Inuit - Wikipedia
As Canadian Inuit, we are the most recent generation of this 5, year cultural a vast Arctic territory stretching from the eastern coast of present day Russia. Inuit describes the various groups of indigenous peoples who live throughout Inuit Nunangat, Thus, the everyday life in modern Inuit settlements, established only some . Ivory carvings date to as early as the Dorset I period, but artistic activity This custom has survived to this day, although the traditional animism . As well as Arctic Canada, Inuit also live in northern Alaska and Greenland, and have A huge range and quantity of manufactured goods entered Inuit society, everything and schools, medical facilities, airports, and modern stores were built. The battle for Inuit self-government dates to at least the s, when " Eskimo.
Some of these dances represented the caribou hunt; others might portray a flight of birds or a battle with the weather. Both poetry and dance were important to the Inuit; storytelling was vital for peoples who spent the long winter months indoors and in darkness. The word for poetry in Inupiaq is the same as the word to breathe, and both derive from anerca, the soul. Such poems were sung and often accompanied by dancers who moved in imitation of the forces of nature.
Many of the traditional singers were also shamans and had the power to cast spells with their words. Thus, dance took on both a secular and religious significance to the Inuit. The Inuit created songs for dancing, for hunting, for entertaining children, for weather, for healing, for sarcasm, and for derision. Some dance and song festivals would last for days with the entire community participating, their voices accompanied by huge hoop drums.
These dance traditions have been resurrected among Inuit communities. For example, the Northern Lights Dancers have pioneered this venture. In December came the Messenger Feast held inside the community building.
This potlatch feast demonstrated social status and wealth. A messenger would be sent to a neighboring community to invite it to be guests at a feast. Invitations were usually the result of a wish for continued or improved trading relations with the community in question.
Gifts were exchanged at such feasts. Some southern groups also held Messenger Feasts in the fall. The spring whaling festival, or nalukataq, was held after the whale hunt as a thanksgiving for success and to ask for continued good fortune with next year's hunt.
It was held also to appease the spirit of the killed whales. Similar to other Bladder Dances or Festivals of non-Alaskan Inuit groups, these ceremonies intended to set free the spirits of sea mammals killed during the year. At the nalukataq, a blanket toss would take place, in which members of the community were bounced high from a walrus-skin "trampoline.
Dressed in costumes that were a mixture of male and female symbols to denote creation, the Inuit danced to welcome the sun's return. Trading fairs took place throughout the year.
The summer Kotzebue fair was one of the largest. Init was revived, held just after the Fourth of July. For the first time in a century, Russian Inuit came to celebrate the fair with their Alaskan relatives. The Messenger Feast has also been re-instituted, held in January in Barrow. He would take on the evil spirit of the sick. Shamans, however, proved helpless against the diseases brought by the Europeans and Americans.
Tuberculosis was an early scourge of the Inuit, wiping out entire villages. Alcohol proved equally as lethal, and though it was outlawed, traders were able to bring it in as contraband to trade for furs.
Who are the Inuits?
Alcohol dependency continues to be a major problem among Inuit villages and has resulted in a high occurrence of fetal alcohol syndrome. Thus, ten villages in the Northwest Arctic Borough have banned the importation and sale of alcohol, while Kotzebue has made the sale of liquor illegal but allows the importation of it for individual consumption.
Nonetheless, alcohol continues to be a source of major problems despite the implementation of "dry" towns and burroughs. Rates of accident, homicide and suicide among the Inuit are far higher than among the general Alaskan population. Moreover, there is a high rate of infant mortality and sudden infant death syndrome SIDS and infant spinal disorders. Another health issue, particularly for the Inuit of the Cape Thompson region, is cancer, brought on by the dumping of 15, pounds of nuclear waste by the Atomic Energy Commission.
Also, radiation experiments on flora and fauna of the region as well as Russian nuclear waste dumping offshore have contaminated many areas of northwestern Alaska, putting the native population at risk.
Language The Inuit communities of northern Alaska speak Inupiaq, part of the Eskaleut family of languages. All Inuit bands speak very closely related dialects of this language family. Alaskan Eskaleut languages include Aleut, Yup'ik and Inupiaq. Many Inuit words have become common in English and other languages of the world. Words such as kayak, husky, igloo, and parka all have come from the Inuit. The worldview of the Inuit is summed up in a popular and fatalistic expression, Ajurnamat, "it cannot be helped.
