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The Inuit People

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The Inuit People The word Eskimo is not a proper Eskimo word. It means "eaters of raw meat" and was used by the Algonquin Indians of eastern Canada for their neighbours who wore animal-skin clothing and were ruthless hunters. The name became commonly employed by European explorers and now is generally used, even by them. Their own term for themselves is Inuit which means the "real people." The Inuit developed a way of life well-suited to their Arctic environment, based on fishing; hunting seals, whales, and walruses in the ocean; and hunting caribou, polar bears, and other game on land. They lived in tents or travelled in skin-covered boats called kayaks and umiaks in summer, and stayed in houses made of sod over winter, building igloos when travelling by dogsled on hunting trips. Their culture was largely based on nature and the land, passed on through storytelling, dancing, drumming, and other rituals. Their habitation area extends over four countries: the United States, Canada, the USSR, and Greenland. The language is divided into two major dialectical groups, the Inupik speakers (Greenland to western Alaska) and the Yupik speakers (south-western Alaska and Siberia). Contact with the outside world has drastically changed Inuit life. Most people now live in wood houses and wear modern clothing instead of animal skin clothes. ...read more.


A hunter would slowly creep toward a sleeping animal, either pushing a white shield of skin before him or else dressed and act that to the seal he would look like another animal. He would get close enough to fix a harpoon (or, after contact with Europeans, shoot with a rifle) before the seal senses danger and scrambles back into the water. Clothing and Transportation Traditionally, nearly all parts of animals killed by the Eskimo were used. Eskimo clothing was made from skins of birds and animals (seal, caribou, and polar bear). Sewn with sinew thread and bone needles, hooded jackets, pants, and waterproof boots were well suited to cold and wet conditions. Skins were also made into tents and boats, and bones were made into weapons. Two kinds of boats were common. The umiak was a large open boat consisting of a wooden frame covered usually with walrus hide; it was used both to transport people and goods and, especially in northern Alaska, to hunt whales. The other type of craft was the ALEUTS, it was the kayak. This one man hunting vessel was entirely decked over with sealskin or caribou skin. The hunter sat in a cockpit inside, dressed in tight-fitting waterproof clothing made from seal or walrus intestine. ...read more.


The Canadian Eskimo were first contacted by European explorers and whaling ships beginning in the 18th century, while in the west, the Alaskan Eskimo were first encountered by the Russians. They were followed by other European explorers and then, during the 1800s, by commercial whaling ships in the North Pacific after Atlantic whaling grounds had become run down. Such ships traded rifles, whiskey, and other goods for whalebone, oil, hides, and ivory. Whaling rapidly declined around the beginning of this century, and the western Eskimos turned--as had the Canadian Eskimo earlier--to fox trapping, a secondary cash-producing occupation. From these many contacts the Eskimos became closely involved in a financial economy and came increasingly to desire the superior technology of rifles, steel knives, and other products available through trade. Institutional features of their social life were also influenced by contacts with Western culture. Inuit Games Contact with Europeans after 1700ad influenced some Inuit games and Inuit game playing. Many Inuit games are traditional and require no equipment. These latter games concern physical strength, agility, and endurance. Some traditional games may have been learned in Asia before the Inuit migrated across the Bering Strait (c2000bc), while others were undoubtedly learned after migration, through contact with southern aboriginal peoples who had migrated at an earlier time from Asia into the western hemisphere. By Zakir Md. Hussain ...read more.

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