Encyclopedia > Inuit

  Article Content


Inuit (singular, Inuk; also, generally vulgarly, Eskimo) is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The largest proportion of Inuit people live in Greenland. Other large communities live in Alaska and Canada (especially in the territory of Nunavut), and a very small number live on the northeastern tip of Siberia in Chukotka[?].

The main groups of Inuit are the Inuit and Inuvialuit of Canada, the Kalaallit[?] of Greenland, the Yupik of Alaska and Siberia, and the Inupiat of Alaska.

In Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people, "Inuit" means "the people". The name "Eskimo" is derived from the language of the Cree, who according to oral tradition were frequently at war with the Inuit, and means "eaters of raw meat" or "to net snowshoes". Many Inuit consider this name to be derogatory. Among many who are not Inuit, the word "Eskimo" is falling out of use. Much of the impetus behind this change probably traces to the books of Farley Mowat, particularly People of the Deer[?] and The Desperate People[?].

In Alaska, according to a webpage (http://borealis.lib.uconn.edu/ArcticCircle/SEEJ/Landclaims/alaskanative) from the Libraries of the University of Connecticut (http://www.lib.uconn.edu), the Inuit continue to be called "Eskimo" more commonly particularly in order to distinguish them from other aboriginal groups of Alaska: the Aleuts and various other Native Americans (e.g., Athabascan, Tlingit, Haida) people.

The Inuit living in North America were formerly classified together with other Native Americans, but they are now considered to be an entirely separate ethnic group who arrived in North America some time after the latter did. Accordingly, in Canada the Inuit are not considered First Nations, although they are included in the term "First Peoples" along with Indians and Métis.

Early European explorers continually called all the people they met in the area, as they explored from east to west, "Eskimos". Their culture is broadly the same over all the area, although the eastern groups speak Inupik dialect and the western, Yupik. Kinship culture also differs east and west, as eastern Inuit lived with cousins of both mother and father, but western Inuit lived in paternal kinship groups.

The Inuit were (and many still are) hunters, who hunt whale, walrus, and seal by kayak or by waiting at their airholes in the ice. They used igloos as hunting or emergency shelters. They made and make ingenious use of animal skins in their clothing (e.g. anorak). Dog sleds[?] were and are used for travel (and the American Eskimo dog they used was named for them), though snowmobiles[?] have largely replaced this mode of travel.

Since the European arrival, racist and misguided government policies caused a great deal of damage to the Inuit way of life, causing mass death and other suffering. Circa 1970, strong Inuit leaders came forward and pushed for respect for the Inuit and their territories. One of the resulting land-claims agreements created the Canadian territory of Nunavut, the largest land-claims agreement in Canadian history. In recent years, circumpolar[?] cultural and political groups have come together to promote the Inuit people and to fight against ecological problems, such as the greenhouse effect and resulting global warming, which heavily affects the Inuit population due to the melting and thinning of the arctic ice and die-offs of arctic mammals. Nunavut premier Paul Okalik took the lead in this regard in a First Ministers' meeting discussing the Kyoto Accord.

One of the most famous Inuit artists is Pitseolak Ashoona. Susan Aglukark is a popular Canadian singer.

(to do list: culture past and present, spirituality, customs, etc)

See also: Inuktitut; Native American; Greenland; Canadian provinces and territories; Northwest Territories; Yukon; Aleutian Islands; Inuit throat singing


  • The Eskimos - Ernest S. Burch Jr.

External links

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... the county of Dalarna. The municipality covers an area of 1500.7 km². Of the total population of 26450, 13112 are male, and 13338 are female. The population density of ...

This page was created in 31.2 ms