirit) and
charisma. The Wakashan peoples believed that evil spirits could not
strike someone who was , through self-purifying customs and rituals,
very pure. It was a source of protection to pursue cleaniness and
purity, as well as a source of charisma. When the Nootka hunted a
whale, it was believed that through self-purification rituals (see the
archival photo) , the whale could be charmed to let itself be captured,
that the whale actually wanted to be killed by its hunters in order to
recieve the honour of giving these very pure beings its blubber for oil
Archival photo, depicts spiritual preparations done by the whalers
before they headed out into the sea to hunt. The Nootka nation belongs
linguistically to the South Wakashan grouping.
reproduced from Indian
Primitive, R.W. Andrews, Superior Publ., Seattle
The pursuit of cleanliness and purity and the
belief in the armour of such cleanliness lies in the Finnic sauna
tradition, as seen through traditional beliefs and rituals (which have
been lost in modern popularization of the custom). I therefore wondered
if the sweathouse could be found among
the Kwakwala. The sweathouse was found throughout North America, but
usually it was more makeshift and primitive (redhot
stones carried into a temporary tent) than the recent Finnic
sauna. However approximately at the present northern border
of California there were several tribes linguistically identified as
Yurok, Karok, and Hupa, who created semi-buried huts and practices that
seem very much like the recent Finnic practices. We will look at these
other cultures in PART
THREE.SOUTHWARD MIGRATIONS OF CIRCUMPOLAR
Summary: The Expansions
While the expansion of boat peoples
warming after the Ice Age was restricted to the capabilities of the
dugout boat, the invention of the skin boat from the concept of a
dugout moose, greatly increased the expansion, allowing boat-oriented
peoples to expand everywhere in the northern hemisphere. The large
seaworthy skin boat, whatever skin it used, but which originated in the
boats with moose heads depicted in Lake Onega and White Sea rock
carvings, both crossed the north Atlantic, and travelled south along
the Norwegian coast, and through the British Isles. Those that crossed
the north Atlantic continued into the Canadian arctic as the "Dorset"
culture, and travelled down the Labrador coast, inspired by currents
and the movements of whales. Whale hunters from the same origins
somehow reached the Pacific too We looked at the language of one of the
nations of the Vancouver Island area - the Kwakwala (Kwakiutl) and
found remarkable coincidences that cannot be attributed to random
chance, with some of the coincidences referring back also to Inuit
(producing three way correspondence - and in once case, the word for
'aunt', 'uncle', a seeming four way coincidence which brings the
Basques into the picture too. In PART THREE: SOUTHWARD
MIGRATIONS OF CIRCUMPOLAR
will look at Basques, Picts, Basques, and Algonquians and a few more
Native peoples from the Pacific coast south of the Wakashan, from the
linguistic and archeological point of view, to further trace the
migrations of boat people as early as 3000BC.
The traditional notion that human expansion only occurred by land, is
not just wrong, but not as significant as it has been made out to be.
Conversely the expansion by boat-use has not just been underrated, it
has basically been ignored!!!
The land-expansion of humans can be likened to the
expansion of animals
like wolves, horses, bison, etc. It occurred passively,
slowly, sparsely, and very early. But the expansion of boat
people was aggressive, intelligent, and fast, because it involved
deliberate and designed journeys. Humans were not simply following a
herd, but navigating the sea, and remembering the patterns followed by
The original sea-voyages occurred mainly between
6000-4000 years ago, and after that the sea-harvest areas were taken
and later journeys merely supplemented the original ones. Any later
waves of migration had to deal with those already there.
Because most of the theory is based mostly on commonly accepted
information, most of the information for which references are not given
in the text, come from most textbooks, etc. The approach taken in these
articles is to cite special sources right within the text. Any
statement that is new or unusual is either cited, or it is original on
the part of the author and has not been presented anywhere else.
author: A.Paabo, Box 478,
Apsley, Ont., Canada
2013 (c) A. Pääbo.