Language instruction in school, as noted, was for many years solely in English, with native languages discouraged. Literacy projects have been started at Barrow schools to encourage the preservation of the language. However, English is the primary language of the region. Family and Community Dynamics Local groups were formed by nuclear and small extended families led by an umialik, or family head, usually an older man.
Inuit - History, Modern era, Acculturation and Assimilation
The umialik might lead hunting expeditions, and he and his wife would be responsible for the distribution of food. Beyond that, however, there was little control exerted on proper behavior in traditional Inuit society. Villages throughout northern Alaska have replaced hunting bands, thus preserving to some extent the fluid network of their traditional society.
Each village has its own school, funded by the state with extra funds from the federal government. Yet the dropout rate is still high among their youth. There was a 30 percent dropout rate in grade school ina rate that climbed to 50 to 80 percent in high school.
And for those few who reached college at that same time, some 97 percent dropped out. Ten years later, inthe rates had gone down considerably, in part due to a revival of teaching in Inupiaq, as opposed to English-only instruction. Most Inuit under 15 are minimally literate in English. However, in older generations the same is not true. For example, it was thought that if a pregnant woman walked out of a house backwards, she would have a breech delivery, or if a pregnant mother slept at irregular times during the day this would result in a lazy baby.
Also, there were special birthing houses or aanigutyaks, where the woman went through labor in a kneeling or squatting position. These postures have been recognized by Western culture as often preferable to the hospital bed.
Most children are baptized within a month of birth and given an English name along with an Inuit one. Chosen by their parents, these names are normally of a recently departed relative or of some respected person.
Siblings help care for children after the first few months, and the baby soon becomes accustomed to being carried about in packs or under parkas. There is no preference shown for either male or female babies; both are seen as a gift from nature. While moss and soft caribou skin have been replaced with cotton and disposable diapers, the Inuit's attitude toward their young has not changed. They are loved and given much latitude by both parents, and fathers participate actively in raising their children.
In traditional societies, the men hunted, while the women tanned skins and made clothing and generally took care of domestic activities, and this occurred under the aegis of the extended family. In the modern era much of this has changed, but in general, outside employment is still the obligation of the male as well as any ancillary hunting activities necessary to help make ends meet. Women are, for the most part, confined to household tasks. Group activities take precedence over individual dating.
In traditional times, the most successful hunter could take more than one wife, though this was uncommon. Also in the past, temporary marriages served to bond non-kin allegiances formed for hunting and or warfare. Married couples traditionally set up their home with the man's parents for a time.
Plumpness in a wife was a virtue, a sign of health and wealth. While divorce was, and is practiced in both traditional and modern Inuit societies, its incidence is not as high as in mainstream American society. Religion A central tenet of Inupiat religion was that the forces of nature were essentially malevolent.
Inhabiting a ruthless climatological zone, the Inupiat believed that the spirits of the weather and of the animals must be placated to avoid harm. As a result, there was strict observance of various taboos as well as dances and ceremonies in honor of such spirits.
These spirit entities found in nature included game animals in particular. Inupiat hunters would, for example, always open the skull of a freshly killed animal to release its spirit.
Personal spirit songs were essential among whale hunters. Much of this religious tradition was directed and passed on by shamans, both male and female. These shamans could call upon a tuunsaq, or helping spirit, in times of trouble or crisis. This spirit often took the shape of a land animal, into whose shape the shaman would change him or herself. Traditional Native religious practices, as well as the power of the shamans, decreased with the Inuit's increased contact with Europeans.
Employment and Economic Traditions Traditionally, the Inuit economy revolved around the changing seasons and the animals that could be successfully hunted during these periods. The Inuit world was so closely linked to its subsistence economy that many of the calendar months were named after game prey. For example, March was the moon for hanging up seal and caribou skins to bleach them; April was the moon for the onset of whaling; and October was the moon of rutting caribou.
Whaling season began in the spring with the first break up of the ice. At this time bowhead whales, some weighing as much as 60 tons, passed by northern Alaska to feeding grounds offshore, which were rich in plankton. Harpooners would strike deep into the huge mammal, and heavy sealskin floats would help keep the animal immobilized as lances were sunk into it. Hauling the whale ashore, a section of blubber would be immediately cut off and boiled as a thanksgiving.
Meat, blubber, bone, and baleen were all taken from the animal by parties of hunters under the head of an umialik, or boss.
