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Sadlermiut whaling.jpg
A Sadlermiut man paddling on an inflated walrus skin, 1830[1]
Regions with significant populations
Possibly shamanism
Related ethnic groups
Dorset culture, other Inuit, Aleuts, Yupiks

The Sadlermiut (also called Sagdlirmiut,[2][3] or Sallirmiut in modern Inuktitut spelling, from Sadlerk[4] now Salliq, the Inuktitut name for the settlement of Coral Harbour, Nunavut) were an Inuit group living in near isolation mainly on and around Coats Island, Walrus Island, and Southampton Island in Hudson Bay.[5] They survived into the early twentieth century and were thought by some to have been the last remnants of the Dorset culture[4] as they had preserved a distinct culture and dialect from the mainland Inuit. Despite their culture and local traditions seeming to show combined elements of both the Dorset and Thule societies,[6] recent genetic studies show no Dorset admixture and prove a sole Inuit ancestry leading many to conclude the cultural difference may be entirely due to their isolation from the mainland Inuit. [7] Research published in 2015, found that the Sadlermiut were genetically Thule who had somehow acquired Dorset cultural features, like stone technology. It remains a mystery how they acquired Dorset technology without obvious genetic admixture like through intermarrying.[8]


In 1824, HMS Griper, under Captain George Francis Lyon, anchored off Cape Pembroke on Coats Island in Hudson Bay. The whalers then discovered a band of Inuit who were said to have spoken a "strange dialect" and were called Sadlermiut.[9]

Since then, the Sadlermiut continued to establish contact with Westerners. However, as with many North American aboriginals, the Sadlermiut were often susceptible to Western diseases. By 1896, there were only 70 of them remaining. Then, in the fall of 1902, the British trading/whaling[10] vessel named the Active had made a stop at Cape Low,[11] Southampton Island. It is said that some of the Sadlermiut caught a disease, possibly an influenza,[12] typhoid, or typhus, from a sick sailor aboard the Active, which then spread to the entire community.[6][9] By winter 1902-03, the entire Sadlermiut population except for a woman and 4 children had died.[5][10]

In 1954 and 1955, Henry B. Collins of the Smithsonian Institution studied Inuit house ruins in the Canadian Arctic.[13] He determined that the ruins found at Native Point were characteristic of Sadlermiut culture which had once been quite extensive. He also found evidence that the Sadlermiut were the last remnants of the Dorset culture.[11]


The Sadlermiut are most often cited for having maintained a unique culture and dialect apart from other Inuit, similar to the Unangam (Aleut), which is principally the result of an adaptation to environmental and historical constraints,[14] whereas they show a closer genetic profile to paleo-Eskimo groups than neo-Eskimos groups.[15] Because of this, various theories were established to try to explain the Sadlermiut's cultural differences. One of these has tried to establish a clear link between the Sadlermiut as direct descendants of the Dorset culture. A second explains that rather than being related to the Dorset, the Sadlermiut were in fact descendants of the Thule, whose geographically isolated culture would have developed idiosyncratically from the mainland Thule culture. A third theory indicates that the Sadlermiut did not necessarily belong to either group, but because of intermarriage, their roots may have in fact been part of both Dorset and Thule cultures.[5][14]

In recent years, human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research[16] on skeletal remains seemed to show a genetic relationship between the Sadlermiut and various other related ethnic groups. An incorrect association led many to conclude the Sadlermiut were of Dorset and Thule ancestry due to apparent haplogroups A (46%) and D (54%) found in skeletal remains, attributed to the Thule (A 100%) and Dorset (D 100%) cultures respectively.[17] This evidence, along with statistical differences, led to the errant belief that the Sadlermiut would have been remnants of the Dorset culture, with more recent gene flow from the Thule,[18] providing further evidence for a cultural displacement between the two groups approximately one thousand years ago.[17][19] Similarly, the same percentage of the presence of both haplogroup A and D was discovered among paleo-Aleut skeletal remains, while it also discovered D 27% and A 73% among the "Neo-Aleut" population.[17] This inconsistency may be attributed to the fact that a population displacement did not occur within the Aleutian Islands between the Dorset and Thule transition,[19] meaning that the Sadlermiut may have not in fact been the very last remnants of the Dorset culture.

