Books: A Sahara of Ice

THE LAST KINGS OF THULE by Jean Malaurie Translated by Adrienne Foulke Button; 489 pages; $25.75

In 1818, British Explorer John Ross arrived in Greenland and gave Arctic nomads their first good look at a qallunaaq, a "big eyebrows." In turn, Ross and his seamen gazed on squat Asians wearing bearskin pants. Outsiders called them Eskimos, a derivation from the derogatory Cree Indian word meaning "eaters of raw meat." They simply called themselves Inuit, human beings, a distinction born not of racial arrogance, but of fact. For centuries, the only other walking mammals that...

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