Such meat would help support families for months. Caribou, another highly prized food source, was hunted in the summer and fall. In addition to the meat, the Inuit used the caribou's skin and antlers.
Even the sinew was saved and used for thread. Baleen nets were also used for fishing at the mouths of rivers and streams.
Walrus and seal were other staples of the traditional Inuit subsistence economy. These practices changed with the arrival of the Europeans. The population of the western Canadian Arctic Inuit called Inuvialuit fell from an estimated to people into people in In the East, the effects of disease were more sporadic. One local group, the Sadlirmiut of Southampton Island, disappeared entirely during the winter of They caught dysentery, a severe disease, from sailors on the Scottish whaling ship Active.
The Hudson's Bay Company, the Police, and the Church Bythe whaling industry was dying as Arctic whale stocks almost completely collapsed. In addition, new inventions, such as a synthetic substitute for baleen, caused whalers to turn to other livelihoods, including the fur trade. The Hudson's Bay Company and other trading concerns also began to take an active interest in the northern fur trade.
In the ten years after the First World Warthe commercial fur trade moved north to encompass the entire Arctic. Bythe Inuit had become subjects if not quite citizens of the Canadian state. Under the missionaries, many traditional beliefs and practices of the Inuit disappeared or went underground.
The Inuit lost power over their own lives in the early twentieth century. Many slipped into deep poverty because of fluctuations in fur prices set in distant London or New York. Re-Settlement It was not until after the Second World War that the Canadian government began to take an active interest in Inuit welfare. After hearing reports of widespread misery and even starvation, the government began to actively encourage people to give up their nomadic or wandering way of life. They encouraged permanent settlements because it seemed to be the easiest and least expensive way of administering social welfare.
Government services and facilities were greatly expanded within these new settlements. Cheap housing was made available, and schools, medical facilities, airports, and modern stores were built. New "micro-urban" communities sprang into being.
A population once spread thinly across an immense landscape was now concentrated in a small number of communities. By the mid s, nearly all Inuit in Canada lived in these new settlements. It was a far from ideal solution. No longer living on the land, the Inuit became more and more dependent on social assistance.
Job opportunities were very limited. The Inuit became almost entirely dependent on the larger outside society. Democracy Comes to the Arctic Democracy came late to the Arctic. Beginning inthe federal government in Ottawa created federal electoral constituencies in parts of the Northwest Territories.
Ina resident Commissioner of the Northwest Territories was appointed and many federal programs were transferred to the new territorial government. By the late s, the territorial government had become an elected, representative body. The Creation of Nunavut The battle for Inuit self-government dates to at least the s, when "Eskimo Co-ops" were established in most Arctic settlements.
The Co-ops helped the Inuit keep control of their art sales. They also provided competition to the Hudson's Bay Company, and thus helped keep fur prices up and the cost of merchandise down. An important step toward self-government was taken inwith the founding of the Inuit Brotherhood, now called Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. Inthe Inuit proposed the creation of a new territory to be called Nunavut "our land".
The new Nunavut would be made up of the central and eastern portions of the Northwest Territories and it would represent a majority of Inuit citizens. Therefore changing their cultural development.
The membership was based upon the voluntary association of large and loosely composed clans. The clans in turn were made up of extended families- the grandparents, parents, and children. Such a loose social structure, which allowed families self-sufficiency and self-governance, increased the chances of social survival in times of scarcity.
Hunting provided the Inuit with a balanced diet and the raw materials for clothinghousing, household implements and heating, boat and sled-building, hunting weapons, toys, and art-objects. Stones, carefully chosen and carved, were used for select but important objects: Soapstone, a relatively soft and easily carved material, was used for the production of oil lamps qulliqs and cooking vessels. Women eating maktaaqa traditional Inuit delicacy the skin of a Greenland whale Plant-materials played a small role in Inuit culture, as they were so rare.
Wood is scarce in the Arctic, except in the form of occasional driftwood. The bones, tusks, and antlers of hunted animals were used in its place. Berries were collected in large numbers during the late summer, but while they provided a source of some vitamins, they were far from sufficient. The people met their vitamin requirements by eating raw animal products, such as muktuk whale skin and blubbermeat and fish.
The Inuit tradition of living in tents during summer and in igloos and qarmait singular: The most important principle of all building constructions was the lowered entrance tunnel, which served as a windscreen and cold trap. The inner living area was constructed at a higher level so that the heavier cold air could not easily enter it.
