The region, which is now mainland Nunavut, was first populated approximately 4500 years ago by the Pre-Dorset, a diverse Paleo-Eskimo culture that migrated eastward from the Bering Strait region.
The Pre-Dorset culture was succeeded by the Dorset culture about 2800 years ago. Anthropologists and historians believe that the Dorset culture developed from the Pre-Dorset; however, the relationship between the two remains unclear.
Helluland, which Norse explorers described visiting in their Sagas of Icelanders, has been associated to Nunavut’s Baffin Island. Claims of contact between the Dorset and Norse, however, remain controversial.
The Thule people, ancestors of the modern Inuit, began migrating from Alaska in the 11th century into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. By 1300, the geographic extent of Thule settlement included most of modern Nunavut.
The migration of the Thule people coincides with the decline of the Dorset, who died out between 800 and 1500