Tribes of the Arctic region

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The Native American people of the Arctic region consist of the Inuit (multiple tribes), Yupik, and Aleut. Explorers from warmer climates called them Eskimos (people who weave snowshoes).[1]

The northern peoples are known for their dome-shaped igloos (lit. snow house) which use thick blocks ice for insulation as well as structure. They would live in small villages through the long winter and then switch to a nomadic lifestyle in the short summer.

Their clothing was also heat-efficient: polar bear fur and sealskin would be used for the highly insulated parkas, anoraks, papooses and mukluks that comprised the Inuit wardrobe.


The term "Eskimo" comprises:

  • the Inuit peoples
    • the Kalaallit of Greenland,
    • the Inuit and Inuinnait of Canada
    • the Inupiat of northern Alaska
  • the Yupik peoples
    • the Naukan of Siberia
    • the Yupik of Siberia in Russia and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska
    • the Yup'ik of Alaska
    • the Alutiiq (Sug'piak or Pacific Eskimo) of southcentral Alaska.

Although Alaskans use the term Eskimo, Canadians and Greenlanders have branded the word as offensive, on the grounds that some American Indians use a similar sounding term meaning "eaters of raw meat". (According to linguists, "Eskimo" is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning "to net snowshoes.")

The Inuit are a people of northernmost North America, Europe and Asia. Their traditional range of inhabitation spans around the Arctic Circle from eastern Siberia across Alaska in the United States, the Northwest Territory, Yukon Territory, Nunavut, Quebec and Newfoundland in Canada, all the way to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Anthropologically, they were a much studied people for their physical and social adaptations to severe cold. Inuit means the people.

The Aleut people are an indigenous coastal people from the Aleut islands of Alaska and Russia. Their language is considered a dying language, as there are less than 100 speakers. Most Aleut people today are Christian and speak English or Russian as their native language.

Yupik are indigenous people from the inner and coastal areas of Alaska and the far western points of Russia.


Since they live in a region of permafrost, they do not consume many plants. Their diet primarily consists of fish caught through iceholes and seals, walruses, or auks caught by spearhunting. Occasionally they would kill a polar bear to eat, but as with any bear, the meat is often not worth the danger of the hunt. In the whale spawning season, they would venture onto the thawed waters and hunt the great animals for their meat and blubber, a natural insulator for their homes and a wax substitute for candles.

"The traditional Inuit diet is composed predominantly of proteins and fats, with carbohydrates playing an insignificant role."[2]
"Muktuk, the skin of bowhead and other whales, is rich in vitamins A and C and contributes to good health in a population with limited access to fruits and vegetables."[3]


They primarily bartered blubber and seal oil for special goods, though wampum currency was a possible alternative payment for commerce.

Monogamy is the usual pattern, but both polygyny and polyandry also occur.[4]

The funerary ceremony of the Inuit involved the family and close friends of the deceased placing the corpse on a small ice flow or canoe and casting it out to sea.


Christianity was brought to these pagan people by missionaries in the early 19th century and while pagan cultural rites have persisted, Christianity is the sole theistic religion practiced.


Until the great northern explorations of Henry Hudson, the Inuit were unknown to Europeans other than the Vikings, who had already conquered the coastline of Greenland from them. Arctic explorers such as Admiral Byrd and Commodore Perry wrote about encounters with the Inuit in their journals, which were later popularized in the fiction novels of authors such as Jack London.

The first Inuit recorded on film was Nanook of the North, whose eponymous documentary by Robert J. Flaherty from 1922, showed all the modern world the curious arctic life of the Esquimoux (as they were then called). Some initial reactions to the film claimed it to be a hoax, but these objections quickly subsided.[5]

See also


  1. Although the name "Eskimo" is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean "eater of raw meat." Linguists now believe that "Eskimo" is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning "to net snowshoes." However, the people of Canada and Greenland prefer other names. "Inuit," meaning "people," is used in most of Canada. ... Most Alaskans continue to accept the name "Eskimo," particularly because "Inuit" refers only to the Inupiat of northern Alaska, the Inuit of Canada, and the Kalaallit of Greenland [1]
  2. Obesity, central fat patterning, and their metabolic correlates among the Inuit of the Central Canadian Arctic
  3. Eskimo - New World Encyclopedia