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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 east 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


    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. 
    Before that, 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, North 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 shacks.)
         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 the 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!)


       One interesting observation about 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 the log? 
    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 travel faster.dugout
     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 directions.
     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 northern location.
       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.

"Maglemose" 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 small whales.

Kunda tools

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 environment.
    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 interconnected.
    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 open sea.
    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 log!!!!
    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 information box.

Theory by Andres Paabo

Khanti Skin Boat

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 dugouts.

A small dugout like the one of the Khanti is seen in the top image 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.

It 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 skin.

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.

From Lake Onega Carvings

The Lake Onega rock carvings present several examples showing the small 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.

Moose-European Elk

All the 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.

moose-skin boat

Note that the moose has a massive body giving a great deal of skin that can be 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 did not descend south in winter to the forested regions where moose were found.

Onega boat vs Umiak


Rock Carvings Showing Whale Hunting in the White Sea as Early as 5000-6000 Years Ago


    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.

Onega boat
The 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.)

White Sea whale hunting

Whale 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 discussion)

Greenland Inuit Whale Hunting

Greenland 'Eskimo'  clans meeting to hunt whales
from Description de histoire naturelle du Groenland, by Hans Egede, tr. D.R.D.P. Copenhagen and Geneva, Frere Philibert (This image derived from  Canada's 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 three 'territories'. 

Atlantic currents etc
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 them?
     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


    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 rounds.
    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 hunters.
    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 land.  Each tribe respected the herd of the other tribe. There is no question that something similar occurred with tribes that hunted horse and bison herds.
    This pattern can be extended to whale hunters. A particular tribe would consider themselves 'owners' of a particular pod of whales.  
    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.


    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 the rock 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.
    (The other 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.) 


    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 today as "Tunit".   Common 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 "Innu".
     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 western Canada.


     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


    If the theory that circumpolar waters became populated by 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 been Estonian-like.
       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 likely to 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 vocabulary to 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.


      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 expressions. (The 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 resist change.
     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.

Inuit 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 as a 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 'he 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 ask-to-go'.
     7. In Inuit there is -ajuk as in tussajuq  meaning ' 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 'I 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 clearest parallels.
      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 'beautiful, handsome'
    24. Inuit angunasuktuq 'he hunts' or anguvaa 'he catches it' compares with Est./Finn öngitseb/onkia 'he fishes, angles' or hangib/hankkia 'he procures, provides'
    25. Inuit nauliktuq 'he harpoons' versus Estonian/Finnish naelutab/naulitaa '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 is kaivuut 'borer' which compares with Est./Finn. kaev/kaivo 'something 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'
  28.Inuit alliaq 'branches mattress' compares with Est./Finn. alus/alus 'foundation, base, mattress, etc'
      29.  Inuit ataata 'father' compares with Estonian taat/ 'old man, father'
   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 'paternal 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 genderless.
     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 'time', 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 Estonian/Finnish kagu/kaako 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 'oven'.
   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 'thread'.
    44. Inuit words sivuniq 'the fore-part' compares exactly with Finnish sivu 'side, page'. But also Inuit sivulliq 'past', 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, intense'
     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 the 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'. Estonian 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 mentioned above.
  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 'cliff'.
      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 Inuit '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 to woman'.
    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 'to suck'.
    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 means '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 still 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 as given 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 ending.)


 The linguistic similarities between the Inuit language and our examples 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 Skin-Boat People


    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 is a 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.

current map

This 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 random chance!!


     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.

These images from the Alta carvings depict skin boats made of reindeer skins engaged in fishing with nets

    Regardless of how Atlantic seafarers evolved towards the south,  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.


        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 and coasts.
       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 seagoing native British having landed in Newfoundland, but in Roman times, not centuries later, as the Beothuks! (For more comment on Mowat's theory and the question of "longhouse foundations" along the Labrador coast see accomanying article EXPLAINING "LONGHOUSE FOUNDATIONS" ON THE LABRADOR COAST)
       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 Atlantic.   
    Alta, the British northern Isles, and the puzzle of the Algonquian 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.



    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 east.
    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.


      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 years ago.

The North American Pacific Coast - The Wakashan Whale Hunters


    Archeology reveals that the seacoast culture on the Northwest Coast 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 salmon as 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 languages.
    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.

wakashan languages

Map 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.


 Investigating the Kwakwala Language

           In my random investigation 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 significant nonetheless.

 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 faint sound after one of these major ones. I will show these lesser sounds with 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:


( example in TsI ' 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 words.



OLA  for 'truth'  which compares with Estonian/Finnish  OLU  or  OLO   'state of being'

KhwALÄ  for 'alive' which compares with Estonian/Finnish  ELAV or ELÄVÄ  'alive' (based on the Kwakwala stress being on last part)

ÄLUMÄS  'new'  which compares with Estonian/Finnish   ALUS or ALUS  'foundation, beginning'

  'go'   versus  Est/Finn  HE

LAN 'I go'   versus Est/Finn  HEN

LÄHyqDAN  'I went' versus Est/Finn  LÄKSIN  or LÄHIN
       (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 M 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)


LÄ   '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 in both)

KhALAM  '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?)

