Themes and Periodization

Throughout the Arctic, scholars have investigated diverse themes in a historical perspective, such as interethnic relations (including alliances, trade, and war), consequences of commercial whaling and the fur trade, Christianization, migrations, responses to environmental change, health, etc. In North America, the concept of dependency has loomed central in some interpretations. In such historical reconstructions, for the purpose of narration time was divided up into periods of sufficient stability to be described synchroni-cally, separated by so-called watersheds in which most of the social, political, and historical change emerged. The changes identified correspond to further losses of independence in relation to the incoming non-Native population. These scenarios usually include a first period during which, despite some contacts and trade, the Native cultures remain "traditional." Some events, such as an epidemic or a famine, which may have been caused by changes in the exploitation of the fauna, precipitate the onset of a "contact-traditional" period, during which the fur trade, for example, became an integral part of the Native economy and Christian missionaries attempted conversions. The aftermath of World War II is generally perceived as a watershed in most parts of the Arctic in North America to a higher degree than elsewhere, since it abruptly brought about sedentarization and an increase in governmental involvement. With the exception of World War II, wide geographical variation in the timing and concrete circumstances of earlier stages of the scenarios occurs.

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