Further studies show there is no genetic evidence to show a direct Dorset ancestry, but there is evidence to show both cultures may have shared an earlier common Siberian ancestry. [20]


The Sadlermiut were a hunter–gatherer people whose subsistence relied primarily on fishing and caribou hunting, although they also hunted seals, polar bears, and walruses.[21] Unlike the mainland Inuit, the Sadlermiut were reported to show very little interest in hunting whales and trapping and were thus of little use to traders who frequented Coral Harbour.[5][22] In addition, the Sadlermiut often kept a "vigilant distance" between themselves and the traders, the explorers and the Aivilingmiut.[23] This may be in part due to historical confrontations with the Aivilingmiut who sought Southampton island for its prosperous whaling potential, and the Dene peoples who moved Northwards during the summer in pursuit of caribou.[22]


The Sadlermiut language is unknown, but appears to have been significantly different than that of their mainland neighbours.[24] The neighbouring Inuit reported that they used "baby talk", but it is not clear if this means they spoke a distinct variety of Inuit, or that they used pidgin Inuit as a contact language.[25]


  1. ^ Bumsted, J.M (2007). A History of the Canadian Peoples (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-19-542349-6. 
  2. ^ Aleš Hrdlička (1910). Contribution to the Anthropology of Central and Smith Sound Eskimo. The Trustees. p. 181. 
  3. ^ Dalby, David (1994–2006). "Zone [60] Inuitic" (PDF). The LinguaSphere Online. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  4. ^ a b Petrone, Penny (1988). Northern Voices: Inuit Writing in English. University of Toronto Press. pp. 12–14. ISBN 0-8020-7717-X. 
  5. ^ a b c d Briggs, Jean L.; J. Garth Taylor. "The Canadian Encyclopedia: Sadlermiut Inuit". Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  6. ^ a b "The People Arrive". The Free Library. 1999-03-01. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  7. ^ "No Descendants Are Left From the First Eskimos". Live Science. 2014-08-28. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  8. ^ Raghavan, Maanasa; DeGiorgio, Michael; Albrechtsen, Anders; Moltke, Ida; Skoglund, Pontus; Korneliussen, Thorfinn S.; Grønnow, Bjarne; Appelt, Martin; Gulløv, Hans Christian (2014-08-29). "The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic". Science. 345 (6200): 1255832. doi:10.1126/science.1255832. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 25170159. 
  9. ^ a b "In the bones of the world (Part eight)". Nortext Publishing Corporation (Iqaluit). Nunatsiaq News. 2002-07-26. 
  10. ^ a b "Aboriginal 7 - Life in Canada". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  11. ^ a b Collins, Henry B. (1956). Vanished Mystery Men of Hudson Bay. Vol. CX No. 5. National Geographic Magazine. p. 674. 
  12. ^ Renouf, M.A.P. (Fall 1991). "Museum Notes - Palaeoeskimo in Newfoundland & Labrador". The Rooms. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  13. ^ American Antiquity. 23. Society for American Archaeology. 1957. p. 97. 
  14. ^ a b "Canadian Arctic historical archaeology in review". Revista de Arqueología Americana. 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  15. ^ Lynnerup, Niels; Jørgen Meldgaard; Jan Jakobsen; Martin Appelt; Anders Koch; Bruno Frøhlich (2003). "Human Dorset Remains from Igloolik, Canada" (PDF). Arctic Institute of North America. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  16. ^ Davidson, Floyd L. (2004-04-26). "Re: Barrow Boy gibberish...". Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  17. ^ a b c Hayes, M.G. (2001). "Ancestor descendant relationships in North American Arctic prehistory: Ancient DNA evidence from the Aleutian Islands and the Eastern Canadian Arctic." (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  18. ^ Horvat, G. (2004-03-11). "The Aleuts". Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  19. ^ a b "Arctic Studies Center Newsletter" (PDF). National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution. June 2002. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  20. ^ "Ancient tooth DNA sheds light on origins of Arctic peoples". 2014-08-28. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  21. ^ Harris, John N. (1999–2004). "The Way West: The Blocked Passage". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  22. ^ a b "5. Inuit Innovation" (PDF). Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  23. ^ Mitchell, Marybelle (1996). From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite: The Birth of Class and Nationalism Among Canadian Inuit. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 469. ISBN 0-7735-1374-4. 
  24. ^ Canadian Encyclopedia: Sadlermiut Inuit
  25. ^ Peter Dawson, The Possibility of Contact Between Dorset and Thule

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