Girl children played with string figures within the igloos, as preparation for learning to sew and partly as a ritual act. The girls of the Chugach people mainly played this in autumn because it was believed this weaving captured the sunrays and thus delayed the beginning of winter. Often the creation of string figures was accompanied by rhymes and songs describing tales, legends and myths.
Apart from seal, mostly caribou skin was used, and in Greenland polar bear fur. In order to create a cushion of warm air, the clothing was loosely tailored and worn in two layers, the outer one with the hair inside, the inner one with the hair outside.
In summer, only the inner layer was worn. The hood fixed on the inside of the coat avoided the leaking of warm air at the neck.
Mothers used an additional part of their hoods for carrying the toddlers in their parka amauti. Nomadic life in the first half of the 20th century[ edit ] Camp Ikirasaq Southern Baffin Islandabandoned in the late s Many elders still remember the time, more than 60 years ago, when the Inuit lived a nomadic lifestyle. Depending on the seasons up to sixteen according to old traditionsthey followed the animals they hunted for clothing and nourishment. They had to relocate and reconstruct their camps frequently and followed the same traditions for generations.
At the turn to the 20th century, most Inuit still lived in hide tents during the summer. Sometimes, they already owned canvas tents obtained from the Hudson's Bay Company. The interior was divided into a back part used for sleeping, usually raised by coat underlays, and a front part for cooking and living; a tradition still in practice today. The woman's sleeping place was always beside the kudlik, an oil lamp usually carved from soapstone used for lighting, heating and cooking, because it was her duty to operate it.
The man's sleeping place was near the weapons and hunting equipment; the children were nestled between their parents for warmth. Today the kudlik is replaced by a product of modern industry, the Coleman stovewhich is easy to transport and operated by gasoline and naphtha.
Fishing for Arctic char In the few months of summer, the people moved camp to the estuaries, because there it was easier to catch the favoured Arctic chare. For the inland Inuit, the caribou was the most important resource; it provided meat, a hide for clothing, and sinew for rope. The coastal Inuit hunted mostly seals and walruses and, depending on the region, narwhals and belugas ; of course also the occasional caribou.
The First People to Settle Across North America’s Arctic Regions Were Isolated for 4,000 Years
The seals were used for food for men and dogs. Their oil was used for the kudliks, and their skin and sinews for seal boots kamikkayak coverings, ropes also drag ropes for dog sleds and dog whips. During the winter, the Inuit lived in igloos, which were erected separately or connected by tunnels. Snow of a specific consistency was necessary to build them.
They had the same general interior arrangement as the tents. The most important element was a lowered entrance tunnel, repelling the heavier cold air and the wind from entering inside. As additional prevention against cold, the sleeping area was elevated by a layer of snow as compared to the living area.
Some of the families that wanted to live in permanent camps, built themselves a partially subsurface home of rocks, whale bones, coat and sod, the so-called qarmaq. The construction of such camps is certainly based on the Thule tradition. During the winter, they used qarmaqs, but in summer preferred the more airy tents. A traditional dog sled qamutiktoday almost entirely replaced by the snowmobileexcept for festive occasions. Due to the hard weather conditions in winter, in this season the families joined closer together.
Mutual visits at hunting places of different groups were for the exchange of news and experiences, but mostly for the exchange of food from different sources. In winter, travelling was done by dog sleds, partly presumably also by foot. During the warmer seasons, mainly the people used the kayak, or, mostly as "women boat" for families, the large umiak, and travelled by foot.
Traditional land routes were, e. Transition into the 21st century[ edit ] Fundamental change of living conditions[ edit ] Between andthe culture and way of living of the Canadian Inuit, who had not known any monetary system before, changed fundamentally.
Complete self-sufficiency and independence were to a large extent replaced by dependence on goods of western industrialized countries, such as clothing, many kinds of foodstuffs, weapons, tools and technical equipment. This development was largely due to the fact that as hunters and trappers, they could develop only a low level of productivity that could not financially cover the Western way of living.
Moreover, the products of the kill depended too much on market and fashion fluctuations, not to speak of concerns related to protection of species and of the environment.
Although this developed the infrastructure and created jobs, it also led to a sudden urbanization that not every community could adapt to. Traditional ways of living were increasingly constrained and eliminated, with no provision made for the transition to the new way of living.
The transitional difficulties were further enhanced, for example, by the fact that at the end of the s, the Kivalliq Region had to be placed under quarantine because of the appearance of serious infectious diseases such as polio for which there was as yet no vaccine.