(Estonian versions are contrived to parallel the Kwakwala word in putting the noun in partitive sense as the first part of a compound verb)
WA KhÄLÄ  'to hear the sound of water'   versus Est. VEE-KUULA(MA)  'water, to hear' ('to hear water') from (Veet kuulama)

LA  KhÄLÄ   'to hear banging'   versus Est.  LÖÖ-KUULA(MA)   'hit, to hear' ('to hear the hit')

'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 'water'
LA- and LÖÖ- for 'hit, bang'
- and KÄI-for 'step, walk'   (See also  Inuit qaiqujivunga meaning 'I ask to come.')

If the Kwakwala language is distantly related to Inuit, it seems that or KÄI is also the basis for the Inuit name for the small skin-covered vessel known as the kayak

QwALÄh  'flood tide hitting 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 LA '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 is the stem for walking, stepping. Here are fome other uses of the element-
 SÄ   'walking'  
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 KÄI-SE    'the walking'.
' WÄP   'water'   compares with  Estonian/Finnish VEE- whose most common noun form is VESI, partitive VETT

WELÄ  'loose on water'  seems to display a similar case ending in -WELÄ  to Estonian-Finnish VEEL or VEELÄ  'on the water'  The first 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 water'
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.
SUYÄ'|IMÄ  'heritage, family' SUGU / SUKU   'family' SAKI 'father, mother, uncle or aunt-in-law
U'MÄ  'noblewoman, queen' EMA / EMÄN- 'mother/lady'   AMAURAQ 'great grandmother'
QÄS 'your grandfather' UKKO  'myth: sky-father'  AKKA  'paternal uncle'
ANIS   'aunt' ONU / ENO   'uncle' ANI 'brother of woman'
OS   'father'
ISA / ISÄ  'father' -?--(might exist but I have not found it)
ABAMP 'one's mother'

ABI/APU   'help'  (Est and FInn uses the concept of  'help' in the meaning of 'mate' as in 'husband' or 'wife'

  GENERAL LIST (not grouped, in random order)

GAGUMAS 'shadow'   suggests Est/Finn  KAGU/KAAKKO'south-east'   which also resonates with Inuit UQQU 'lee side'
 (note that if prevailing winds are from the northwest, the shadow/shade is on the southeast side of an obstacle to it.)

MI '   'evilpower'    suggests Est/Finn  HÄMAR/HÄMÄRA  'dim', dusky'

MÄNIKw  'scared speechless' compares with  Est/Finn HÄMMASTA/ HÄMMÄSTYÄ  'to amaze, astound, startle'

SAL'YÄ   'sorting out'     compares with Est/Finn  SELETA/SELITTÄÄ 'explain, sort out'

ThsALThsALK  'down feathers'  compares with  SULG/SULKA  'feather'  which compares with Inuit SULUK 'feather'

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)

PAM    'hairy face'            Est: HABEMES or HABE  'beard'

HABAHysTE  'beard'             Est.  HABESTE 'beard' (another possible form)

KhUKhU ' NÄ 'neck'             Est. KUKAL  'back (nape) of neck'

' NI ' YU     'shoelace'            Est  NIIT   'thread'

GÄ   'go (on)!!'                 Est  HAKKA!  'start! go on!'

LAQAKhwAS   'burnt place'  compares with  Est/Finn  LAGE/ LAKEA  'open area, clear, open'

NOLHÄ   'to cover with harpoon'   compares with Est/Finn NOOL/NUOLI   and Inuit NAULIKTUQ 'he harpoons'

GUKwALÄ  'be together (in a house)'   compares with KÜLA/KYLÄ  'settlement'

GUKw  'house'   employs the KOO concept found throughout Finnic regions  KOGU/KOKO 'all; gathering'  KODU/KOTI  'home, hut, teepee'

NOGAD   'maker of songs, wise man'    compares with NÕID / NOITA  'shaman, sorcerer'

MAHwqÄ   'potlach'         compares with Est/Finn MAKSA  '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')

HANAKA  'requesting'    compares to Est/Finn  ANNA  'give'

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

'NÄQwA'ÄLÄ   'bright, lighted'  compares with GEMINE or KÖ  'seeing, sight'

LI 'ALUT   'crew'  compares with LIIT / LIITO  'league, union of people, team'

HykIQALÄ  'fire'  might be reflected in Est/Fin  HIGI/HIKI  'sweat'

IK  '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 Estonian/Finnish  IGI-/IKI- 'eternal'

The following is a little different as it inserts the H sound...

IHyk'MAN  'I am fine'   might compare with Est/Finn; IHU/IHO  'skin, body' ;

     What is 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 noted vague similarities in 1st and 2nd person markers and case markers.The Wakashan languages bear further investigation from a Finnic and from a whaler-people perspective.
    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 ('he procures'), there is no clear linking them to shamanism, unless it is the Estonian word kangelane based on kange 'strong' , which means 'hero, strongman'.  The Kwakwala word NOGAD 'wise man' or 'maker of songs' however is close to Estonian/Finnish  nõid or noita  'sorcerer', 'witch', 'shaman'.
     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 flash 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 for 'thunder'). 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, applies: 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 for  'storm', 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 and food.

    Nootka Whaler

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 1960

     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 SKIN-BOAT PEOPLES:

   Summary: The Expansions Continue

    While the expansion of boat peoples during the period of 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 SKIN-BOAT PEOPLES:I 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 their prey. 
    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.