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Inuit (singular, Inuk; also, generally vulgarly, Eskimo) is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples of the Arctic who descended from the Thule. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference defines its constitutency to include Canadian Inuit and Inuvialuit, Greenland's Kalaallit people, Alaska's Inupiat and Yupik people, and Russian Yupik.

Canadian Inuit live primarily in Nunavut, Nunavik (a region in northern Quebec defined by the James Bay Agreement) and in Nunatsiavut (a region in Labrador whose borders are yet to be fixed.) The Inuvialuit live primarily in the Mackenzie River delta, on Banks Island and part of Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories. There have been Inuit settlements in Yukon, especially at Herschel Island, but there are none at present. Alaskan Inupiat live on the North Slope of Alaska, while the Yupik live in western Alaska and a part of Chukotka Autonomous Area in Russia.

Table of contents
1 Occupation
2 Language
3 Classification
4 Losing the traditions
5 Culture
6 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links


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, known as qamutiit, were and are used for travel pulled by Inuit Sled Dogs in a fan hitch, though snowmobiles have largely replaced this mode of travel.


In Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people, "Inuit" means "the people". The name "Eskimo" is widely believed to derive from a Cree word meaning "eaters of raw meat." Many Inuit therefore consider this name to be derogatory. The actual origin of the word is unclear. The English word comes from the French "Esquimaux", however, how the word came into the French language remains unclear. It may have come from a Cree word meaning the netting used in snowshoes.

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 from Libraries of the University of Connecticut, 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 a few millennia after the latter did, properly around 500 CE as the Thule. Accordingly, in Canada the Inuit are not considered First Nations, although they are included in the term "Native Peoples", "First Peoples", or "Aboriginal 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.

Losing the traditions

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. In 2002 the feature film Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner from Isuma Productions (with all dialogue in the Inuktitut language and written, filmed, produced, directed, and acted almost entirely by Inuit of Igloolik) was released world wide to great critical and popular acclaim.

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

See also

Further reading

External links